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News & Press: AAALetter

From Member-At-Large

Wednesday, April 25, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Peter DeCosta, Chair of the AAAL Diversity Ad Hoc
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In Fall 2017, Tim McNamara gave the newly formed AAAL Diversity Ad Hoc Committee the following charges: (1) prepare questions on the implementation of the Diversity Resolution to be included in the bi-annual membership survey, considering specifically how well AAAL has addressed the issues in the 2013 Resolution and how best to address these issues; (2) review mentoring models of other professional associations used in the mentoring of diverse doctoral candidates and early career scholars, with a view to introducing a similar program in AAAL; and (3) examine the AAAL conference programs from 2013-2017 to see how and to what extent diverse topics have been discussed in AAAL presentations, including not only ethnic and linguistic diversity but also questions of sexual orientation, disability and so on, including the balance between different methodologies and epistemologies.

This committee was comprised of the following AAAL members: Peter De Costa (Chair), Suresh Canagarajah, Daniel Isbell, Glenn Martinez, Elizabeth Miller, Christina Ponzio, Andrea Revesz, Fabiola Ehlers-Zavala and Manka Varghese.  Building on the work of an earlier task force on diversity, which was chaired by former AAAL President Kathleen Bailey, the committee sought to respond to an initial letter of concern from several AAAL members over the organization’s full and further realization of the March 2013 “Resolution Affirming Commitment to Promoting Diversity in AAAL”.

Given the above three broad charges of the ad hoc committee, three subcommittees (survey, mentoring model, conference program review) were subsequently created.  The survey sub-committee (De Costa, Ehlers-Zavala, Varghese) designed five questions, which were incorporated into the AAAL 2018 membership survey, that were related to diversity and equity. The findings from these five diversity- and equity-related questions (the percentage of “Unsure” responses ranged from 34.62% to 60.35%, depending on the question) suggested that a segment of our membership could benefit from a greater understanding of why diversity and equity matter, and how embracing diversity and equity can enrich our organization, especially in light of our field’s commitment to examining social problems.

The sub-committee (Martinez, Ponzio, Revesz) reviewed the mentoring models adopted by several professional organizations (e.g., AERA, ILTA, NCTE) that are comparable to AAAL.  Following this review, it was proposed that a new ad hoc mentoring committee be formed to develop mentoring opportunities for graduate student and emerging scholar members.  Among other things, it was suggested that this proposed committee build on AAAL’s Conference Connections mentoring effort that was piloted in 2018 and consider additional  possibilities for mentoring that extend beyond the conference through digital platforms.

The program review sub-committee (Canagarajah, Isbell, Miller), who analyzed AAAL conference programs from 2013-2017, had several recommendations.  These recommendations include devoting  invited colloquium slots to panels that would focus on under-represented areas of research, and connecting with fellow AILA affiliates from under-represented geographic areas when planning the conference.  For strands that receive fewer submissions and have fewer scheduled sessions, it was suggested that closer partnerships with other organizations be forged and more targeted dissemination of Calls for Proposals be sent out to the relevant organizations to raise greater awareness of under-represented research areas.  Also suggested was the establishment of a conference travel award for the presenters of accepted sessions from distant and/or under-represented geographic areas.

While the overall committee acknowledges that efforts have been made to promote diversity and equity within the organization since the 2013 “Resolution Affirming Commitment to Promoting Diversity in AAAL” was formulated, we also maintain that further work can be done in creating a more inclusive applied linguistics community.

Finally, I would like to thank all the members of my committee for their amazing work and the AAAL members who participated in the survey and through other channels to provide the committee with their invaluable feedback.  I hope that the preliminary work of our committee will inform future measures to help our organization achieve greater diversity and equity, and I welcome forthcoming efforts to achieve this vitally important goal.

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