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News & Press: AAALetter

Reflections from Outgoing EC Members

Tuesday, December 20, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Paul Kei Matsuda Jeff Connor-Linton Lucy Pickering
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The last four years have been the busiest years of my career, but they have also been some of the most fulfilling ones for me professionally. I was grateful when I was given the opportunity to serve AAAL and all its members, and I bowed to use the opportunity not only to help make the organization better but also to make it more inclusive and participatory.

Through conversations with AAAL members over the years, I was keenly aware that many of them felt that AAAL seemed somewhat distant, especially from the perspectives of relatively new members or of those who, for various reasons, were not able to attend the annual conferences on a regular basis. Getting proposals accepted has been a challenge for many because of the growing number of applied linguists both within and outside North America, and because of various logistical constraints that limit the number of presentation slots.

AAAL leadership often consists of accomplished members of the field, and even though we are nice people (Believe me, we are!), I know some members feel intimidated to talk to us. Many members were not even aware that the Annual Business Meetings were open to all members!

One of my agendas was to make AAAL and especially the work of the Executive Committee more transparent and accessible to our membership. I used social media to provide more information about the EC and AAAL conferences. I explained the purpose of business meetings to many members and personally encouraged them to get involved. I also minimized my speaking roles to create more room for participation, and instead spent much of my time at the conferences interacting with conference participants.

Thanks to the help of many members who contributed to this effort in various ways, I have seen some good results. We have seen record turnouts at Annual Business Meetings. Many members responded to my posts and shared them with others. Seeing my effort to chat with the participants throughout the conferences, some of them conferred upon me the title of the “most outgoing president”!

At AAAL 2017 in Portland, I will complete my work as the Immediate Past President and my second term on the AAAL Executive Committee. At the conference, I will try once again to live up to the title of the most outgoing outgoing immediate past president. If there is anything I can do to help you understand the organization, how it works, how to get involved, and how to get the most out of the conference and the organization, please feel free to talk to me. I look forward to seeing and engaging in conversations with many of you there!

AAAL is my conference, and it is yours, too. I hope you will consider participating even more actively and making AAAL a better professional organization that can serve you needs and the needs of others.

Once again, thank you for the opportunity to serve all of you in this important capacity. It has been a real privilege serving you all!

This coming March, I will complete my four-year term as AAAL’s Secretary-Treasurer. I’ve had the honor of serving for eight of the past ten years on AAAL’s Executive Committee. It has been a rich and enjoyable learning and professional experience, and I welcomed the invitation from Fabiola Ehlers-Zavala to reflect on it in this issue of the AAALetter.

For me, organizing the 2009 annual conference was an invaluable update on the full scope of applied linguistics after more than 20 years in the field. My students and I experimented with scheduling papers together by topic and method rather than just by strand—to reveal connections among studies and researchers that might have gone unseen. In the years since, the EC has worked on the conference format to make it more useful to more members—for example, adding round table sessions to discuss work in progress and offering intensive pre-conference workshops on a range of research methods.

As President, one of my biggest challenges was to change the management of the association. Through a nationwide search, we were very fortunate to engage Nardone Consulting Group and our fantastic Managing Director, Sarah Berke. NCG’s competence and Sarah’s deft management have allowed the EC to take a strategic perspective that has significantly broadened AAAL’s scope and enhanced its value to members in recent years.

My first year as Secretary-Treasurer, Joan Kelly Hall locked us in a board room in Portland for three days to generate AAAL’s first (I think) strategic plan.  I was skeptical at first until hundreds of post-it notes coalesced into a coherent, dynamic five-year plan with goals for providing resources for professional development; clarifying the identity of the field, the association, and its members; developing member benefits beyond the annual conference; developing professional guidelines; and expanding outreach and advocacy activities. Results of this plan include creation of the Graduate Student Council; development of new book and dissertation awards to recognize valuable contributions to the field; development of promotion and tenure guidelines to support applied linguists’ careers; and creation of an expert database to help people find the applied linguistic resources they need. An overarching goal has been to involve more members in the leadership of the association, through the many task forces and committees which have accomplished these strategic goals.

AAAL has grown, matured, and become a much more dynamic organization over the past ten years.  As international members of AAAL have come to constitute one-third of all members, the EC has focused on how to support the field of applied linguistics around the world. Efforts are underway to increase support for graduate students, who are the future of applied linguistics. And the EC continues to work on enhancing the value of the annual conference to members and awareness of applied linguistic research in the world beyond our association.

Serving on the EC has been personally and professionally satisfying and, yes, fun. I encourage you to get involved, volunteer for a committee, and, if the Nominating Committee gets in touch, say yes to a great opportunity.

The conference in March 2017 will mark the end of my three-year service to the AAAL membership as a member-at-large. I have been lucky enough to work alongside truly inspirational committee members who have dedicated their time to both listen to the membership and enact innovative and exciting policy changes.

As an Executive Committee our (sometimes, quite long) meetings have always been conducted effectively, but with a healthy dose of humor. I learned fairly quickly that I should carefully consider my words before I spoke and that listening to someone else was probably more important  (an excellent lesson, I might add!) While I have been on the committee, I have had the pleasure of being part of initiatives such as our Pre-Conference Workshops, the Publishing guidelines, and the creation of the Graduate Student Council.

We have a thriving and dedicated community of volunteers at the heart of AAAL, and I encourage all our members to serve when and where they can.

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