SEC survey reveals new and diverse member interests

Kamilah Davis and Violet Cheung-Blunden

A survey was sent to Student and Early Career (SEC) members of Division 48 in April 2014 in an attempt to better understand and serve this section of our division. Some of the unexpected findings challenged the existing view of SEC and mandated new program initiatives that will not only effectively retain members but also recruit members.

The sample consisted of 25 respondents. On the one hand, the small sample was not representative of the SEC; on the other hand, it was nearly one third of the SEC’s membership. Survey items varied from demographic questions to questions regarding their professional status and desired opportunities. The format ranged from close-ended to open-ended questions. The survey was kept brief in order to increase respondent rate.

Of the 25 respondents, 23 were current members and 2 expressed that they would not be renewing their membership. Most members reported that they were early in their careers – over half of the sample (sixty-four percent) either held a doctorate or was a doctorate candidate; eighty percent of respondents received their highest degree within the last seven years.

Following the demographics portion, the second part of the questionnaire asked participants about their professional goals and the nature of their work. The overall response seemed to contradict the common notion that Division 48 is largely comprised of practitioners. Forty-four percent of respondents’ career aspirations and/or occupations were research-focused, with an additional twenty-eight percent showing interest or experience in both research and practice. The remaining one-fifth of the respondents expressed interest in practice alone. This unexpected number of research-focused SEC members may be a cohort effect or a shift towards increased research training in most graduate programs.

Another unexpected finding was obtained when members reported their topical areas of focus in an open-ended format. The largest proportion in Figure 1 represents the twenty-two percent of respondents working on culture- and gender-related issues whereas the smallest portion in the same figure denotes the three percent of respondents interested in the area of ethics.

Additional questions in the survey gauged the kinds of service desired by members. When asked what Division 48 opportunities participants would find useful in a close-ended question, “collaboration in research groups” was cited twenty-two times, with “small research grants” and “peace-related activism projects” coming in second and third. A more in-depth, open-ended question asked what members would like to see in order to become more active. The responses varied from job postings to career-building opportunities, assistance with review, SEC updates, and activism. The respondents had an opportunity to elaborate their answers in the last open-ended question in the survey. When asked how Division 48 could better serve its members, the majority of the answers (forty-two percent) fell under professional development and networking (Figure 2).

Overall, a recurrent theme in the survey is the predominant research focus and the diverse topical areas. The next step is not so much to attribute these unexpected findings to a new shift in demographic or an old misunderstanding, but to ensure that this theme is garnering attention from the leadership team in its program considerations–whether the aim is to serve current members or to entice prospective members. In the meantime, networking opportunities must stay on the agenda because the need in this area is part and parcel of the stage of career development of SEC members.