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News & Press: AAALetter

From the President

Wednesday, April 25, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Linda Harklau
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As I write, my university is less than a week away from the end of the school year.  So I went directly from my conference chair duties to being immersed in end of semester exams and events.  But before I consign the 2018 conference to history, I want to again acknowledge and express my appreciation to all the people who helped to put it together. My thanks particularly to the Conference Committee: Rhia Moreno-Kilpatrick, Assistant Chair; Nicole Siffrinn; Lei Jiang; Jason Mizell; and Soojin Ahn whose hard work was essential.  My thanks too to the other UGA volunteers who you might have seen at the App Help Desk, organizing the roundtable and poster sessions, and facilitating presentations by scholars who were denied visas for U.S. travel.  Also kudos to our AAAL Business Office led by Sarah Berke with Jessica Atkinson and Ellen Shea.  You may only see these folks once a year behind the registration desk but they do a great deal for this conference every year behind the scenes.  Thanks also to the 21 individuals who served as Strand Coordinators, and to all of our members who served as proposal reviewers. It is your expert input that builds the annual conference program.  Speaking of input, please make sure to complete the annual conference evaluation.  We look at those evaluations carefully, and your input does truly matter in how future conferences are organized.

AAAL has always been my professional home and I am deeply honored to serve as President this year. The state of our association is arguably the strongest it has ever been, with near-record levels of membership and conference attendance, but there is always room for change and improvement.  We have several new initiatives underway for the coming year.  You have already received a ballot for amending AAAL’s by-laws to separate the roles of Secretary and Treasurer.  Over the past decade, AAAL’s membership has grown dramatically and so too has the job of the Secretary-Treasurer.  AAAL’s current by-laws still reflect a time when communication with the membership meant printing and mailing a newsletter twice a year.  We do not currently have any leadership position tasked with overseeing social media and digital communication for the association.  Please add your vote for the change in our by-laws to create separate secretary and treasurer positions to move us into 21st century communications and help support AAAL’s expanding range of activities.

Another goal for the year is to shepherd us through the transition to a new conference proposal management system.  Those of you who have encountered glitches or problems in the former, outdated system will know how much we needed to make this change.  It will ultimately make the work of the Conference Chair and our Business Office considerably easier and less time-consuming and also make the process run more smoothly for conference participants.  But, of course, this is a major undertaking and while much of the work will necessarily fall to the Conference Chair, our leadership will be assisting and supporting this effort as much as we can throughout the coming year to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Other initiatives underway address the changing nature of our membership due in part to broader changes in academia and the sociopolitical environment.  For one, in an era of increasing numbers of contingent and part-time faculty as well as growing international membership from outside the Global North, a task force chaired by Member-at-large Steve Thorne has been investigating how AAAL might better engage scholars coming from financial and scholarly circumstances that differ from traditional western tenure-track positions in our field.  We will continue this discussion in the coming year.  With the generational shift underway in academia and in AAAL, we will continue to work to expand the role of the Graduate Student Council in our activities.  In an era in which the pipeline to higher education and academia in the U.S. is being restricted, an ad hoc committee chaired by Peter de Costa will follow up on last year’s Task Force on Diversity.  Specifically, his committee has been charged with developing proposals for ways in which AAAL can foster the participation of students and early career scholars from minoritized and under-represented backgrounds in our field.  We will also continue our commitment to welcome the participation of scholars from countries currently banned from U.S. travel and look for alternate ways for them to be involved in our association and conference.

Based on our recent membership survey and the Graduate Student Council’s successful experiments with website content, we also plan to convene an ad hoc Committee on Education that will investigate and make recommendations for new professional development and public engagement content to be included on AAAL’s website and social media.

Finally, I encourage you to nominate yourself or others to serve in AAAL.  There are many ways to serve: as a proposal reviewer, strand coordinator, award committee or nominating committee member, or member of the executive committee.  Look for AAAL‘s annual ballot, which includes space for your nominations.  Look also for a call for volunteers coming this summer.

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