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Nisha NanawareNisha Nanaware-Kharade, M.S. (Pharm.), is the current chairperson of the AAPS University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences student chapter.

As I transition to the final year of my Ph.D. program, I’ve learned that most graduate programs provide an excellent platform for students to develop scientific and technical skills, but very few are geared towards nurturing future leaders. Yet, complex leadership and management concepts and terminologies are casually tossed around the students. In a graduate school environment, relating to these concepts and terms can be, at times, overwhelming. For the majority of students, opportunities to build upon their innate leadership skills are limited to guiding fellow students, organizing local social events or seminars, etc. This is not to say that such opportunities to display one’s leadership skills are insignificant. However, one can’t help but wonder whether these few occasions really offer meaningful training to be a successful leader.

A discussion with a visiting faculty member forced me to reanalyze the steps I was taking to sharpen my leadership skills. One of his statements was a life lesson: “You’re waiting for a Superman. Well, there is no Superman out there. You know that, right?” It was then that I decided to summon my inner superhero, overcome my inhibitions, and take better control of my future. The first step was identification of a platform that provides ample opportunities for self-improvement to graduate students and postdoctoral Fellows. My involvement in AAPS leadership began when I moderated a session at the 2011 National Biotechnology Conference (NBC). It was a great learning and networking experience. Last year, I took the initiative to start an AAPS student chapter at my school, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and here we are a year later going strong!

It is often said that talent is everywhere but opportunity is not. But I believe that opportunity is everywhere in AAPS. This international organization of professionals has many opportunities specifically designed for students and postdoctoral Fellows such as the Student Post-doc Outreach and Development (SPOD) committee. Students and postdocs are offered roles as moderators at NBC and AAPS Annual Meetings, and formal mentoring programs are also in place to help them achieve their professional goals. In addition, there are opportunities to contribute to the AAPS Blog, be the student representative of a section or focus group, and participate as the student editor for newsletters, just to name a few.

No matter where your career path takes you—academia, industry, or government—I cannot think of any place better than AAPS for graduate students to hone their leadership and organization skills at an international level. The time to summon your inner superhero is NOW. Conquer your inhibitions and grab your goals by the horns. I dare you to challenge yourself and get involved in AAPS student activities and just watch yourself transform. Are you up for this challenge?

What do you think about AAPS volunteer opportunities for students? Do you have experiences with AAPS to share?