Message from the President - May 2012

As our capital campaign draws to a close (we still need everyone to help: be sure you are counted!), the APA is in a better position both to survive the challenges of our times and to seize the opportunities.  But we must continue to use our human and financial capital wisely as we do our best to assure that the Association knows and seeks to provide what members actually need and want, and promotes our field as effectively as possible within and without.  Now is the time to take stock, review priorities, and plan for the future.  And so in late March the Board of Directors, as planned (see the Executive Director’s Report for 2011), conducted a weekend retreat facilitated by Laura Lewis Mandeles, our development advisor.  Attending were the Executive Director; the Financial Trustees; the President, President-Elect, and two past Presidents; the divisional Vice Presidents; three Directors at large; a former President of the American Classical League; and to advise about issues affecting “adcons” (adjunct or contingent faculty), a non-classicist from the New Faculty Majority. The retreat was productive and promising, and this letter is a good opportunity to fulfill one of its next steps: to communicate to membership about the results of the retreat.

We came away with a strategic-planning framework whose essence is a clear definition of the Association’s mission and purpose – to sustain and advance the field of Classics and the people involved in it – and an organizational visionthat encourages a more collaborative approach among the Divisions and the membership, and with external constituencies.  We identified priorities and promising initiatives for further study, and in order to get moving we established, for a trial period of two years, a “Cabinet” that will spearhead and serve as a regular forum for refining and advancing the plan.  The Cabinet consists of the President and President-Elect, the divisional Vice Presidents, and the Executive Director, and has scheduled its first meeting (by conference-call) for mid-May.

The title “Cabinet” does not imply a one-way or top-down process: the APA has always relied on its members for initiatives and guidance, and for the volunteer effort needed to achieve results otherwise impossible for an organization of our size.  The planning framework calls for greater responsiveness to the membership and for enhanced communications, especially online and digital, to connect members and other constituencies on an ongoing, year-round basis and through the full spectrum of media: to build the Gateway that inspired our capital campaign.  As planning goes forward, members can expect to be consulted for feedback and advice, and polled for information.

The main roles of the Association should be along the following broad guidelines.  We should support and develop the people who will enliven teaching, learning, and scholarship now and in years to come.  Through our meetings and programs we should facilitate multiple opportunities for connection within the field, especially around research and teaching, that strengthen intellectual exchange, encourage collaboration, and provide mutual support.  We should build information paths that connect professionals in the field and the lay public to data and information about the state and value of Classics, to 21st century resources for research, and about materials for pedagogical development.  Our communications infrastructure should create an environment of support for Classics through outreach to and collaboration with educators, students, parents and the general public, articulate the case for the Classics, and advocate pro-actively for Classics among educational decision makers.

Strategic initiatives include: (1) A sophisticated program of data collection, analysis, and dissemination.  (2) A “year-round”, more inclusive and engaging annual meeting that features a variety of formats for presentation and discussion of scholarship and issues in the field; includes a significant component focused on pedagogy; and offers a well-publicized set of public engagement opportunities in the host city.  The meeting should be preceded and followed by continuing engagement with those who will or who have participated.  In addition, we should explore the potential for convening – virtually or in-person – field meetings that would reach membership unable to attend the annual meeting as well as those who do generally attend.  The Chicago 2014 annual meeting should be the target for significant retooling along these lines.  (3) Developing information-technology to increase accessible research tools and materials, capture and share data about the field, and offer learning opportunities for a variety of constituents.  Our website should become the “go-to place” for people involved in or interested in Classics and should make full use of social media on all media platforms, so that users can find information, follow developments in the field, enjoy presentations and other learning opportunities, and connect with colleagues.  (4) Developing the field’s “talent pipeline” through collaborations and other mechanisms that create a continuum of connection, support, and advocacy for K-12 to undergraduate, graduate studies and career development.

These initiatives may well require that the Board consider by-law and structural changes, e.g. mechanisms for broadening and diversifying our organizational leadership in terms of age, professional status (e.g. adjunct, tenure track), and type of institution.  And of course the Board, Financial Trustees, and staff will explore the potential for new revenue streams both earned and contributed; reallocation of resources in light of new priorities; and efficiencies through technology to reduce expenses.

As these initiatives are pursued, members can expect to be more frequently consulted or polled for needs, opinions, suggestions, and expertise – and also to be surveyed: at a time when we cannot have too much information about the field of Classics and the people involved in it, we have too little.  For professionals and lay people alike, the APA should be the go-to source for data and information about the state and value of Classics.  We will be exploring how to create and maintain a sophisticated program of data collection, analysis, and dissemination.  So please respond when survey instruments come your or your department’s way.  Something that you can do right now is to supply information about your own field(s) of expertise on the APA Membership Form, so that we can complete our online directory.

Among the first issues that members will be asked to consider is whether it is time to change the Association’s name.  The consensus of the retreat was that “philological” no longer defines all that our Association is about and is so obscure to all but practitioners as to impede our efforts to gain broader public visibility.  We need to be found when people search online for information about classics and the classical world.  American Classical Association and (preferred) Classical Association of North America were suggestions.

The enhancement of our Association along these lines is an exciting prospect.  So stay tuned and stay engaged!

Jeff Henderson

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