AAAL is my organization—and yours, too. As a membership organization, AAAL belongs to all its members, including you and me.
My first AAAL conference was in 1998, when I was a recipient of a Graduate Student Award. My initial impression of AAAL: “This conference is filled with people from all over the world wearing name tags with familiar names!” I kept running into people whose name I recognized from my readings—at sessions, at receptions, in the hallway, in the elevator, in the lobby and at bars. I saw them present, ask questions, argue with each other, stand in line at receptions, laugh and raise glasses.
When I approached them to join the conversation or ask questions, they were friendly and generous with their time. It was clear that they were not here just because they were famous or they had all the answers. They were here to listen and engage in intellectual conversations.
Then I went to the Annual Business Meeting. With my training in journalism, and with my leadership experience with other professional organizations, I was already somewhat familiar with how non-profit professional organizations worked and how meetings were conducted. But watching senior members of the field engage in serious conversations about issues, policies and the future of the organization helped me understand how deeply committed they were to the organization and to the field.
Being at the Business Meeting created many opportunities for me—to meet interesting people, to understand issues that affect the organization and its members, and to understand how I might contribute.
Over the years, I have had the privilege of serving on many committees and task forces. Each time, my understanding of the organization and the field deepened as I worked closely with many of the established members of the field as well as younger members who brought new energy and enthusiasm.
Being part of the field does not mean just giving presentations or publishing. It means building a network—not just for your own sake but to be part of the fabric of the field. It also means participating in the important work that contributes to the development of the organization and the field.
I am AAAL and so are you. Let’s work together to make this organization even greater!