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Every ISTSS member has been there. Before we become clinicians, researchers, advocates, professors or supervisors, each of us serves our tenure as a graduate student. Just as today’s professionals and professors learned from their mentors and advisors, students today learn from those who have moved into leadership roles in academia and ISTSS. The Society recognizes the duty of every generation of professionals to train those who will follow in their footsteps by placing considerable emphasis on promoting and developing the talent of tomorrow.

Over the past 12 months, the Student Section of ISTSS has taken on numerous responsibilities and actively participated in the the board of directors' meetings, influencing a number of policies and initiating a few of its own. The Student Section expressly exists to advocate for the welfare of student members of ISTSS and to provide a student voice on policy issues; however, the last year has made clear that the Student Section will play a large part in building a foundation for the future of ISTSS. In the context of advocating for a broader role for students in ISTSS, we outline here the current activities of the Student Section and our plans for the future.

How Did We Get Here?

Gregory Leskin, PhD, formed the Student Section of ISTSS in 1991 after he attended a business meeting for ISTSS and proposed the development of a student section. In 1992, with the active support of ISTSS members David Foy, PhD, and Robert Pynoos, PhD, the Board approved a proposal to create the student section. Dr. Leskin served as student chair and ex-officio student board member from 1992-1995 and worked diligently to develop a defined role for students within ISTSS.

When Rachel Somberg and Rita Samper assumed the student leadership in 2003, they established a primary objective to develop a Web site devoted to student issues, and to continue to establish the Student Section as a significant and important part of ISTSS. Given the neophyte stage of the student group, elections for student leadership were not held until 2005.

At the annual meeting in Toronto in 2005, we began our two-year terms as the first elected student leadership with a vision to build upon the foundation laid by those who came before us. Thanks in large part to the exceptional work of previous student leaders, we have been able to easily transition into our roles and to accomplish many of our goals.

Accomplishments Since November 2005

In light of the impressive number of student attendees at the 2005 annual meeting — approximately 200 — we began an aggressive campaign of student recruitment. We visited a number of schools and programs promoting the benefits of ISTSS and encouraging students to consider membership. Efforts have been made to promote the networking and training opportunities available to student members through membership in ISTSS.

More than 320 student members currently belong to the Society, and we expect that number to rise as the 2006 annual meeting draws near. We anticipate student attendance at this year’s meeting will surpass the incredible turnout witnessed in Toronto. Student membership and participation builds a foundation for the future of ISTSS. Given encouragement and opportunity these current student members will hopefully persist both in the field of traumatic stress and in ISTSS, and become leaders and advocates for both in their professional careers.

While the Student Section is operated by and for students, a broad range of support has allowed the section to grow. The actions of the board of directors reflects the value they place in having a strong student contingent; after all, each student member is a potential full member after the student years are completed. As evidence of their dedication to the Student Section, the board has supported and approved a number of recent student initiatives.

First, we are delighted to announce that the First Annual Award for Outstanding Student Achievement will be presented at the student luncheon during the 2006 annual meeting to recognize a significant contribution to the traumatic stress field made by a student member of ISTSS.

Second, the student section will have a larger presence at this year’s annual meeting. The section is sponsoring or co-sponsoring two symposia, as well as hosting a greatly expanded internship networking event during the student luncheon.

Third, the Student Section, in collaboration with the board, is working to establish a Student Mentor Award to recognize the efforts of an ISTSS member who has had a significant impact on the professional development of students. In addition, ISTSS continues to award two $1,000 grants each year to fund student research and to recognize student research accomplishments with the annual Student Poster Award. These initiatives acknowledge the contributions of student members, the importance of fostering student talent, and aim to make membership in ISTSS more beneficial to student members.

Future Directions

There remains work to be done. We, the student leadership, would like to call upon all ISTSS members to facilitate the development of the talents and abilities of student members of ISTSS. We ask that all ISTSS members make efforts to become mentors, to facilitate professional discussion with students and to include students in their work. Most of all, we ask that all members of ISTSS take an interest in the student membership and do whatever possible to promote the professional growth of students.

If you would like to volunteer or make a suggestion, please contact Brian Allen, Student Section chair, or Mylea Charvat, Student Section vice chair. The students of today will be the leaders of tomorrow and your efforts to improve the training and education of students will serve to build a strong foundation for the future of ISTSS.