Beth Cunningham WM 11 Opening Remarks

Thank you, Lila, for such a lovely introduction.  I also want to thank David Cook for helping me with the transition – you’ve been a wonderful colleague.  I have felt very warmly received by members of the search committee, the national office staff, Executive Board members, and the membership in general.  I am thrilled to be here today to talk to you about my transition to AAPT.

I also want to give my deepest appreciation to Warren Hein who was a solid part of AAPT’s Executive Office for over 14 years, including serving as Executive Officer for the last two years.  His work as Executive Officer helped AAPT overcome some challenges, financially and otherwise.  The association was in good shape when I took over just last week.  Without Warren’s deep commitment to AAPT and willingness to do some heavy lifting, the new Executive Officer would have had many more challenges to face.

I want to talk to you about what AAPT means to me and why I am so excited to have a bigger role in the Association.  Some of the most important people in my life have had AAPT as a part of their lives.  I have seen first hand the value of AAPT to their professional and personal development as physics educators.  Let me give some examples.  My father, who was a physicist, first introduced me to AAPT by taking me to a meeting when I was still an undergraduate student.  He taught at a regional campus of Kent State and was the only physicist on his campus.  Many of you know how this feels.  He became very involved in AAPT and even organized an Ohio Section meeting on his campus.  He attended national meetings on a regular basis, too, and my mother often attended those meetings with him.  (She has many stories to tell about interacting with other spouses at the meeting as well as staying in the dorms).  Why did he value AAPT membership?

  • He found AAPT's resources very valuable for his teaching.
  • He was able to establish a network of colleagues who could talk to him about what was most important to him – excellence in student learning.
  • He believed AAPT's mission is part of a larger, important initiative, to enhance the appreciation and understanding of physics.
  • He had a strong connection to the AAPT circle of members and friends.

I’ve learned over many years that these same values are held by every single member of AAPT.  David Wolfe (my spouse) is a long term member of AAPT and served as president of the Central Pennsylvania Section.  We’ve had many conversations in the evening about the impact of AAPT on members including us.  Jim Stith who has been a very good mentor, has made AAPT a big part of his life.  His actions reflect his love of physics and his concern for the next generation of physics educators.  I’ve known Jack Hehn for many years and I’ve seen in many ways how he supports AAPT and our mission. So you can see that many of the most influential people in my life have made AAPT a part of their lives.  I could list many other AAPT members who are wholeheartedly committed to AAPT.  I’ve especially seen the deep devotion of many members to AAPT over the last few months after I joined the AAPT national office in October.

I’ve been in the national office for over three months now.  This transition period provided an opportunity for me to learn more about the operations of AAPT.  I’ve discovered a number of things (many not surprising):

  • The AAPT staff is very dedicated and talented.  They do so much with the modest resources we have.  If you get a chance, please thank them for what they do.  Without them, we would not be able to do as much as we do.
  • We offer many high quality programs that have made an impact on physics education.  These include the PTRA program, the New Faculty Workshop, ComPADRE, SPIN-UP, and the new e-Mentoring program.  We have many more that are either just starting or in the works and have the potential to make an impact.
  • Other STEM associations value the work we do and want to work with us to improve STEM education (K-16 and beyond).  I believe we have much to offer to each other to make progress on the way students learn science.
  • The membership is incredibly passionate and committed to the Association (from the dues paying member to Executive Board members).  You deeply believe in AAPT’s mission and give no hesitation in volunteering to help us accomplish the goals association with our mission. You have great ideas that have  changed physics education in the US and across the globe.  Not only are you very passionate, but you enjoy what you do and are fun to be around. 

Over the next year I will continue to meet members, learn more about the day-to-day operations at the national office, interact with other association executive directors, and attend meetings in the DC metro area and other locations.  I  encourage you to give me your input.  I want to know how best to serve you and the Association.  I also want to assist in making this association as effective as possible.

Finally, I feel very lucky to be a part of this association and help shape the future of physics education.  I look forward to working with you in the years to come.  Thank you and enjoy the rest of the meeting.