The ACLS Conference of Administrative Officers (CAO) held its 2009 fall meeting in Portland, OR, on November 5-8. Travel Portland, which hosted the meeting and tour of the city, welcomed the group at a reception at the Portland Marriott Waterfront and dinner at Portland City Grill.
The CAO business meeting, which took place on Friday, November 6, was led by Rona Sheramy, executive director, Association for Jewish Studies, and chair of the CAO Executive Committee. The group reviewed the agenda for the 2010 ACLS Annual Meeting in Philadelphia (May 7-9) and notes the dates for future fall CAO meetings: 2010 in Vancouver (November 4-7); 2011 in Minneapolis, November 10-13; and the newly scheduled 2012 meeting in Nashville. The group meets each spring following the ACLS Annual Meeting. The CAO Executive Committee had discussed these meetings in more detail the previous day. In addition to Rona Sheramy, the CAO Executive Committee includes Olavi Arens, academic executive director, Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies; David Barclay, executive director, German Studies Association; William E. Davis, executive director, American Anthropological Association; Lisa Mighetto, executive director, American Society for Environmental History; Elizabeth Richmond-Garza, executive director, American Comparative Literature Association; and John Siegfried, secretary-treasurer, American Economic Association.
During the business meeting, ACLS President Pauline Yu reported on the continuing impact of the economic downturn on ACLS endowments. Although those endowments have suffered, increased foundation support for fellowships programs has enabled ACLS to offer more fellowships in 2009 than in 2008 and to project a further increase in 2010. Nicole Stahlmann, director of fellowship programs, described the new ACLS New Faculty Fellows program. Others reported briefly on ACLS Humanities E-Book subscriptions by learned society members, leveraging shared society needs in brokering services and building capacities, the impact on research and teaching of the proposed Google book settlement, and new CAO extranet features. Jessica Irons, executive director of the National Humanities Alliance, provided an update on federal legislation and funding for the humanities and encouraged participation in the NHA 2010 Annual Meeting and Humanities Advocacy Day, March 8-9. Rona Sheramy reported on the 2009 Learned Society Leadership Seminar and announced the data of the 2010 meeting, September 13.
The first session following the business meeting concerned learned societies and undergraduate education. Donna Heiland, vice president of the Teagle Foundation, described changes in the national policy environment, especially a sharpened focus on student learning outcomes, that have moved many colleges and universities to require new specifications of the knowledge students majoring in a particular discipline should acquire. Learned societies, she asserted, were one of the best vehicles scholars have to respond to that requirement. She noted that the Teagle Foundation had supported the work of several societies in this area and then led a discussion of how other societies might undertake similar projects.
The afternoon session, held at the Oregon Convention Center, was devoted to virtual communities furthering scholarly research and networking. Daniel Cohen, director of the Center for History and New Media, demonstrated Zotero, a tool for organizing and sharing research sources. Steven Herrick, director of external religions at the American Academy of Religion, described AAR's collaboration with CARET (Centre for Applied Research in Educational Technologies, University of Cambridge) in developing Biosphere, an online networking space for scholars. Pauline Saliga, executive director of the Society for Architectural Historians, spoke about SAHARA, an online photo archive on the built environment worldwide housed in the ARTstor Digital Library.
The group continued discussions on virtual communities and Facebook, Twitter and other online communication options. Facebook users include the College Art Association, the American Society of International Law, and ACLS. "Tweeters" include the MLA (Modern Language Association) convention, the American Anthropological Association, and CAA. The American Musicological Society offers a number of RSS feeds; see www.ams-net.org/feeds/.
Four third-party vendors exhibited during luncheon at the convention center: All Academic, Avectra, Euclid Technology, and Socious.
On Saturday, November 7, Katha Kissman, a senior governance consultant with BoardSource and provider of interim leadership to nonprofits, presented on the topic of "Building an Energetic and Engaged Board." Kissman is currently interim director of the Organization of American Historians and previously served the Linguistic Society of America in the same capacity.
The meeting concluded with Rosemary G. Feal, executive director, Modern Language Association, leading the customary wrap-up session entitled “Things you need to worry about/News you can use.” In this fast-paced, wide-ranging Q&A session, members shared information on the lasting changes for their society as a result of today's economy ("What is the new normal?"), "Twitter, Facebook: Building brand awareness or diluting scholarly identity?," and institutional hosting agreements.
Fall meetings of the CAO are held in cities of interest as possible convention sites and are hosted by each city's convention bureau. Thanks to Travel Portland, the group enjoyed a tour of the Oregon Convention Center, a nationwide leader in sustainable products and systems; meals at a choice selection of restaurants and hotels; tastings of local wines and beers; a cruise and Lewis & Clark history on the Willamette Star; and dinner at the Portland Art Museum.