Rachel Hulse, EdD, MLS(ASCP)CM

ISU’s 2018-19 cohort attending the ASCLS-Idaho 2019 Spring Convention.
Members of the ASCLS-Idaho leadership awarding students on their research projects during the scientific assembly session.

Membership in professional organizations, such as ASCLS, offers a myriad of benefits, including professional advocacy, community outreach, continuing education, and professional resources. Despite these benefits, engaging students and recent graduates in professional organizations can prove challenging. According to the Harvard Business Review, professional or association memberships are declining nationally, with annual costs of membership most often cited as negative determinants for professional membership. Additionally, the ease and convenience of social media provides novel opportunity for community collaboration and networking, which attracts millennial workers and young professionals who place less value on traditional and formal methods of networking1. In the face of these challenges, new strategies are needed to help students identify the value and meaning of membership in professional organizations.

Idaho State University (ISU) offers the only bachelor’s and master’s level medical laboratory science (MLS) program in the state of Idaho. Consequently, the ISU MLS program plays a critical role in fulfilling the clinical laboratory healthcare needs of its rural state. With this responsibility, the ISU MLS program feels it is imperative to connect and introduce students to professional organizations, resources, and peers. To accomplish this, the ISU MLS program has partnered with ASCLS-Idaho (members of ASCLS Region VIII) to promote early and continued participation and membership of students and young professionals in ASCLS.

ASCLS-Idaho board members visit ISU MLS students shortly after admission into the ISU MLS program. They promote and encourage discounted student rates for membership, and society members meet and network with rising MLS professionals. Paramount to this collaboration, the ISU MLS program allocates resources for all ISU MLS students to attend and participate in the annual ASCLS-Idaho Spring Convention.

Student Attendance at the Spring Convention
Prior to the convention, ISU MLS students prepare research projects that they present during the scientific assembly session. This not only allows students to research novel advances in the clinical laboratory field, but it also allows students to directly interact with professionals from all over the state during their presentations. Many students meet their future clinical rotation preceptors and potential employers during this event. Additionally, the ASCLS-Idaho Convention Planning Committee creates a special session for ISU MLS students that addresses their upcoming national certification exam, opportunities for involvement in ASCLS-Idaho, and other areas of special interest to those entering the profession.

ISU MLS students also benefit from attending the ASCLS-Idaho Spring Convention by attending keynote speakers and professional sessions of interest, while simultaneously discovering ways to earn future continuing education credits. Students are able to network with both their regional laboratory peers and interact with vendors who provide resources and knowledge of cutting-edge supplies and equipment. Furthermore, attending the business luncheon and awards banquet allows students to better understand how the leadership for ASCLS-Idaho functions, and their ability to be recognized for future contributions and service. More importantly, students can see firsthand how they can make a difference and positively influence the profession.

Many of these students have gone-on to become young professionals and remain active in ASCLS-Idaho and return to attend the annual ASCLS-Idaho Spring Convention, as well as other ASCLS regional and national meetings and academies. Several are even currently serving in both leadership committee and board roles within ASCLS-Idaho, Region VIII leadership, and national committees. With educators, like the ISU MLS program, making partnerships with ASCLS a priority, we can continue to encourage the mutual benefit of drawing young professionals to ASCLS and promoting professional membership.


  1. Yohan, D.l. (2016). To stay relevant, professional organizations must rebrand. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2016/01/to-stay-relevant-professional-associations-must-rebrand

Rachel Hulse is the program director and faculty member at Idaho State University in Pocatello, Idaho.