Many Front Doors: How to Get Involved in the Council on Anthropology of Education’s Activities

In a meeting last year, Mission Committee Co-chair Kevin Foster offered up the metaphor of ‘many doors’ to describe our goal for fostering (get it?) greater participation in CAE. The idea is that getting involved and participating in CAE can be achieved by choosing to enter some of our ‘many front doors’ rather than one imposing front door, or an insider’s “back door.”

Because we are a large national organization, most of our activities occur at the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association. Please note that although one need not join the AAA in order to fully participate in the meetings, the conference registration rate for non-members is almost as high as it would be if one became a member and got the lower member rate. In other words, it makes little sense NOT to join if you plan to attend, because by joining you receive all sorts of other benefits, like access to job postings and journals through the Anthrosource database. When you join the AAA, you must also choose at least one of its sections, which is what we call the sub-disciplinary organizations like CAE. Please note that CAE offers an especially low student membership rate of $15, along with a $22 Associate rate for independent scholars/practitioners.

We would like to note that it is NOT imperative for you to have a formal place on the AAA program to participate in CAE activities. Perhaps you were too busy or unsure to submit a proposal for this year’s conference (and remember that the New Member Poster Session is always a gentle way to start your involvement with CAE). We know that many participants cannot receive institutional support for travel if they do not indeed have a paper or poster accepted for the program, but if you can pay your own way, you may wish to participate less formally your first time around. And if you DO submit a paper or poster, be sure to consider applying next year for our Shirley Brice Heath New CAE Scholar Travel Stipend—applications are usually due in September.

Once you get to the meetings, the first important thing to point out is that virtually all CAE events and activities on the AAA program are completely open to any registered conference participants (with the exception of the Presidential Fellows meetings—see below).  This is true of the Board Meeting (even though voting rights are limited according to constitutional by-laws), and all other special events and activities, in addition to the regular paper and roundtable sessions. It’s also true of the “Business Meeting,” which despite its stuffy-sounding name is actually a vital, celebratory space for our organization. This year we’ve changed the name to the “Business-Community Meeting,” and incorporated it into the New Member Reception. We usually have a very good time, so please come on Friday night and meet fellow CAE members, new and old!

Perhaps the most important and fruitful space for initially getting involved in CAE is the “All-Committee Meeting,” which is usually held on Friday or Saturday (this year it will be on Friday at 1 p.m.).  The 15 committees are the spaces where participants (current or prospective CAE members) get together according to their topical interests, introduce one another and share their work, and informally brainstorm ideas for paper panels or other events at the following year’s meeting. Sometimes research projects or advocacy actions blossom out of these committees as well. And if you’re not careful, you just may find yourself getting elected as a Chair or Co-Chair—we’re always looking for new blood to energize the committees.  The current list of committees can be found at: http://www.aaanet.org/sections/cae/sample-page/standing-committees/. (Although capped at 15, from year to year it is possible for new committees to be formed, and old ones to be dissolved if little interest is being shown).

For graduate students and relative newcomers to CAE, there are a number of special events specifically designed to facilitate involvement. The student representatives have created 3 special events this year, each intended to foster intimate self-reflection and mentoring opportunities for some of the unique challenges of navigating today’s academic and practitioner settings. In addition, there is a Works-in-Progress session, scheduled for Friday at 9 a.m., which pairs junior scholars with senior mentors, and there are also sessions for special mentoring of our competitive selection of Presidential Fellows. We are aware, of course, that such competitions have winners and losers, and can lead to feelings of exclusion. If you were not selected as a Presidential Fellow, please take heart: We do not mean to imply that your work is any less important or distinguished, or that you are any less deserving of full participation; we still welcome your involvement across all other CAE sessions.

This year, the Mission Committee is sponsoring a “Town Hall” session, on Thursday at 1 p.m., to evaluate our progress toward our stated goals of promoting social justice, as well as to discuss, debate, and possibly revise the mission statement itself. This would be an excellent opportunity to experience the “culture” of CAE and have your voice heard.

In closing, we pride ourselves on being a transparent, democratic, and inclusive organization, but we also know that we can always do a better job. If you have questions or concerns about our practices or activities, please bring them to the attention of anyone serving on the Board, which includes all officers and committee chairs. These concerns will get communicated to the Executive Committee for consideration.