First National Chair and National Chair Elect Begin Their NSPN Tenure
As part of NSPN’s structural transition and election of new leadership, we are excited to announce Dr. Amrita Banerjee and Robert Stanley as the National Science Policy Network’s first National Chair and National Chair Elect, effective July 1, 2021.
The National Chair and National Chair Elect were elected by the 2020-2021 Leadership Council (Committee Chairs and Regional Hub Chairs) to lead the upcoming Council. Additionally, these positions are designed to collaborate with the Managing Director and Chief of Staff to implement NSPN’s governance model. In this year’s initial transition, the National Chair will serve a one-year term while the National Chair Elect will serve a two-year term. In future years, the Leadership Council will elect one National Chair Elect who will serve a two-year term, first as Elect and second as Chair. Anyone who has previously served on the Leadership Council is eligible to run for National Chair Elect.
Both Amrita and Rob bring a variety of NSPN-specific and broader policy experience to their roles. Amrita Banerjee, who will serve one year as National Chair, was one of the inaugural Southern Hub Co-Chairs. She also served as Vice Chair of the Science Diplomacy Committee and coordinated the SciDEAL program to connect NSPN members with opportunities to engage in science diplomacy. She holds a Ph.D. in Cell and Developmental Biology from Vanderbilt University, and is currently a AAAS Congressional Science & Technology Policy Fellow.
Robert Stanley, who will serve two years as National Chair Elect and National Chair, was one of the inaugural Central Hub Co-Chairs. He also served as Chair of the Grants & Finance Committee, coordinating several funding opportunities for NSPN’s members and chapters. He is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in Chemical Biology at the University of Notre Dame.
As Amrita and Rob begin their new positions, we asked them to share their visions for their roles and the Leadership Council:
How do you see your previous NSPN leadership experiences informing your leadership in your new role?
Amrita: Since NSPN’s early days, I have led and supported member activities at the hub, committee, and program levels. As Southern Hub Co-Chair, I co-organized the first regional NSPN retreat that provided networking, training, and professional development opportunities for our Southern members and served as a model for regional events since held by the other hubs. More recently, as the Science Diplomacy Exchange and Learning (SciDEAL) program coordinator, I built a new training program from the ground-up, developed professional development and training opportunities for members interested in the intersection of science and international relations, and expanded NSPN’s network of science policy and diplomacy professionals. In these roles, I listened to and learned about the needs and objectives of NSPN’s member base and worked with both internal and external collaborators to achieve NSPN’s mission of training and empowering the next generation of science policy and diplomacy experts. These experiences have given me a strong understanding of and appreciation for our ethos and strategic vision, which is what will guide my tenure as National Chair.
Rob: I have had the honor of watching NSPN grow from a small coalition of science policy groups into an organization with substantial membership, engaging programming, and considerable capacity. During this time, one of the greatest things has been to learn about the amazing projects spearheaded by graduate students and early career scientists around the country. Watching how a national framework can elevate these voices, and support these initiatives is one of the greatest lessons that I will inform my leadership. I want to multiply the efforts of all our incredible members.
What excites you about NSPN’s achievements so far?
Amrita: In 3 short years NSPN has achieved some impressive metrics, by recruiting 1000+ members and 50+ affiliate chapters; hosting multiple national and regional symposiums; developing training, networking, and advocacy opportunities by and for members; and leveraging our members’ collective expertise through numerous external partnerships with Research!America, the Federation of American Scientists, and the Journal of Science Policy & Governance to name a few. While I’m excited about these quantifiable achievements, I’m even more encouraged by the vibrant and diverse community that NSPN has created and the common values that we have articulated, including a commitment to equity and inclusion. This community is a powerful resource for its members to develop their skills and leadership qualities and share knowledge about science, policy, and everything in between. I’m excited to build upon these successes and ensure that NSPN’s strategic vision grows and strengthens this dynamic community.
Rob: It has been really amazing to see NSPN grow into a network of early career scientists and graduate students all looking to learn and grow their careers. NSPN has provided a welcoming space for its membership, allowing the organization to blossom. The most exciting part has been observing the amount of financial and non-financial support that NSPN has been able to provide to its members across the country.
What are your goals for your time in this position?
Amrita: As National Chair, I intend to be a voice for NSPN leadership and members with our governance bodies, contribute to NSPN’s strategic vision, and support the growth and expansion of the NSPN community. For both existing and new committees, I will work to ensure they have the resources necessary to support their current programs while expanding their portfolio of initiatives. For hub leaders, my goal will be to ensure that they are attuned to the needs of their affiliate chapters and facilitate the sharing of best practices to help them be successful in their work. Given the current changes to the organizational structure, I will collaborate closely with leadership and our new Managing Director to ensure that NSPN’s capacity continues to meet the needs and objectives of its members.
Rob: My goal is to continue to build the operational capacity of what NSPN provides in order to continue to support our members. I think the NSPN community is its greatest strength. NSPN has managed to be a space where people are not only excited and validated, but also a space where people are able to learn and grow. NSPN grew out of a need to give people space to explore career paths, especially in science policy, which was not normalized in most graduate student programs. It has continued to greatly expand what it can do, and I feel honored to continue that legacy.
When you’re not working, what do you like to do for fun? Anything else you’d like to share?
Amrita: Being lucky enough to live by the Chesapeake Bay, I’ve been making time to kayak and generally be close to the water. In addition, I’m trying to venture into new genres of fiction (e.g., science fiction) that are not in my usual repertoire. Finally, I would like to emphasize my open-door policy as National Chair and, as such, anyone is welcome to contact me on Slack or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rob: My research has turned me into a semi-perpetual nomad, and so when I’m traveling I try to visit any sort of music or dance opportunity. But when I’m back in South Bend, I’m a member of our local student hip-hop dance group. It's a lot of fun: we choreograph and perform an annual show, and it's honestly a great outlet that keeps me sane throughout grad school.