The View from the Program Chair, Irv Levy, Fall 2012

Summer is in full swing as I compose this note and the last minute details are all coming together for the fall meeting in Philadelphia just a brief time from now. Many thanks are due to Paul Rillema and Steven Fleming who have assembled an impressive array of symposia for this meeting. I hope that you’ll be able to join us in Philly and, please, take the time to personally thank Paul and Steven for their work on your behalf.

The spring meeting in San Diego was a true success, thanks to the efforts of the co-chairs, Bill Harwood and Amy Cannon, and their organizers. While I don’t want to sleight any of the organizers, I need to give a special word of thanks to Kate Anderson, who wore many hats at the San Diego meeting, and Russ Davidson who worked diligently in his preparation of the High School Program.

As always, there are a number of people behind the scenes who provide direct and indirect support for the programming at a national meeting. Many thanks to the ACS staff who are the ones who bring it all together: Robin Green, Farai Tsokodayi, John Michael Sophos, Jennifer White and Nancy Bakowski are a great team and I very much enjoy working with them. And, speaking of behind the scenes, there are countless details that are handled by Heather Johnson. Many thanks are due to all the folks in the Division and ACS who work with our committee to produce a quality meeting.

Organizing a national meeting actually takes 12-18 months. Consequently, our co-chairs for the Spring 2013 meeting in New Orleans, Carmen Gauthier and Nicole Snyder, are already hard at work finalizing the Call For Papers for that meeting. We’ll be submitting abstracts for New Orleans in the coming month. And, believe it or not, Julie Smist and Tyson Miller have already begun their work, organizing the Fall 2013 meeting in Indianapolis. Please send them your ideas for symposia at this meeting, our first national meeting in this great city.

As I’ve mentioned in past newsletters, beyond meeting planning there are several items high on my agenda as chair of the Program Committee. They are, in a nutshell, a) venue selection for the national meeting, b) Internet connectivity in meeting rooms, and c) the overall volunteer experience in programming.

I’m pleased that we were able to make a strong case for locating the DivCHED program in the convention center in Philadelphia. Hopefully this will be the start of a new trend. We will continue to work with ACS and others in the division to make the case that our program should be located in the convention center or in an adjacent hotel. It seems that Internet connectivity is clearly aligned with venue selection. In recent years we have struggled with a lack of WiFi connectivity in our meeting rooms while other divisions have had the resource. The bottom line is that many hotels and convention centers still see this expected resource as a cost center for income generation and they charge exorbitant fees to provide the service. I will continue to be determined in my pursuit of a solution to this problem.

There are three additional issues that are ongoing challenges for our meeting planning. They are finding leaders for the High School program at each meeting, general dissatisfaction of presenters in General Paper sessions, and PACS issues.

In past years we considered it essential to have a local teacher as the High School Program organizer because of many logistical details that had to be considered. Today, however, the meeting co-chairs in cooperation with the organizer of the program, handle the logistics of the High School Program, making “local” organization somewhat less crucial. Moving forward I hope to identify high school chairs who can commit to running two meetings to provide a better experience for those individuals. It’s unfortunate to learn all of the complexity of meeting organization and then simply walk away after the meeting. All of the gained expertise is lost! I am delighted that Kate Anderson from Beyond Benign will be providing leadership for the High School Program in both Philadelphia and New Orleans.

The issue related to Thursday programming of the General Papers is more problematic. As you may be aware, ACS requires us to program on Thursday. We have made the decision to announce, in advance, that the General Paper sessions will be on Thursday and hope that the authors see this clear notice. Nonetheless, we frequently hear from presenters who are unhappy with their Thursday placement. To improve this situation we have organized the schedule in Philadelphia to have programming only on Thursday morning. It is our hope that this will provide fewer sparse end-of-day Thursday sessions. One way that we could all help to improve the situation is by attending these sessions while at the national meeting if at all possible for your personal schedule. I have heard many outstanding papers in these sessions and have wished that more were able to share in the experience.

Our most problematic persistent challenge is the use of the PACS system for both presenters and organizers. This is a challenge that our committee has no direct way to improve; however, I assure you that we are making every effort to be sure that those who can directly affect the system know of our needs and concerns. I encourage you to email me your own “wish list” or simply share some of your experiences. When many voices combine we are more likely to be heard and our needs are more likely to be addressed. For now, I have prepared a number of resources that are available to our organizers to help them navigate the PACS system as it is in place today.

Remember that my goal as the chair of your program committee is to make it easy for you to so “Yes, I’ll volunteer” by providing any support you might need. I look forward to working with you in the future whether it be as a symposium organizer, a meeting co-chair, or a member of the program committee. We are here to produce national meetings that serve your needs. Please do let us know what those needs are and do consider what role you might be able to play as a volunteer. Drop me a note (irv.levy@gordon.edu) with your ideas or say hello in Philly!

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