Letter from the President
Monday, December 18, 2017
Posted by: Jonathan E. Taylor, Ph.D.
The past five to seven years have marked a period of radical change and growth for our association. Development is very rarely a strictly linear journey, and that is certainly true for AAACE. During the decade that I have been involved, most of which was spent serving in some capacity or another, I have seen a clear desire and passion on the part of those in leadership roles to continue to find ways to not only sustain our association but to improve it also. This sort of sustained passion brings with it both the trials and joys of change, with some of those changes being brought about for the sake of improvement, and others in an effort to simply continue to be practically meaningful and relevant, as nearly everything changes around us.
After a period of rapid, significant positive change, many of us on the Board of Directors began to sense that we needed to take some time to focus on what transcends all of these changes – what brings us together and makes us strong. Steve Frye worked diligently in that effort this past year through a number of different initiatives, and our recent conference in Memphis carried that theme of unity and energy that we have pushed for over the past year. My intention is to continue that work throughout this next year.
Each Fall, despite so many choices and so little funding, hundreds of us converge from all over the world to be together for a week of scholarship and community. The American Association of Adult and Continuing Education has been the glue that has kept so many of us, with such disparate interests and passions, together in a unified effort to be Adult Educators and to work to change lives, every day, wherever we are. My own passion is to keep the focus on that unity and to seek out every opportunity to serve that unity during the next year. I hope to do this in the following ways:
- We will continue with the ‘I am an Adult Educator’ campaign that is a part of our formal strategic plan as an association. Among other efforts, this past year in Memphis we made contact with a large number of local adult educators, those who were not likely to be connected to our association, or even perhaps known as adult educators in their community. Our goals were to identify them as adult educators, to welcome them to our meeting, and to honor their work at the local level. Our plan is to continue with this effort, all over the United States, leaving each city more aware of the role of the adult educator, of their own adult educators, and of our association.
- We will be working closely with the Commissions and SIGS to find ways to serve and support them and to increase the efficiency and mutual benefit of these groups and the association as a whole. This will include work that is already in progress to streamline conference structures, budgeting, and fees, as we work toward a more effective use of our time, space, and financial resources at our annual meetings.
- We will be working to set up stronger, more efficient continuity structures within the association so that the good work everyone is doing, continues to move forward as the leadership changes and evolves over time. One major example of this particular effort has been the move toward freeing up the President-Elect to be able to work more seriously and devotedly to the business of the association, rather than simply working with logistics for the annual conference. This new structure allowed me to spend the past year working on strategic planning committees and “working problems” that arose throughout the year. Doing this facilitated a situation in which I was already running with the baton partially in hand when the ‘starter pistol’ was fired in Memphis. Already our new President-Elect, Larry Martin, is working on long-term strategy formation, and focused on the work of the various long-term committees on the Board. This will allow him to serve us this year and also be better equipped to step directly into an active Presidency next year.
- We will continue to engage in long-term conference planning so that we can sustain a model of meaningful annual gatherings. Anyone who has worked to plan a conference is acutely aware that the timeline is so tight that any significant information-gathering efforts cannot be applied to the immediately upcoming conference. That is, while lots of minor positive changes can be made each year, many really good, if subtle, changes must take place over many years and transcend any one Conference Chair. One of the significant efforts I would like to undertake this year is to conduct some survey work among our membership, to see specifically what draws us to annual face-to-face conferences. Such information would be invaluable in determining what the future focus should be and where emphasis should be placed.
- Finally, we will be working to responsibly steward the recent bequest the Association received from the estate of Myrna P. Crabtree, wife of the late Arthur (Jack) Payne Crabtree. This significant gift must be invested wisely and care must be taken to accept such a great honor in a way that is both respectful and in keeping with the intention of the giver. I will share more information on this in the coming months, but it is a noteworthy responsibility for the Board this year and important to include here.
Yes, there is much to do, but the wonderful thing about serving this association is that there are so many great people to work with, to share not only the vision but the burden that comes with all great visions. I am truly honored to be able to serve as the President this year and to work alongside so many who stand shoulder to shoulder and to say with pride, “I am an adult educator.”