Updates from VAF President, Claire Dempsey

08 Apr 2020 12:00 PM | Christine R Henry (Administrator)

As you can all imagine, VAF’s Board of Directors and committee members have been busy rethinking our familiar activities as we all adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic.  You should have received emails that marked our progress with some difficult decisions.  Work continues and not all our plans are quite settled, but we will use this issue of VAN to bring you up to date where we can.  VAN editor Christine Henry is planning a supplementary issue for mid-May, when we will announce our award and prize winners, present an annual report and electronic ballot, and share any additional news we have.

We plan to go forward with one component of our usual meeting, the paper and poster sessions scheduled for Saturday, 9 May, as a virtual conference.  Brent Fortenberry and his colleagues at Texas A & M University (TAMU) volunteered to host and to provide technical assistance.  Most of our presenters and session chairs have agreed to participate in our experiment, and we have adjusted the sessions accordingly. Like so many others who are shifting to remote work and learning, we will use Zoom, which you will need to download in advance and perhaps practice a little too.  We have adapted the planned schedule of papers to generally accommodate continental US time zones; all listed times are Central Daylight Time. We are planning three blocks of papers, with sessions beginning at 10 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm.  The poster session, where presenters will be available to answer questions, will take place between 12 noon and 1pm. More information is posted on our website, including a link for registration. http://www.vafweb.org/2020-Virtual-Conference.

We are planning to reschedule the San Antonio conference for May 19th to 21st in 2021. Michelle Jones, our conference coordinator, has had a very different set of tasks to wrangle, but our transitions to the new schedule have been moving smoothly.  So far, we have been able to rearrange this with few costs to us, and we are enormously appreciative of the generosity shown us by these local businesses.  We are thrilled that we will all be able to see this region next year and to learn from the hard work undertaken there in field work and research for our tours.  The plenary planned for this year, “Migration History and the Contemporary Political Landscape” will go forward next year, and there will be a new call for papers and posters.

The Plymouth conference, originally planned for May of 2021, will be postponed to May 18 to 21, 2022.

Our treasurer Claudia Brown has been refunding conference registration fees, which most of you should have received already, and juggling an array of other registration issues. We hope you have all remembered to cancel your hotel reservation and are doing what you can to negotiate with your airline.

We have been in touch with the Access Award and Simpson Award recipients and the student Ambassadors from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and the University of Virginia and hope to see many of them next year.  We will announce the winners of the Advocacy, Bishir, Buchanan, and Cummings awards in the VAN May supplement and post that information on the VAF website after our virtual conference May 9. The winners have been invited to join us in San Antonio in 2021 for a super-sized award ceremony.

Our Bylaws, as amended in 2015, contemplated the need for electronic decision-making (section VII G), so both our Board Meeting and our Annual Meeting will take place electronically.  The Board Meeting that was scheduled for Wednesday, 6 May will go forward on that date, again using Zoom. We will conduct such business as we can and will likely plan a second meeting in the months ahead to handle tasks that might require a postponement. We will need to postpone and re-format our Annual Meeting scheduled for Saturday evening, 9 May, while we focus on these other activities.  Instead of a traditional annual meeting, we will keep the membership informed with an annual report summarizing Board activities in the supplementary issue of VAN in mid-May. That issue will also include a ballot for the election of officers and directors for the Board so the members can vote electronically

I want to thank some of the folks who have been working especially hard as we moved through our decision making:  First to Brent Fortenberry and his San Antonio conference colleagues Ken Hafertepe, Clifton Ellis, and Evan Thompson for being so patient and generous about rethinking their conference.  We all look forward to seeing it next year. Brent and TAMU deserve additional thanks for arranging our Virtual Conference as well, an extraordinary gift in these times. To Ritchie Garrison and the Plymouth team we owe similar gratitude. The Executive Committee, Christine O’Malley, Kim Hoagland, Bill Littman, and Claudia Brown, have all been thoughtful and good humored, as their duties became more challenging in a rapidly changing situation.  Andrew Dolkart, Phil Gruen, Sally McMurry, and Zachary Violette have all taken on an array of new tasks and we are appreciative of their willingness to jump in. I have been moved by everyone’s help and for the good thoughts we have received from members and friends.

We hope you will join us for the Virtual Conference on May 9 and look forward to carrying on the business portions of our meeting in new and experimental ways.

Claire W Dempsey

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