By Mary Jane (Molly) Wankel, PhD, PMP

The Potomac Chapter of the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI) recently honored Mary Jane (Molly) Wankel, PhD, with its Honorary Life Membership Award. The criteria for the award are demanding–with the local organization only giving it to members who have made significant contributions to the chapter and the field of human performance technology (HPT). Since the chapter’s inception, only 12 members have received this designation, and Dr. Wankel is the first to receive it since 2005. The Potomac Chapter is one of ISPI’s oldest chapters, and its members come from Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Dr. Wankel has served in a number of leadership roles in the chapter, including two terms as president. Asked how she felt when she got notice of the designation, Dr. Wankel said, “I was very surprised to receive it–it’s such an honor!”

In 2008, Dr. Wankel joined a federal law enforcement agency ready to contribute with 30 years of experience in the public and private sectors in addition to earning a PhD in administration, curriculum, and instruction from the University of Nebraska, a master’s degree in radio, TV, and film from Indiana State, and a bachelor’s of science degree in speech from East Tennessee State.

From a recent Potomac Chapter Past President’s Message, Dr. Wankel stated, “The hours I volunteer each year to the chapter are not for glory or out of ego. I volunteer because of the benefits received in terms of my current position, my entire career, and my personal life.”

According to the United Way, volunteering offers many benefits in exchange for the gifts of time and expertise:

  • Make important networking contacts
  • Learn or develop skills
  • Teach your skills to others
  • Enhance your résumé
  • Gain work experience
  • Build self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Improve your health
  • Meet new people
  • Feel needed and valued
  • Express gratitude for help you may have received in the past from an organization
  • Communicate to others that you are ambitious, enthusiastic, and care about the community
  • Make a difference in someone’s life

Indeed, Dr. Wankel has experienced all of the above benefits:

  • She gets to network with other professionals in her field and learn how they solve similar performance problems.
  • By regularly attending chapter meetings and ISPI conferences, she stays informed of the latest instructional systems design (ISD) and HPT theories and models and their applications.
  • She has presented during chapter meetings and ISPI conferences–thus, teaching skills to others and learning more deeply about the skills she teaches.
  • Prospective employers notice her service to ISPI on her resume.
  • She has gained work experience by applying ISD, HPT, and leadership models as a chapter board member.
  • By recognizing her comfort with using many ISD, HPT, and leadership models, her self-confidence has been reinforced.
  • By remaining inquisitive as a continual learner, her cognitive health–and possibly her physical heath–has remained strong.
  • Through volunteering for ISPI, she has been introduced to a diverse range of people from many backgrounds and walks of life–all rich sources of inspiration.
  • Through mentoring new board members and folks entering the HPT profession, she has felt needed.
  • Because folks have mentored her and guided her when she was new to the profession and the Society, she has felt gratitude for their stewardship.
  • She has improved her interpersonal skills by using different media and techniques–communicating her passion for the profession and its members.
  • She has developed a large network, allowing her to meet the thought leaders of the profession, who have made a hugely positive impact on her and her career. And, by working to keep the Potomac Chapter alive and thriving, she has made a difference in stakeholders’ careers.

The most important benefit of volunteering for the Potomac Chapter is the fun experienced over the last two-plus decades and friendships made through volunteer service–some dating back to when she first joined the Potomac Chapter in 1992. These friendships are priceless and are most enjoyable. She says she always laughs when around ISPIers.

So, increase your fun quotient in 2014 by serving your ISPI chapter.

United Way. Benefits of volunteering. Retrieved from

About the Author
Mary Jane (Molly) Wankel, PhD, PMP, has degrees in broadcasting and educational media, and a third that combined instructional design and journalism. She has more than 30 years of experience applying HPT models to many performance problems. She has directed and performed work in support of all phases of the ISD process, from analysis and requirements identification, to design and development, through deployment and evaluation. Moreover, she is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP). She has taught in several secondary and postsecondary institutions of education.  She has worked for healthcare organizations, companies that develop computer-assisted training and education products, and a public utility (a nuclear power plant); and she has supported many federal agencies as a contractor. She worked at the U.S. Postal Service for two years from 1998-2000 as a federal employee and became a federal employee again in the fall of 2008 when she joined a federal law enforcement agency. For several decades, she has enjoyed mentoring performance technologists and networking with her peers, and what better to way to do both than to serve twice as president of the Potomac Chapter of ISPI. This year she was awarded Honorary Life Member by the Potomac Chapter of ISPI. She continues to serve on the board in support of succession planning and membership.

You may reach Dr. Wankel at