Convention Wrap-Up and President’s Message
The long-awaited Eastern Communication Association “Harboring Innovation” convention at the Hyatt Regency Inner Harbor Baltimore is in the history books now both as the 2020 111th (canceled) and 2023 114th Annual Meetings. I hope that in some way, every one of you who joined us took away something meaningful and useful. I sincerely hope that the many newcomers I met left Baltimore with a sense of what a special incubator ECA is for ideas, relationships, mentoring, innovation, celebration, and progress. Whether you are a student or faculty member, practitioner or publisher, early career or retired, searching or solidly grounded in your professional identity, I hope you felt welcome at our convention and will keep coming back.
When now-Past President Pam Lannutti passed the gavel to me on Saturday, I briefly shared my initiatives for the year to come. We are getting right to work on each of them; in the next two weeks, I will be reaching out to ECA members to serve on working groups related to the areas mentioned below. If you have a special interest in any of these, including any good ideas or suggestions, please contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) for your spot at the table!
- Membership, Communication and Outreach: I will be asking this task force to explore strategies and plans related to our internal and external communication. I am concerned that (1) we need a stronger fabric of engagement in between conventions; (2) our membership is declining; (3) we don’t retain many of the student members who present work at our conventions; (4) we need new pathways for engaging with our external partners and convention sponsors; and (4) our membership categories are unclear and may not offer maximum value. So, this group will focus on membership (recruitment, retention, categories, benefits) and external partners (departmental members and prospects, educational technology and publishing companies, stakeholders local to our convention cities).
- Association and Convention of the Future: This task force’s charge will be to make recommendations about convention format changes, the purpose and value of the annual convention, professional development and alternative programming ideas, and how to keep members involved with ECA (e.g., virtual programming and other forms of engagement) between conventions. Another issue I would like them to consider is our present Interest Group structure and how ECA might be better served by alternative ideas.
- Board, Standing Committee, and Executive Council Review: During Pam’s time as President, she appointed Katherine Thweatt to lead a committee that will revise ECA’s Policies & Procedures Manual. In addition, building on Amanda McKendree’s work as President, ECA will begin creating a modified strategic plan later this spring. Parallel to these important processes, I will be calling for a formal review of the roles and responsibilities of the Executive Board, Standing Committees, and EC. Guided by an external facilitator, we need to look at our current structure to find out what’s working, what’s a relic of the past, and what new possibilities might exist to serve (and grow) our membership.
- Focus on Philanthropy: This initiative and related working group will suggest ways to both build and promote financial resources available for student members. We have two student-focused endowments – our Centennial Scholarships and the James C. McCroskey and Virginia P. Richmond Undergraduate Scholar Conference Funds. I will ask the working group to identify ways to sustainably grow these funds beyond a checkbox on the convention registration from. I would like to look at ways to expand the value of the Centennial Scholarships and build the applicant pool. Is there anything ECA can offer scholarship recipients besides their check that would make this award even more meaningful?
At Executive Council II on Sunday, April 2, the Finance Committee committed to a new plan for bringing back travel awards for any undergraduate or graduate student with work accepted at our convention. Finance Committee and ECA’s financial advisor with Edward Jones will be meeting in early May to create a proposal. We will take that to EC for an early summer so that we can roll out details well in advance of next year’s convention submission deadline.
As you can see, we have a lot of work to do! I am very excited to get started and I welcome your suggestions and involvement. Until next time, thank you for your commitment! Have a great remaining spring semester.
Jennifer H. Waldeck, Ph.D.
University of Georgia