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AAVSO President’s Letter - July 2019

AAVSO President’s Letter – July 2019

My goal with this letter - in addition to providing a brief status update from Council – is to discuss our strategic planning efforts.  We are focused on AAVSO’s future. We want to enhance our current programs and create new initiatives that meet member’s interests and needs. Many ideas have surfaced and are summarized below.   Please use the new “Planning AAVSO’s Future” forum to tell us what you think. Are these the types of ideas you think will strengthen AAVSO?  Do you have additional ideas? We’re looking for your feedback and suggestions. 

Our joint meeting with the RASC was a great success!  Over 150 people attended including over 40 AAVSO members. Presentations included interesting histories of Canadian astronomers, sessions on new equipment technology, and STEM outreach activities. 

At our members meeting Stella gave the Director’s report providing an overview of current work and accomplishments. Her presentation can be seen here. It was followed by an excellent interactive discussion soliciting feedback about the strategic plan.

The council met for a full day while in Toronto. Half of the meeting covered finances, investments, awards, spectroscopy, our new IT support strategy, and governance topics.  The other half of the meeting was devoted to the strategic plan.  

Focusing on the future -

The strategic planning committee is made up of sevencouncil members including Stella. The initial phase of our work is getting member inputs and ideas about the organization.  Key questions are why people join AAVSO, and what they want the organization to do for them.

Over the past twomonths committee members had conversations with over 200 people – both in one-on-one settings and with groups of people at the Society for Astronomical Sciences meeting in late May and the RASC meeting in early June. Some common themes surfaced –

  • What makes AAVSO different from other astronomy organizations is that we are the home of people who want to do astronomy, not just read about it.
  • Six reasons surfaced about WHY people join AAVSO –
    • Opportunity for amateurs and professionals to work together
    • Personal interest in observatory equipment and technology
    • Desire to learn more about astronomy – and often teach their children
    • Desire to meet others with a common interest
    • Self-fulfilment
    • Having fun!

Initial discussions are yielding ideas in three main areas – how we can enhance support to current members, how we can attract and keep new members, and how we can improve overall management of the organization – both staff and volunteers. 

What we want is your ideas.  Why are you a member?  How can AAVSO best meet your needs and interest? Use the “Planning AAVSO’s Future” forum to share your thoughts. We will analyze all the feedback we receive and present preliminary plans at our Las Cruces annual meeting for further discussion.

In addition, we will shortly announce the schedule for a ZOOM online meeting asking members to join us to discuss the strategic plan.  Based on interest, we will schedule additional ZOOM sessions.

We plan to act immediately on one key suggestion we received.  There are many members whose primary interest is telescope technology and operations.  We are creating a new section with this focus.  The name is not yet solidified (instrumentation and telescope operations?), but we’ll figure that out.  We’re working to identify a section leader and will develop a more detailed description of the section.  

We continue to seek members who would be interested in joining the council.  Consider running.

Donations to our Annual Campaign are lagging.  Our goal this year is $100,000.  Please consider donating.  We need your support!

I hope you can Join us in Las Cruces at our annual meeting this October!  It will be fun, you’ll learn a lot, you’ll have opportunities to share your ideas about AAVSO’s programs and future, and most of all you’ll have time to talk with fellow members.  

Clear skies.


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