Ed Liebow, Executive Director
More than 40 department leaders (chairs and directors of graduate/undergraduate studies) came to Washington, DC last week for two days of intensive workshops in which they discussed the various challenges department leaders face as well as their successes in confronting these challenges. Participants came from a variety of schools, from combined departments in four-year colleges to regional comprehensive master’s granting programs to R-1 institutions. The group included scholars of all four main sub-fields, as well as two department heads who are trained as sociologists.
Susan Scrimshaw, recently retired president of the Sage Universities, opened the institute with an empowering talk about academic leadership in which she argued that skills used in field research can be directly applied to effective organizational administration. Another plenary talk was presented by Susan Mazur-Stommen, principal in Indicia Consulting and a member of the AAA’s Members’ Programmatic Advisory and Advocacy Committee (MPAAC). Mazur-Stommen focused on the teaching and learning practices that departments provide to help prepare students for a diverse range of careers beyond the professoriate. AAA’s Membership and Communications staff also led a discussion about ways in which AAA could better align service offerings with department priorities.
Participants spent the rest of their time in group discussions about a variety of topics. They came prepared to discuss Leadership and Department Management (managing budgets and personnel, keeping four-fields/joint/interdisciplinary faculty happy, hiring and retaining diverse faculty, contingent labor, designing and evaluating curriculum, and everyone’s favorite, strategic planning); Bringing Students Into Anthropology (recruiting majors/grad students, pedagogy and student involvement in research, retaining diverse student populations, student mental health, and career advising); Advocating for Anthropology Beyond Your Department (funding, research collaboration, review and assessment, faculty positions, and expanded course offerings); and Innovations in Pedagogy (intro courses, methods training, teaching about ethics and standards of responsible professional conduct, online/distance learning, internships, the professionalization seminar, and pedagogy training for grad students).
Growing out of these discussions were many practical pointers that department leaders are taking back to their respective institutions, having to do with effective fund-raising, retention of first-generation students, reshaping capstone courses, overcoming barriers to collaborative research, and responding to higher-ups’ demands for accountability.
AAA staff also derived many lessons from these discussions. We saw a strong consensus emerge for bringing department representatives together to articulate the teaching and learning outcomes that we share across the discipline. We heard that AAA can help compile templates from internship and service learning programs, leading to a “code of practice” for responsible community-engaged pedagogy. AAA can catalogue innovations in pedagogy more visibly, and the association can also prepare a timely and comprehensive summary of what employers and anthropologists working in the business, government, and non-governmental sectors can tell us about effective training.
The Executive Board agreed to cover all the costs associated with staging this inaugural event, except for participants’ travel and lodging. Looking ahead, we will be seeking Board approval to stage this event in 2019, probably in the Chicago area, where participation will be at no cost to participants whose departments are partners in the AAA Department Services Program. Representatives from departments that are not DSP partners will be asked to pay a nominal fee to help cover meals and other local expenses. After 2019, the plan will be to hold this event every other year.
In addition to extending our gratitude to the Board for its endorsement, we want to thank the small committee that assisted with planning (Lee Baker [Duke University], Susan Squires [University of North Texas], Jennifer Hubbert [Lewis and Clark College], and Chet Sherwood [George Washington University]). We are also most grateful to George Washington University, which hosted the event, and to the AAA staff members who helped to plan and facilitate the event’s activities.