When I was a student in the Futures Studies program at the University of Houston Clear Lake (Class of 2000), there was considerable concern among students about how they would build a career from what they had learned. Some would apply what they learned to their current career, others expected to become consultants (internal or external). A few hoped to be professional speakers or writers.
Several alumni visited our classes at UHCL to explain how they had developed careers as futurists, but it appeared clear that becoming a professional futurist was likely to be a challenge. Some who graduated about the same time found careers in foresight and futures studies, but many just disappeared from view. Now, a dozen years later, careers in foresight and futures studies appear to be far more available, and it appears that the more aggressive social networkers have an advantage…an advantage they create themselves. But there are clearly more career opportunities now than there were at the turn of the millennium.
In 2008, the Association of Professional Futurists approved a program to give graduates from masters programs in foresight and futures studies worldwide some encouragement and recognition for their academic work. A new committee was formed within APF, the Student Recognition Committee, charged with inviting universities worldwide that offered masters degrees in Foresight and Futures Studies to submit student papers for recognition by APF and its members. The concept was simple; universities would select up to three papers to submit for judging. These were expected to be papers submitted as individual or group papers for regular class work. PhD. students were then added to the mix, but could submit only published papers.
Most important, the work of students from all corners of the world would be made publicly available. Professional futurists and potential employers could see the high quality of foresight work that students were producing, hopefully opening up opportunities for student and graduating futurists. Student authors of winning papers in their categories (Individual paper, Team paper, or published PhD. student paper) were awarded memberships in APF, opening up lines of communication between students and professionals and opportunities to participate in professional level workshops and events.
In the first year, eleven universities were invited to participate. That’s how many universities we found that had active programs in foresight and futures studies. Each year that number has grown, and in 2012 more than 25 schools will be invited.
Now, back to that headline, “Seeking Student Futurists.” So far, the Student Recognition Committee has worked through individual contacts at each university. Calls for papers and other correspondence are addressed to one professor, lecturer, or administrator. Sometimes, that’s as far as the information gets. Professors, lecturers , and administrators have a lot of demands for their time, and just getting through the requirements may be a challenge. Some may not feel their students will be interested, and in other cases, a notice on a bulletin board simply goes unnoticed. But, there opportunities for a dozen or more students to receive awards each year.
So here’s the bottom line. If you are a student in foresight and futures studies and haven’t heard about the Student Recognition Program, ask your professors or lecturers. Check the APF website for details. Then participate.
Beyond the Student Recognition Program, there are other chances for students to expand their career opportunities in foresight and futures studies, and one of the best is the World Future Society conference each year (Chicago in 2013). WFS does have special arrangements for students, and they frequently accept student volunteers, an excellent experience.
The opportunities for futurists are growing every year!
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This is my last posting for the next few days. I will be taking my office apart so that we can move to our new apartment downtown next Tuesday. I will be unplugged and disconnected except by tablet. Expect me to be back in the saddle before the end of next week probably in time to provide you with some more headlines. In the interim these are the stories I share with you this week:
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