Letter from the AAAL Presidents
Ongoing AAAL Initiatives in Times of Uncertainty and Change
Kendall King and Patsy Duff
All of us who serve on AAAL’s Executive Committee (EC) are fully aware that the last 13 months has been a period like no other in each of our personal and professional lives. It has also been an extraordinary year for AAAL as an organization. Like all of you, AAAL leadership has learned to function in new (remote) ways, and has been working hard to sustain and advance our organization, and in particular to support our large, diverse, and growing number of graduate students and recently graduated doctoral students who are early-career scholars.
We are highly aware that the academic landscape has been greatly altered by COVID in myriad ways: funding to support research and travel has been trimmed; academic positions are fewer in number, less likely to be tenure-track, and even more unlikely to be designated as research-stream tenure-track positions (with more such positions now devoted to teaching and educational leadership); and teaching expectations are more intense and unpredictable (on-campus? virtual? hybrid?). Below we highlight some of the work AAAL has done to respond to these new realities and to support professional development and engagement among all members, and graduate students and early career scholars in particular. For this latter category, we organized a special networking event at AAAL 2021 and will aim to continue to support graduate students and (other) early career scholars on their academic and professional trajectories going forward.
AAAL leadership has sought to make the process of actively participating and volunteering in the association more transparent and more inviting for all, and especially for graduate students. Volunteering fosters meaningful academic connections and can be an important step towards subsequent AAAL’s leadership roles. To that end, we have launched a revamped volunteer recruitment system and webpage in addition to the many opportunities provided by graduate student leadership. We were delighted to have the involvement and assistance of approximately 40 graduate student volunteers at AAAL 2021, for example, in addition to the many who participate throughout the year in various voluntary roles. We were also thrilled to have record levels of participation by graduate students and volunteer mentors in this year’s Conference Connections, our well established mentoring program for emerging scholars.
AAAL’s EC has also sought to support and engage members beyond the annual conference. For example, we hosted a very popular 2020 summer webinar series, which we expect will continue throughout the year. We offer a huge thanks to the Standing Committee on Online Education and Outreach for coordinating these webinar efforts. These have been very well attended by graduate students, and graduate students have been central to their development, with graduate students also serving as moderators in some cases (and at our virtual conference as well). We welcome and look forward to this continued partnership.
Additionally, to welcome the many new members to AAAL in 2020-21, the EC has hosted regular online ‘meet and greets’ with an introduction to the Association and then opportunities for interaction in smaller breakout groups. These informal, interactive sessions have been attended by hundreds of members from around the globe, including many graduate students. More will follow in 2021-22!
In response to the growing number of non-tenure-track positions in the United States and possibly elsewhere (and the decreasing number of tenure-track positions), Naoko Taguchi and her task force completed new guidelines to support the work, well-being, and advancement of non-tenure-track faculty at “Research-1” universities. These were recently released on our website: https://www.aaal.org/nttf-promotion-advancement
AAAL leadership has also engaged in intensive work towards ensuring that our organization is more fully characterized by the values of diversity, equity, inclusion and access (DEIA), through several initiatives.
First, our association has developed two new awards to be launched in 2021-22: the DEIA Graduate Student Award, which was spearheaded by the Graduate Student Council, and the Distinguished Scholarship and Engaged Research Graduate Student Award, a collaborative initiative of the Fund for the Future of Applied Linguistics (FFAL) and the 2020-2021 Diversity Award Task Force (chaired by Glenn Martinez). Like the existing Graduate Student Award, the first of these awards requires having an accepted (sole-authored) presentation at the upcoming conference, and the call for nominations will take place in October, 2021. The second new award is not connected with conference participation and the deadline for nominations for this inaugural award is June 1, 2021.
In addition, because the AAAL 2021 conference was delivered virtually, we were able to offer 10 Indigenous Language Scholar Support funds, more than in previous years (since only registration needed to be covered for recipients, not travel costs), and 5 of them went to graduate students around the world.
Second, AAAL leadership has also approved procedures with a critical eye to how race, gender, and body are presented visually. We are grateful to the Social Media Sub-committee (Chair: Yu Jung Han) of the Standing Committee on Online Education and Outreach for developing policies for use of all images on AAAL’s web pages and social media, especially those depicting AAAL members (real or imagined).
Third, EC has charged a task force with the development and planning of Solidarity Awards to support conference participation of members residing in low-income countries.
Lastly, we are also pleased that we have changed our Standing Rules to allow our organization to respond in a somewhat more timely way to world events around us through position statements, for example.
We thank you for your engagement in AAAL now and in the future and look forward to collaborating in many ways in the years ahead. In the meantime, we trust that graduate students, like many others registered for the AAAL 2021 conference, will take advantage of the 1000+ sessions available for (re)viewing on our virtual conference platform until September 2021!