Congratulations Messages from AAAL Past Presidents on the Association's 30th Anniversary
Dwight Atkinson, Linda Harklau, and Paul Kei Matsuda were asked by the Executive Committee to solicit messages from past presidents of the AAAL on the occasion of its 30th anniversary in 2007. 15 past presidents were generous enough to send messages.
Being well over double the age of our organization, it is difficult for me to acknowledge the claim that thirty years constitutes a significant birthday. And yet, after I mulled over the correspondence I saved from the time I served as president some twenty-four years ago, it is obvious that AAAL has aged considerably and has aged well. Membership was minimal back then, and for some untoward reason, had plummeted by about a hundred members to a mere 256 in 1982. Annual dues were $10 and our conferences, held in late December, barely lasted a day and consisted of one invited speaker and about fourteen papers.
It is with some chagrin that I look back on my inauspicious presidency in 1983. True, AAAL did not lose another hundred members but actually gained some three dozen that year, but except for helping to organize the annual conference, which was held in San Diego, and for conducting correspondence and performing other perfunctory duties, I contributed little leadership to our then nascent organization. This was never my intent, of course, when I was elected as an AAAL officer, but unfortunately, I was denied tenure the same year I became president, and, as we learn from life experiences, survival supersedes excellence. Thus, due to financial constraints and my quest for a tenurable academic home, I was unable to attend the very San Diego conference that I helped organize. My absence spurred Leonard Newmark (a former professor of mine!) to submit the very reasonable resolution that specified that from then on, all elected officers should be required to attend the annual meeting of AAAL. Thanks to the help and leadership of people like Dick Tucker, Albert Valdman, Maggie Reynolds, and Braj Kachru, who followed me as president, and all the other wonderful leaders we have had over the years, our organization did not falter under my wavering leadership but began to mature into the large and healthy association that we see today.
Although I have attempted to be honest in sharing this shred of institutional history, my main intent is not to lament the past, but to underscore what I believe to be a vital and often overlooked function of our association. In brief, whatever our position and stature, or lack of same, AAAL gives all of us a professional home. At a time in my academic life when my home institution offered little professional support, my AAAL friends and colleagues gave me theirs, and because these people were trained, experienced, and active in the same discipline as I, they provided guidance, encouragement, and a sense of professional esteem at a time in my life when I valued these attributes most.
Looking back over the almost three decades I have been a member of AAAL, I am delighted to see that our association has not gown simply in size, but that it has also become less national and more global. At this unfortunate time in our nation’s history, when “American” is excessively exported internationally, it is comforting to see our tiny organization of American applied linguists doing just the opposite--welcoming people and ideas from around the globe. For me, this is the most significant and salubrious transformation of AAAL as we pause to celebrate its thirtieth birthday.
And if I had a wish list for future development, I would like to see a concomitant growth in diversity of topics and issues at future meetings. Right now, writing systems, translation, religion, and linguistic disabilities seem to be disproportionately addressed in my opinion. But whoever serves as future leaders of our association, wherever and whenever conferences are held, and irrespective of the issues covered, I remain indebted to AAAL, and to this group of scholars who have provided support, friendship, and a sense of community.
I became involved in AAAL in the 1980s serving on committees (an ad hoc membership committee, nominating committee) before becoming President in 1987. The ad hoc membership committee was set up in the mid-80s as an attempt to broaden the organization. Even at that time there was a growing recognition of the potential impact that AAAL could have and the idea was to come up with a strategic plan to increase the membership. As I see it, this was the beginning of the major change that occurred when the decision was made to separate AAAL from the Linguistic Society of America (LSA).
When I became President in 1987, AAAL was significantly smaller than it is now. Part of my responsibilities at that point was to organize the annual meeting, which that year was in Seattle. The conference was part of LSA’s meeting and all of the logistical operations were done by the LSA office. That was the good part. The downside was that we were allocated very few slots for our sessions which too severely constrained us in putting together a program that broadly represented the interests of AAAL. Another difficulty was that individuals could register for either the LSA conference or the AAAL conference with the same access to all sessions. Many individuals, even those who were giving papers as part of the AAAL sessions, registered for the LSA conference, thereby reducing the revenue for AAAL.
From my vantage point 15 years later, the most significant activity was the establishment of a committee, which I chaired, in approximately 1989/1990 to examine the future of the organization. It was our strong belief that despite the significant support from the LSA central office, it was time to branch out on our own and establish our own administrative office and hold our own stand-alone annual meeting. We believed strongly that the interest in applied linguistics was broad and that what was needed was an independent organization. Through a variety of contacts, we located a company whose main function was to be the site for academic organizations and we made a decision to hold a separate AAAL conference before TESOL (but
separate from TESOL). This decision was made because we felt that there was still a strong connection between those with scholarly interests in AAAL-related activities and those with interests in TESOL. As is well-known, this connection was later severed and we are now at the point where the committee that engineered the initial change thought we would be, and that is a fully independent organization.
In thinking back on the past 20 years or so since my initial involvement, I am pleased to have been part of the thinking that moved AAAL along. It is gratifying to think back on these years, to see AAAL, as it is now, and to say “Yes, we saw this coming!!!”
Lyle F. Bachman
Some Reminiscences about AAAL It was in Bangkok, in the waning months of the Thai Democracy Movement, that the battered aerogramme arrived in the morning post. It was postmarked from somewhere in Quebec. I recognized the handwriting of an old friend who’d gone back. I’d always admired his penmanship—he must have learned through the Palmer method because he made those funny “r”s. He wrote of an exciting new professional organization called the American Association for Applied Linguistics that was being formed. He urged me to send my CV and letter of application immediately to one Robert Kaplan, I think it was. What or who did I know? I’d been overseas and away from academe for six years. In a few months I’d be leaving my post with The Ford Foundation to direct a program at Tehran University. Maybe it was time to make some new contacts, to check out the academic scene back there.
I dug out my CV. I penciled in some updated information, wrote out a letter stating my desire to join this association, and gave these to my secretary to type up and mail. That was my first brush with AAAL. I didn’t get a reply or a membership card. I’ve always wondered if my letter ever was sent, or if it got digested in the bowels of the Post Office on New Road or burned in the turmoil of the student uprising, or is still lying unopened among the shadows and echoes in an empty office on Ordibehesht Street.
About a decade later I got an equally unexpected message about AAAL. I’d come in out of the heat and rejoined the academic race at the University of Illinois. I was a card-carrying member of AAAL. Merrill Swain was on the line. She asked me if I was willing to be nominated to serve as Vice President/President Elect of AAAL. I had no clue what this would entail, and was nonplussed. Merrill assured me that it would be a good experience. She never said exactly what “it” was, but was sure I could do it. Merrill seemed to think she was giving me good news, so I believed her. My first duty as Vice President was to organize the annual meeting, which at that time was held as part of the annual meeting of the Linguistic Society of America (LSA). It was going to be in New Orleans, and I’d always wanted to go to New Orleans. So I undertook my assignment with eager anticipation. That year, if I recall correctly, we received around 60 abstracts, and were able to accept about 15, given the limited number of slots on the program LSA meted out to us. By the time of the meeting in December the weather in Champaign had changed dramatically. My colleague Gary Cziko and I got stranded on a plane in a blizzard at the St. Louis airport on our way to New Orleans. We sat in the plane on the tarmac for a couple of hours while they repeatedly de-iced the wings. After our flight was cancelled, and with little chance of the airport’s being reopened anytime soon, we decided to bag the conference. I’ll never forget our harrowing ride through that blizzard back to Champaign in a beaten-up old station wagon driven by a jocular cabby named Sam or Dave, or Willie. That was my second miss with AAAL. Close, but no champagne.
AAAL at that time was essentially a special interest group within LSA. We relied almost entirely on LSA for funding and on the LSA administrative staff for any logistic support that we could coax out of them. Other than holding an annual meeting in the middle of everyone’s vacation and during the worst weather of the year, it was hard to find anything that AAAL provided its members. So my first act as AAAL President was to appoint a task force that I charged with looking to the future and recommending ways in which AAAL could better serve its members and advance the profession. I was most fortunate that everyone I invited to be on the task force accepted. Sue Gass very graciously agreed to chair the task force, while Courtney Cazden, Sandra Savignon, Deborah Tannen, and Dick Tucker served as members. The task force executed its charge with great diligence and made a number of recommendations that were implemented and that made AAAL a stronger association. The most significant recommendation to come from the task force, in my view, was that we move the annual meeting out of LSA and meet on our own at about the same time as TESOL. At our annual meeting in Washington, DC, in December 1989, I remember the AAAL Executive Committee huddling in a makeshift space—a circle of folding chairs in a corner of one of the large meeting rooms of the conference hotel. There we made that fateful decision to hold the first ever AAAL meeting on its own. It would be in New York, just before TESOL. Leslie Beebe was incoming VP, and thus would be responsible for organizing it. We all agonized and worried that we would hold a meeting and no one would show up. But we were teenagers again, flush with the exhilaration of breaking away and happy to be on our own. Leslie and I had dinner together that evening at an Ethiopian restaurant, where we alternatively celebrated and commiserated about what we’d done. Of course, we all were both right and wrong. We were right to change the time of the annual meeting, and wrong in our concern that no one would show up. Leslie marshaled the support of her, colleagues, students, and friends, and when the “First Annual Stand-Alone Genuine Honestto- Goodness No-Holds-Barred AAAL Meeting” opened in NYC it was a smashing hit. The rest,
as they say, is what we learn from.
Organizing a Brand New Kind of Conference… in Manhattan The American Association for Applied Linguistics is the American affiliate of the International Association of Applied Linguistics, but we are probably the least "national" of the national affiliates. Our constitution does not specify nationality of membership; it states "members of the Association shall be persons or institutions interested in and contributing to the advancement of applied linguistics as a science and a profession."
Notice that it is not required that we BE "American applied linguists" but rather that we be persons of unspecified nationality and vocational identity who are "INTERESTED in and contributing to applied linguistics." What should be immediately obvious is that this is not an association that wastes a lot of time trying to define who may and may not be a member. If you want to be a member, you may be one; you do not need a visa or green card. AAAL thrives today in part because it welcomes a diverse membership.
Seventeen years ago, in 1990, I was Vice President of AAAL and in that role, I was to be responsible for organizing AAAL’s national conference. When I became Vice President, AAAL had fewer than 500 members, only 7% with overseas addresses. Up to that point, AAAL had always held its annual conference as a subsection of the Linguistic Society of America annual conference. Though there was considerable interest in applied linguistics papers, LSA allocated only two rooms to AAAL for individual paper presentations at each conference. These were small meetings.
In 1990, AAAL chose to take some risks in order to grow. Following the recommendations of a task force headed by Sue Gass, AAAL decided to change its annual meeting venue. That year, they decided to move AAAL out from under the umbrella of the Linguistic Society of America. They would hold a separate AAAL conference that would meet each year, not as part of LSA, but close to the annual TESOL convention. There were plenty of reservations about this move.
Some felt it was unwise to leave the LSA umbrella, that there was insufficient interest in applied linguistics as a discipline to support a separate conference of any size larger than its (then) tworoom size. It was my luck (good or bad) to be Vice President and conference chair the year of an entirely new autonomous kind of conference. Oh, and did I mention that I was then asked to organize this first autonomous conference in New York City, because that was where TESOL would be meeting in 1991? The logistics of finding meeting space in Manhattan were substantial, particularly since we had no idea if we’d need two meeting rooms or ten!
As conference organizers, we decided that as long as we were taking risks with meeting time and location, we might as well also take some risks related to conference content and meeting dynamics. We knew we wanted more papers (certainly more than two rooms’ worth!). We also wanted to encourage more variety in the content of the papers that would be presented--up to that point, AAAL papers had focused almost exclusively on second language acquisition research.
But we wanted papers on other areas of applied linguistics, such as assessment, language planning, discourse analysis, genre analysis, literacy, CALL. We also wanted variety in presentation type; we wanted to offer not just individual papers, but also for the first time, colloquia, both invited and proposed. And we wanted variety in the geographical origins of our presenters; for the first time, AAAL actively solicited abstracts from applied linguists outside the U.S. We felt that including international applied linguists in the annual conference would enrich and improve the research and knowledge base of the field, both in the US and beyond.
Our decisions to build increased diversity into AAAL’s conference–diversity of presenter, of topic, of presentation style–were richly rewarded at the first autonomous AAAL conference in New York City in 1991. Numbers soared, to an unprecedented 119 peer-reviewed presentations!
Topics for the first time ventured beyond the realm of SLA, providing a more representative cross section of applied linguistic work. The new colloquium option was wildly popular.
International participation rose from 7% to 16%. And, to my private relief, even though we were meeting on our own, there were no disasters of the sort that haunt conference organizers everywhere. As AAAL President in 1991-92, I felt able to provide the wisdom of (a little) experience to my successor Sandy Savignon as she organized the next AAAL conference.
I am proud that the pattern for AAAL conferences that I helped to set in 1991 has continued to the present day: AAAL conferences are still characterized by a wide diversity of topic, presentation type, and presenter origin, following the model we established in that first autonomous AAAL conference 17 years ago. Diversity IS good for survival.
Sandra J. Savignon
To honor the 30th birthday of our organization, I would like to evoke for today’s burgeoning international membership two noteworthy events in which I had the good fortune to participate.
The first was the decision in 1977 by a small group of professionals gathered in a room at the annual ACTFL Conference to found a professional organization to support and bring together those involved in applied linguistic research. Not linguistics, not language pedagogy or teacher education, but applied linguistics. We unanimously selected Wilga Rivers of Harvard University as our first president and the Linguistic Society of America (LSA) graciously offered to provide our fledgling group with an administrative home. AAAL was born!
We continued this arrangement for over a decade, holding our annual meetings in a single conference room in conjunction with the LSA meeting in early January. During this period meeting attendees remained dedicated but relatively few in relation to our steady overall membership of about 300. When Lyle Bachman assumed the presidency of AAAL in 1988 he concluded that the problem of membership stagnation and low conference participation called for action. He proposed that AAAL consider establishing itself as an independent organization or ceasing existence. He named a committee to study the situation and make a recommendation.
Courtney Cazden, Deborah Tannen, president-elect Elaine Tarone, Dick Tucker and I served on that committee under the dynamic chairmanship of Sue Gass. After prolonged debate at our group gathering in Washington, DC., we decided it was time to gamble, to set off on our own and see if we could survive. With TESOL scheduled to meet in Spring 1990 in New York City, we announced our first annual independent AAAL conference in a modest nearby hotel the preceding weekend. We advertised a stellar list of speakers, including volunteers from those on our committee, and hoped for the best.
Our conference was a great success! And the modest $15 registration fee from so many attendees provided the much needed funds for launching our 1991 conference the following year in Seattle when, as president-elect, I would serve as program chair. My badge from that first independent New York City meeting holds a cherished place on my bulletin board. My name and university appear typed on plain paper below a rubber-stamped AAAL with, beside it, a big red apple sticker.
Robert B. Kaplan,
AAAL at 30
A living fossil, I vividly recall the inception of AAAL, somewhat longer ago than 30 years; after all, there was the conception and the gestation before the actual delivery. The conception occurred at the TESOL Conference in Puerto Rico in May of 1973. Participating in the event (not as a committee, but rather as interested individuals, meeting casually in the bar, at dinner, and in hallways) were: Ed Anthony (retired), Tom Buckingham (deceased), Peter Collier (retired), David Eskey (deceased), Bob Kaplan (retired), Joe Darwin Palmer (retired), Bernard Spolsky (semi-retired) and Peter Strevens (deceased). (If the names mean nothing to you, your assignment is to look them up and prepare a thousand-word biography of each.) Clearly, participation in the event was no guarantee of longevity.
That initial conception gave rise to an elephantine five-year-long gestation, spread over meetings of the LSA Summer Institute, several LSA annual conventions, five TESOL conferences, and the organization of the applied linguistics interest section of TESOL. Finally, the ultimate delivery of AAAL occurred at a constitutional convention convened during the ACTFL Convention in San Francisco on 24 November 1977.
Over that long gestation period and subsequently, the idea of AAAL brushed up against a fair number of other organizations – (an alphabet soup test: a number of AATs, ACTFL, ATESL, CCCC, LACUS, LSA, MLA, NABE, NAFSA, NCTE and SAA) -- and seeded the need for other new organizations (SLA, testing, etc.) and for a number of journals – two official (Applied Linguistics and the Annual Review of Applied Linguistics) and a number of others (e.g., AILA Review, Australian Review of Applied Linguistics, Current Issues in Language Planning, ELT Journal, Journal of Asian Pacific Communication, Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, Journal of Second Language Writing, Language Planning, Language Testing, Studies in Second Language Acquisition). Because AAAL has continued the attempt actually to define applied linguistics, it has inspired a veritable orgy of definitions, some entombed in encyclopedic works: e.g., Brown, K. (Ed.) (In Press) Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics. (2nd ed). Amsterdam: Elsevier Science; Davies, A. (1999) An Introduction to Applied Linguistics: From Practice to Theory. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press; Davies, A. and Elder, C. (Eds.) (2004). The Handbook of Applied Linguistics. Malden, MA: Blackwell; Frawley,
W. (Ed.) (2003) Oxford International Encyclopedia of Linguistics. 2nd ed. 4 Vols. New York: Oxford University Press; Grabe, W. and R. B. Kaplan (Eds.) (1992) Introduction to Applied Linguistics. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley; Hinkel, E. (Ed.) (2005) Handbook of Research in Second Language Teaching and Learning. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum; Johnson, K. and H. Johnson (1998) Encyclopedic Dictionary of Applied Linguistics. Oxford: Blackwell; Kaplan, R. B. (Ed.) (2002) Oxford Handbook of Applied Linguistics. New York: Oxford University Press; Kaplan, R. B. (Ed.) (l980) On the scope of applied linguistics. Rowley, MA: Newbury House; Spolsky, B. (Ed.) (1998) Concise Encyclopedia of Educational Linguistics. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science; Widdowson, H. G. (1979,1984) Explorations in Applied Linguistics. 2 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Thus, I would argue that AAAL--in its maturity--has not only served its membership admirably but has in addition influenced the general academic environment in important ways. Let’s hear it for AAAL for even more successes over the next thirty years.
My involvement with applied linguistics started with Wilga Rivers’ arrival at Harvard in 1974. I had arrived ten years earlier to the United States with a degree in German language and literature from Paris and was teaching French and German “down the river,” at M.I.T. But I was growing increasingly puzzled by the way my American students were learning foreign languages: so many things they didn’t understand about the French and the Germans, so many things I didn’t understand about them. Wilga welcomed me in her graduate seminar on psycholinguistics and opened up for me the field of second language acquisition and applied linguistics. It was a revelation. Coming from a structuralist literary background with a good training in explication detextes, I suddenly discovered discourse analysis, conversation analysis, stylistic analysis, pragmatics, devoured everything I could put my hands on and started finding answers to the problems I was encountering in my classrooms.
When Wilga founded AAAL in 1978, I was eager to join the organization. Applied linguistics provided me with the ideal way to bridge my passion for both language and literature and my interest in both the social sciences and the humanities. As I was, at M.I.T and now at Berkeley, in a foreign language and literature department, I was keen on bringing together the language program and the literature/culture program in the department. Applied linguistics, with its rigorous analytic tools and its broad interdisciplinary theoretical base, helped me and my students understand the relationship of language, discourse, and culture in everyday life and their relation to identity, power, and politics. When Sandra Savignon, who was president of AAAL in 1992-1993, asked me if I would care to be nominated for the presidency of the organization, I was greatly honored and happy to accept. Wilga, Sandy, and I, and last year Jim Lantolf, have been to this day the only four foreign language members to become presidents of this organization.
During my tenure as vice president and president (1994-1995), most of our work was to finalize and implement the wonderful by-laws that my predecessor Robert Kaplan has drawn up for AAAL. We established four major committees: a long range planning committee, a membership committee, a rules and resolutions committee and an awards committee, and appointed a task force to establish a Directory of M.A./PhD programs in Applied Linguistics in the U.S. and Canada. Those two years saw the organization grow by leaps and bounds. The annual meeting was becoming known as the hottest ticket in town, as attendance jumped from 390 to 750 participants but retained the intense intellectual exchanges typical of small, vibrant scholarly conferences.
AAAL over the years has grown tremendously and has become well-known worldwide. It is my favorite scholarly meeting. It is particularly congenial to graduate students who can gain a sense of where the profession is going and can make useful contacts. These contacts are all the more vital to their careers as they work in environments in which applied linguistics is not always given the recognition it is due and they have to argue for its theoretical and empirical validity. But things are slowly changing and AAAL has helped many of us, especially those of us in foreign languages, impress on deans and literature faculty that applied linguistics is not just about teaching conjugations and adjective endings but about opening students eyes to the power of language in all its aspects – linguistic, cultural, and literary. Thank you, AAAL, and all my good wishes for the future!
AAAL 1996—1997—1998: Perspectives from ten years out
Is it possible that fully ten years have passed since AAAL 1997 took place in Orlando? Yes. I had the great pleasure of working to organize that meeting together with a remarkable Executive Board, an invaluable Secretary-Treasurer, two wonderful local chairs, and an unusually capable graduate assistant.
I had first attended AAAL in the (relatively) “old days” when it was held in conjunction with LSA. I attended my first AAAL meeting in I think, 1985, when Dell Hymes organized it in San Diego and the conference included a whale-watching excursion. That was my initial organizational contact, but I date my involvement in applied linguistics as a field from graduate school studies at Stanford in the late 1970s-early 1980s with Charles Ferguson, Shirley Brice Heath, and Robert Politzer (a long-time colleague of Wilga Rivers, AAAL’s first president; how interconnected are so many academic lives, in ways not always immediately apparent).
Two general features of both the field, as indicated by later publications, and the conference attracted me to applied linguistics: first, its breadth (so many language-related topics, including but not limited to those related to pedagogy; including but not limited to work done in and on English); and, second, its insistence on rigor in research, on identifying and meeting standards for conceptual framing, gathering and presenting evidence, and effective argumentation.
For me, the chance to participate in AAAL’s organizational structure, including conference planning and other Committee responsibilities, also brought multiple opportunities to get to know many colleagues in person whom I had only known previously in print. The other benefit of such involvement has been the chance to get to know rising scholars, both established and junior, from all over the world, who share similar interests and often challenge me to re-think research topics and methods and related policy questions.
Were there any innovations in organizing AAAL 1997? I think we were the first to set up a website, an extremely simple one by today’s standards but still an improvement in communication, particularly (then) for the many international participants who had previously been limited to doing much work via faxes. In ten years, uses of the web to structure and facilitate organization communication has grown and morphed, and it will undoubtedly continue to do so. So, as I think about what lies ahead, I am thinking of all the ways that uses of electronic communication will support, perhaps supersede, other forms of communication. I am also glad to see that the strong graduate student involvement in AAAL continues, offering mentoring of future colleagues and leaders in the field. There are continuing tensions too: I sense ongoing frustration that applied linguists are so often left out of crucial language-related research and policymaking, partly because numbers are small and partly because, as an organization of mainly university-based scholars, we are neither trained nor rewarded for such activities.
There will be many changes ahead, no doubt, but the chances to connect personally at annual meetings remain for me, and I hope for many AAAL members, genuine professional highlights that allow me to share current work, stay connected to the varied aspects of the field, and appreciate recent contributions of the many scholars whose achievements continue to inspire me.
The most significant activity carried out by AAAL is its annual conference. As of this year, we will have had 30 of them! There is an enormous amount of energy and teamwork that goes into preparing for a conference. The reviewing of abstracts – a process that involves a large number of applied linguistic scholars, liasing with the publishers, deciding who will be the plenary speakers and who will be asked to organize invited colloquia are just a few of the truly exciting and challenging actions that need to be carried out in planning for a conference that has the extraordinary breadth and scope of our annual conferences. At the conference, lively and spirited discussions about theories, research, and their implications abound.
But there is a dark side to a conference. A conference the size of ours over a period of four days generates approximately 30,000 cans or bottles, 25,000 cups, 30,000 napkins, 21,000 plates,1200 plastic name tags, mountains of paper from such things as handouts and the material in information bags. Recently Toronto held its first “zero-waste” convention, their goal being to divert all the waste created by the conference away from landfills, with a recycling company sorting through the waste as it was generated. Then, of course, there is the environmental damage that occurs when the cleaning products used to wash towels and sheets daily find their way to our rivers, lakes and oceans, and from the carbon emissions that produce power to light, and heat or cool, the buildings we occupy.
The year I was in charge of planning the AAAL conference (held in Seattle in 1998), one of our planning committee members, Helen Moore, repeatedly raised the issue of asking our hotel to be “environmentally responsible” – minimally to provide recycling bins, and to offer not to wash our towels and sheets daily. The hotel appeared to hear us, but certainly did not listen. They were not enthusiastic about our requests. In retrospect, this is odd indeed, given that it would have saved them money. At the time, however, I recall one of the hotel staff saying that they wouldn’t use recycling bins because “they were unsightly”. Even now, when we leave towels in the places we’re told indicates they don’t need to be washed, they are replaced anyway. Helen raised the issue at the AGM in Seattle, and got a lukewarm (that’s probably too strong an adjective) response. Certainly some on the Executive and in the audience wanted to move on to issues they saw as more directly related to Applied Linguistics.
The 2004 conference in Portland made a significant effort to be environmentally friendly. As indicated in the conference program book, the hotel was green and they lived up to it (Lantolf, personal communication). Additionally the styrofoam scheduling boards were recycled from the 2003 conference; the program was published on recycled paper, only electronic conference updates were used; and on-line conference evaluations were used. This was in keeping with a green policy “friendly motion” put forward by Helen Moore at the 2003 AGM asking for a review of AAAL’s policy. Oddly, this request appears not to have been recorded in the minutes.
However, on request, I have been sent AAAL’s current “Recycle and Green Policy” from AAAL/Prime Management Services. In brief, it is:
Recycle and green policy:
1. Printing and mailed correspondence:
a. make every possible attempt to minimize waste and utilize environmentally friendly paper options whenever possible. The majority of the paper and envelopes we use are either officially labeled as ‘recycled material’ or purchased from vendors who have confirmed that their product contains a minimum percentage (usually between 20 and 30%) of recycled material.
b. for AAAL’s printed program for the annual conference, we utilize the same
practice. The 2004 program was printed with 100% recycled material, and the
2006 and 2007 programs were printed with unofficially recycled material
(between 20 and 30% as noted in ‘a’ above).
2. Other partners: We attempt to utilize vendors and suppliers who have an official green policy. These vendors are typically the material shipment receivers and the hotel itself. We instruct the material shipment receivers to recycle cardboard boxes whenever possible, and minimize the use of ‘popcorn’ padding in boxes (by replacing the foam popcorn with a type of environmentally friendly product). A similar policy is requested of the host facility. Most of our host facilities have a green policy that we ask to be prominently displayed to the attendees either in their guest room or upon check-in. In addition we instruct the director of housing and rooming to display the ‘do not wash the sheets’ message in guest rooms. We also request, if possible, that the hotel offer reusable cups (glass cups) or paper cups that may also be easily recycled. Additionally, we attempt to re-use our conference name tags and badge holders by asking attendees to return them to the registration area at the conclusion of the conference.
3. Investments and savings: Where possible, we request all monthly bank statements to be sent as electronic files (eliminating mailing of paper statements). In addition AAAL has implemented an ‘environmentally friendly’ investment policy for both FFAL and AAAL investment accounts.
We will begin moving many of our new/future funds into environmentally friendly mutual funds. And now it is 2007, and although some progress has been made in regard to the ecology of our conferences, more needs to be done. Clearly from everything that is emerging on climate change, it is even more urgent that we insert some renewed energy (pun intended) into AAAL’s commitment to responsible stewardship of the earth’s resources as these support our professional activities. A start would be (1) a permanent “slot” in the conference convenor’s report at the AGM on what has been done at that conference on recycling and energy conservation; (2) a space in the conference evaluation form for assessing and reporting on individuals’ experiences at conference hotels and presentation venues, and for making suggestions for further improvements; and (3) a place in the conference program that clearly details the commitments given for that conference, so as to allow delegates to monitor these commitments.
Patsy M. Lightbown
The thirtieth anniversary of the American Association for Applied Linguistics is an occasion for celebration and congratulations. Over these years, the association has benefited from the involvement of a great number of its members, some of them as members of the executive committee and many others as contributors to the association’s committees, both long term and ad hoc. It is a pleasure and a privilege to work with such competent and dedicated colleagues.
During the years that I had the honor of serving as a member of the executive, it gave me great joy to see the organization grow, in terms of its membership and also in terms of its importance in a variety of areas of research, policy and practice in applied linguistics.
I suspect that many past presidents remember most vividly the year they spent serving as vice president and conference chair. That certainly is true for me. It was a year of unbelievably hard work – not just for me, but also for the colleagues and students who worked closely with me as members of the conference committees. They shared the pressure, the excitement, the never ending details and the worries about what might go wrong. It was so enriching to interact with applied linguists all over the world. It was such a relief when the conference finally started and Murphy’s Law wasn’t always in force. The schedule seemed to be working well and even though there had been lots of skepticism about holding a conference in Stamford, Connecticut, everything seemed to be humming along. One special privilege of the conference organizer is being able to invite plenary speakers from the top ranks in a variety of research areas. I had invited Lois Bloom, Paul Meara, Margaret Thomas, and John Rickford and they all gave great plenaries. Everything was going better than I could have wished for until the eve of the last conference day. The person who was scheduled to give the closing plenary fell ill and had to cancel. I had no idea what I would do with that gaping space in the program. At the suggestion of a graduate student, I asked Dennis Preston if he just happened to have a paper that he could give – and he did! With a few hours’ notice, he gave a superb plenary that was another high point of the conference.
Perhaps the thing I loved most – and still find most valuable about our association – is the way in which it creates opportunities for students. They get involved when their faculty mentors work on various committees. They also submit and present some of the best papers at every conference. For a number of years, financial support has been offered to both M.A. and PhD students, often making it possible for award winners to attend their first professional conference. For those who are not chosen for the awards, AAAL provides encouragement through its reduced student registration fees. Students are among the most assiduous and enthusiastic attendees at every conference. I have had innumerable conversations with excited students who have finally seen and heard -- in person -- a scholar whose work they have admired and built on for their own research. Even though the conference has grown, it is still small enough to permit
students to interact with the most outstanding figures in applied linguistics. Not only the regular conference presentations, but also special activities put them together with more senior members of their field, allowing them to exchange ideas and make contacts that often change the direction of their professional development. I hope AAAL will continue to encourage students, through the Fund for the Future of Applied Linguistics as well as by including them in all of the association’s activities.
Best wishes to all AAAL members on this thirtieth anniversary.
On the occasion of AAAL’s 30th anniversary it seems appropriate to say: “You’ve come a long way, baby”! Those of us who are old enough will remember those early days of AAAL when our annual meetings took place along with the Linguistic Society of America meetings-- occurring between Christmas and New Year’s--and, it seemed, always in wintry places at that time of year!
Today the annual AAAL conventions routinely draw more people than attended the combined LSA-AAAL conventions. With the founding of AAAL, applied linguistics began coming into its own as a distinct field of study, establishing its own identity separate and apart from theoretical linguistics.
Other than attending an occasional AAAL session at an LSA meeting, my own involvement with AAAL as an organization didn’t begin until the late 1980s. I began as many other officers have with service on the Nominating Committee, serving three years from 1987 through 1990. I then became a fairly regular presenter at the annual meetings (when my abstracts were deemed worthy by the rigorous reviewers!) In 1998-99, I was elected to serve as First Vice President-Elect and began preparations for the convention I would chair two years later. In 1999-2000, I became First Vice President and Convention Chair for the highly successful (if I do say so myself!) Vancouver Convention. That convention was, I believe, the first time attendance exceeded 1,200 participants. What a wonderful experience it was being convention chair. I had the opportunity of interacting with many of the “superstars” of our field, and found each and every one of them to be wonderfully receptive and more than willing to do whatever was asked of them--from being plenary speakers, to organizing invited colloquia, to chairing sessions, to introducing speakers, and more. One of the innovations we initiated for that 2000 convention were the hosted breakfasts for graduate students. Inviting the leaders in our field to host tables at ungodly early hours, I found that there were no “egos,” just dedicated scholars and researchers willing to participate in the healthy give and take of robust intellectual interaction!
My year as President, 2000-2001, was almost anticlimactic after the hectic pace of organizing the convention. However, that was the year during which, at the instigation of my Vice President, Bill Grabe, we initiated the fundraising drive to endow graduate student travel grants. But I’ll let Bill talk about that in his statement. It was also the year during which preliminary plans began for AAAL to host the AILA convention in 2005, and also the time we began planning to hold the annual AAAL meetings apart from the annual TESOL conventions with all the uncertainty that represented.
After I retired from full-time university teaching in 2002, my participation and attendance at AAAL meetings necessarily also waned. I was able to present at the AAAL-AILA convention in Madison in 2005, and although I was keenly aware of my three-year absence and afraid that I would feel like a stranger, as it turned out, I felt as though I was “back home” among close friends. If I had but one wish for the future of AAAL it would be that it not only continue to grow and mature, but that it never lose that ”back home among friends” feel.
I remember my first AAAL, if I have it right, was in NYC in 1979. I was at LSA and it was the first that I heard of an applied linguistics group, or a strand, at the LSA meeting. I also managed to make some “AAAL” talks in San Diego in 1981 and LA in 1982 (or maybe the reverse).
Then I heard about the AAAL meeting in NYC in 1991 moving to be with TESOL. What a great move for the organization. I remember that meeting as a very exciting one. The shift from being with LSA to fronting TESOL was the key move for the organization. It showed great leadership of the executive committee who planned that move. I think the push came from Sue Gass and Eliane Tarone and a long-range planning committee, but I’m sure a few other people from the late 1980s Executive Committees had key roles to play as well. The 1991 AAAL meeting galvanized applied linguists in the U.S. and abroad.
From a few hundred members in 1990, being generous, to close to 1,000 members by 1995 (and close to 700 attendees at the 1995 AAAL meeting) indicates the major shift arising from the 1991 meeting.
Of course, there are many other meetings that generate idiosyncratic memories. The 1996 meeting in Chicago was in a great hotel; the next year, we were in a Disneyworld tourist hotel in Orlando. It’s all part of the growing pains, and AAAL certainly has grown. I also remember Dennis Preston stepping in at the last moment at the 1999 AAAL conference and giving a great plenary on American dialects and folk linguistics. I remember being elected AAAL Vice President and finding out that the meeting I was in charge of was in St Louis. With no disrespect to St Louis, why couldn’t my year be Vancouver, or Seattle, or some other great conference city… But Matt Howe did find a great hotel in St Louis for the meeting, the Union Station Hyatt, so I remember feeling lucky after all.
I also remember proposing the Fund for the Future of Applied Linguistics to the Executive Committee in 2000 in Vancouver. At first a few members thought that applied linguists wouldn’t be willing to put up $500 to $1,000 gifts. But I was pretty sure that AAAL leaders would value AAAL and give a meaningful gift. Right at the Executive Committee meeting in Vancouver in 2000, three executive committee members said that they would give Foundation pledges. More than 60 members gave major personal gifts of $500 to $1,000. It’s great to know that the leaders of the field really do care about AAAL, recognizing what AAAL provides for them and what it can do for our students.
Finally, I’d like to recognize two recent presidents who did extraordinary things. Richard Young brought AILA to the US. We had to do it as one of the biggest applied linguistics organizations in the world, but there really were major financial obstacles and gambles to work through.
Richard did this remarkably well and was gracious throughout what must have been a challenging planning year. Our shining moment, however, had to be Richard Schmidt holding the AAAL meeting together in Arlington 2003, just as the Iraq invasion had begun. Talk abut a President being dealt a tough hand to play. But like the old Nike commercial said, “Just do it,” and he did, and he really pulled off a great conference. Thanks Dick.
Congratulations to AAAL on the occasion of its 30th Anniversary. Such an achievement is possible only through the efforts and contributions of its members. Through active service to the organization in countless ways--whether presenting at conferences, volunteering for or accepting the call to committee work, or holding office--the vitality that AAAL enjoys today is a legacy of deep commitment, loyal dedication, and megawatts of energy and inspiration.
Over the years I’ve been fortunate to witness and participant in the dynamic spirit with which AAAL is identified. Particularly meaningful were the two terms I served on the Executive Committee – first as Member-at-Large (1994-1996) and later as Vice-President and President (1999-2004). It isn’t any particular achievements that made those years remarkable. Rather, it was the close association with an extraordinarily dedicated and hardworking group of fellow applied linguists whose generous and tireless gift of their time and talents to the profession and the organization continues to inspire today.
The future of AAAL, of course, depends upon its members, who embody what AAAL stands for. The diversity of the organization is one feature that has always stood out--not just in the senses of national origin and ethnicity, but likewise in the range of intellectual and empirical interests, educational and professional backgrounds, as well as theoretical and methodological orientations so well represented on AAAL conference programs and in applied linguistics publications. Applied linguistics is truly a large, welcoming tent for these diverse perspectives and values--a hallmark to be proud of. At the same time, it is one that poses a particular set of expectations and challenges that coming generations will need to come to terms with as they guide and shape (perhaps reshape) our organization, including questions of its scope, balance, and focus. May the individual and collective energy and passion that has brought AAAL to this milestone make this task a stimulating one and continue to carry it forward for many decades to come.
Flashbulb Memories from the 2003 Conference One of the good things about the way AAAL works is that when you run for office, you are elected as second vice president. You have a year to observe and learn from your more experienced predecessors (Bill Grabe and Margie Berns were my mentors) before taking on the job as first VP of organizing the national conference, after which there is a year as president and a year on the executive committee as past president. It’s like going from adolescent to senior statesman in four years.
“My” conference, in 2003, was planned to take place back-to-back with TESOL in Baltimore (with a conference theme of “Covering the Waterfront: The Diversity of Applied Linguistics”), but less than a year before the conference we found out that somehow or other the contract with the conference hotel had never been signed. We lost the venue. After a mad scramble to locate a reasonably priced alternative that would not be too far from the original, we moved the conference to Arlington, Virginia, in a hotel overlooking the Pentagon, with a view from the top floor (where the publishers’ exhibit would be located) of the spot where American Airlines flight 77 had slammed into US military headquarters on 9/11/2001.
The conference was scheduled for March 22-25. Arriving a few days ahead of time on Tuesday March 18, I went to the executive floor lounge to unwind after a long flight from Hawaii. Except for Robert Ranieri (AAAL Business Manager, who was running his first conference for AAAL) and me, there weren’t many AAAL members in town yet. In the lounge a small group of people, mostly military, watched the television set intently as George W. Bush announced that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his sons Uday and Qusay had 48 hours to leave Iraq. An impressive-looking guy--tall, lean, mustachioed, wearing a black pinstriped suit and red suspenders, perfect casting for the lead in a film about Howard Hughes circa 1947--muttered something about “Sodom the Insane,” strode out of the room, took the elevator to the ground floor (I followed), jumped into a Ferrari, and sped off in the direction of the Pentagon.
The US invasion of Iraq, codenamed "Operation Iraqi Freedom," officially began on Thursday, March 20, 2003. By the time of the AAAL conference on Saturday, there had been numerous calls to cancel the conference and at least as many expressions of support for carrying on. Over 1,200 people had pre-registered and we had worried that more would show up than the meeting facilities could handle. Quite a few people cancelled to express their anger over the war, some were concerned about whether it was safe to fly, and some came, but as much to protest as to present. In the end, 963 people showed up and the conference was a good one academically, but it was impossible to ignore what was going on around us. The best-attended event was an evening forum at which people discussed the use and mis-use of language to justify policy. It was a time to reflect on whether the international membership of AAAL would continue to grow as it had in recent years or whether that trend might reverse due to recent events. From time to time during the conference, I spotted the guy in the pinstriped suit entering or leaving the hotel.
Several times I watched him go into the sundries store and didn’t see him come back out, making me wonder what else might be going on while we were meeting and discussing applied linguistics.
James P. Lantolf
The American Association for Applied Linguistics is among the most vibrant academic associations whose focus is language anywhere in the world. It is the largest affiliate of AILA, and its annual conference attracts researchers from all corners of the world. The scope of the conference program is indicative of the growth of applied linguistics over the past three decades.
An especially impressive feature of the conference in recent years has been the high number of quality presentations from graduate students. The number of graduate programs in applied linguistics that have emerged in North American over the past five to ten years is astounding, and the number of academic positions in applied linguistics posted on our webpage and on the Linguist List and the MLA Job List also attests to the increasing robustness of our field. All of this augers well for the future of applied linguistics across North America. Clearly, the organization and the field it represents have matured tremendously over the past 30 years. To have been able to contribute to this success both as president of AAAL and as program chair of its annual conference has been one of the highlights of my career. Despite its successes, however, the field still has a way to go, at least in the U.S. academic scene, before it achieves full status on a par with other disciplines in the social sciences and humanities. For example, the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, the entity that evaluates graduate programs at major research universities in the US every ten years, is, at the moment unwilling to recognize our field as anything other than a subfield of general linguistics. In addition, some of our junior colleagues continue to encounter unnecessary obstacles in the tenure and promotion process. Unfortunately, in many academic units, in particular foreign language departments, applied linguistics carries the stigma of the past when the field was at best seen as linguistics applied to language teaching rather than as a stand-alone theoretically grounded research enterprise. I am pleased that the Executive Committee of AAAL has established an ad hoc committee, which I have the pleasure of chairing, to address the perception problem. While AAAL should take the lead in this important undertaking, I believe that all of the membership should work toward the goal of ensuring that our field can take its rightful place at the academic table long before we commemorate the next 30 years of AAAL’s existence.