Putting Together the Jigsaw Puzzle: Prepping for Columbus

16 May 2023 4:58 AM | Autumn Lorimer Linford (Administrator)

By Debbie van Tuyll

We’re still about a month out from the deadline for paper submissions, but the work of organizing the program has already begun.

First Vice President Tracy Lucht and I had a Zoom meeting a week ago to talk about what my role as second vice president (and thus conference program organizer) involves. She is so efficient and well organized, that she provided examples of all the different kinds of emails that go out to all the different constituencies, and then she walked me through everything in our meeting.

What struck me as Tracy and I talked was all the moving parts that are involved in bringing the annual conference to fruition. I’ll be collaborating with Gerry Lanosga and members of the research committee that he chairs to receive the list of accepted papers and panels. Then, I’ll use that list to put together and schedule sessions and panels, collaborate with Executive Director Erika Pribanic-Smith and Convention Committee Chair Caryl Cooper insure all the special events and activities have a place on the program. They will be the first to receive my proposed program. Next, I’ll be in contact with our membership around mid-summer to recruit session moderators and obtain advertisements for the program. I think before my summer is over, I’ll have a chance to touch base with most, if not all, of our membership.

I’m a bit intimidated but also a bit intrigued.

Looking from the outside (since I’ve never done this before the way AJHA does it), it seems to me that I’ll essentially be putting together a jigsaw puzzle and then collaborating with colleagues to glue it down and shellac it so that it can get “framed” as the final program booklet that will be distributed at the convention. But I’m looking forward to all that. The AJHA annual conference has long been one of my favorites, and I’m happy to do whatever I can to make sure it happens and that it’s a great experience for those who attend.

One of the things I always tell younger colleagues who are presenting at the AJHA conference for the first time is that our approach as an organization and as members of that organization is to offer affirming, formative advice rather than trying to tear other researchers down and make them feel small. This is a friendly conference, and everyone in any audience is there to cheer presenters on.

I hope you all will be submitting papers and panels and willing to help out as paper judges and moderators. I’ve been coming to the AJHA conference since the late 1990s. It’s been one of the cornerstones of my career. The smaller size of the conference makes it much more comfortable than one of those mega-conventions that attract thousands of attendees and make it impossible, really, to build relationships with other researchers. Reviewer comments on conference papers always helped me revise my work into a strong journal article or book chapter, and, of course, there are always new and old colleagues to catch up with and to build collaborations with.

Debbie van Tuyll is a Professor Emerita at the Department of Communications at Augusta University and the Second Vice President of AJHA. 

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