We tried to provide a clear structure for this year’s annual report for each Council position by implementing a simple template which includes a brief description of duties of the position, followed by a statement of goals and plans when the year/term started, actual accomplishments during the year, and then plans for the coming year (for those with multi-year terms). The list of duties and responsibilities of the President as described in the Society’s By-Laws may seem mostly ministerial and administrative such as chairing meetings, appointing persons to committees, among others, but in my view, it is the responsibility of the President to steer the Society towards its goals while ensuring that the Society keeps functioning as best as it could. In that sense, I take full responsibility for all the developments and progress (or the lack thereof) that took place over the past year, without taking credit away from the various other Council members and specific individuals who were actually involved in carrying out the bulk of the work.
As stated in my very first contribution to this column, my goals for the year focus on three aspects: (1). continuing with the implementation and possibly developing new initiatives in response to the recommendations of the Strive report; (2). streamlining the function and operation of the Council; and (3). continuing the efforts to revitalize the CSBE journal. In terms of accomplishments, thanks to the members of the Membership Engagement Committee chaired by Fahimeh Yazdanpanah, a number of regional activities were carried out over the past year and a few more are in the planning stages for the coming year. This is the first year that we have actually organized something like this, providing seed funding to the Regional Directors to initiate and implement their plans; it is understandable that there is still some learning to do but we are hoping that as the Regional Directors gain more experience in carrying out activities within their regions to engage our members, then in the long run this would turn out to be a sustained series of worthwhile activities over the years to come.
On the streamlining of the Council, we have introduced performance standards for Council members, mainly to establish guidelines for acceptable performance and expected outcomes from each position. Additionally, Qiang Zhang led the effort in updating our Bylaws as well as the Operations Manual, mainly to ensure that the functions of each position are well-defined and our internal processes are adequately described and documented such that they are very useful particularly for those who are new to the Council. One such process updated by René Morissette and Grant Clark is our own elections, which we are now going to conduct through online voting to help facilitate wider participation by general membership.
On the CSBE Journal revitalization, a Steering Committee headed by Suresh Neethirajan has been formed and given the task of finding out ways to improve the operations of the journal with the eventual goal of increasing the number of quality manuscripts that we publish, while ensuring that its overall operation is financially sustainable. Given that the business of journal publication has been becoming increasingly competitive in recent years, the committee is working with our journal editor to ensure that the various means identified for improving efficiencies, cutting down the time for adjudicating and processing manuscripts, and promoting the journal to expand readership and the number of submitted manuscripts, are carried out effectively.
I would just add that this year we will have a joint annual meeting with ASABE and so I would like to recognize all the individuals who are putting in extra effort in preparation for the conference. I would invite all our members to join me in expressing our gratitude to them by actually participating in the conference to ensure the success of the event.
In summary, I believe that we accomplished significant strides over the past year, but I would be the first one to admit that there were things that we could have been done better and there’s still a lot to be done. I am thankful for the opportunity to serve the Society and I am very much indebted to all individuals, both in the Council and the general membership, who undertook this journey with me.