A Report from ASLE Leadership

In the week since we wrote the following report on the ASLE leadership retreat in Portland, Oregon, Covid19 has continued its rapid spread and, on March 11th, was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. In a vacuum of effective leadership globally, or, in the United States, nationally, state and local leaders have been responding to instate measures to slow the virus’s spread and to support public health facilities and workers. With many school and university closures, ASLE members find their lives disrupted. We hope that you are able to practice social distancing and take other measures to keep your community and yourself healthy at this time of novel difficulty. (We have found this online hub, at the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, reliable and helpful.)

The effects of the pandemic have been felt by scholarly organizations too, and we at ASLE want also to extend our thanks to peer organizations who have decided to cancel annual conferences. Such cancellations present huge logistical challenges and place enormous financial pressure on organizations which depend on revenues from annual meetings to fund their operations. Many ASLE members had planned to attend conferences of the American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA) in Chicago, the American Society for Environmental History (ASEH) in Ottawa, and others. As eleven Past Presidents of ASEH have written, the loss of as much as $250,000 in cancellation fees “will have serious implications for the society’s financial future and our ability to support graduate students and lower income scholars.” If you are able, we encourage you to donate your registration fees to these and other conferences you had planned to attend.

ASLE’s 2020 off-year symposium is uniquely suited to these trying circumstances, as it is a virtual conference to be held fully online this summer. Please consider submitting to participate in “Humanities on the Brink: Energy, Environment, Emergency,” the deadline for proposals is April 1.

At the ASLE leadership retreat two weeks ago, we began the necessary work to chart a careful course to make our organization less dependent on conference fees, to diversify paths for members’ participation and support, to foster regional co-laboratories, to augment our digital platforms–and to make ASLE a leader for sustainability among scholarly organizations. Please read on for our full report–and check in with us on social media and tell us how you’re doing. With social distance in place, we’re more hungry than ever for your news! You can tag us at #ASLE or @ASLE_US to share what you’re reading and watching and how you’re otherwise managing during this uncertain time. Please take care of yourselves–and be in touch.

With our best of wishes for your health and well-being,

Bethany and Laura

Report on ASLE Annual EC Meeting

One week after the ASLE leadership team met in Portland, Oregon, we, Co-Presidents Laura and Bethany, remain amazed by the energy and insights shared in three days of planning, strategizing, and organizing. Thanks to the many people who contributed in so many ways: calling in or dropping by for one of our many sessions, meeting with us outside regular sessions, bringing the organizational and logistical chops, attending each and every session, and/or agreeing to serve on one of the five ad hoc strategic committees formed to update ASLE’s strategic vision. We’re moved by the abundance of talent around us and energized for the work ahead.

We’re also looking forward to returning to Portland in July 2021 for the next ASLE biennial conference–and we sure hope you’ll be there too. In the meantime, we’re excited to co-create, with the whole ASLE membership, a program on the theme of EmergencE/Y.

Watch for the call for proposals in late spring of this year. This 2021 gathering will be held at the Oregon Convention Center, a LEED Platinum Certified Convention Center, and there will be lodging options available at both Portland State University and in area hotels. We anticipate opportunities for remote participation, too.

ASLE’s leadership team is composed of elected officers, the executive council, appointed officers and liaisons, and ASLE’s sole staff member, Managing Director Amy McIntyre. Our team gathers once a year, immediately preceding the conference in conference years and in February or March in off-conference years. The remaining work is carried out remotely. This year’s leadership retreat focused on laying foundations for a new strategic plan. The new strategic planning groups emerged out of shared ideation and collective prioritization and include groups on

  • establishing regional ASLE-sponsored co-laboratories,
  • making ASLE sustainable by making ASLE a model sustainable organization,
  • developing more support for members’ public writing & public engagements,
  • nurturing and coordinating digital strategies,
  • supporting ISLE in a new era.

Please reach out to us if you’d like more information and dialogue.

In attendance at the retreat were Laura Barbas Rhoden and Bethany Wiggin (co-presidents), Stacy Alaimo (immediate past co-president), Jennifer Ladino (vice president), Rina Garcia Chua and Heidi Hong (co-diversity officers), Mika Kennedy and Jenna Gersie (graduate student liaisons), and EC members April Anson, Bridgitte Barclay, Andrea Knutson, Heidi Scott, Karla Armbruster (executive secretary), Mary Tischler (treasurer), Christy Tidwell (digital strategies coordinator), Erin James (mentoring program co-coordinator), and Christina Gerhardt (associate editor of ISLE). Raymond Malewitz (Oregon State University) joined in for conference planning discussions, and editors Scott Slovic and Jennifer Westerman joined remotely for discussions about ISLE.

Thanks to all!

Laura Barbas-Rhoden and Bethany Wiggin, ASLE Co-Presidents