Message from the President
The University of Montana
I have been thinking about the purposes of professional associations and conventions a lot lately. While everyone has various reasons for participating in conferences, my personal sense is that conferences make our professional lives feel like they are comprised of something bigger than just ourselves alone. As we must now physically distance ourselves from colleagues and students, the collective sense of “we” that conferences bring is especially important. With these thoughts in mind, NWCA Executive Council (EC) has been considering what, if any, options exist for us to fulfill our constitutional mission “to unite and promote the mutual educational interests of individuals with an interest in human communication” in 2021.
I have made three major observations during our conversations. First, our annual meeting is the primary way by which we have always fulfilled our mission, and many of our members use our conference to advance their professional development on an annual basis. Indeed, for many of our student members, our conference is one of the most meaningful events of their young careers. Second, we have seen numerous advancements in people’s familiarity with and access to technologies and media that could be applied to help us fulfill our mission this year, at least in a virtual format. Third, many college campuses throughout the northwest have re-opened under hybrid teaching conditions, and the recommended health practices seem to work when carefully followed.
After first identifying the various options, the NWCA EC distributed a survey to collect our members’ input on a decision about a 2021 convention. Although responses were light, the respondents indicated that a hybrid format would be the format in which the highest number of members would most likely participate. Although it is still early to promise that an in-person option will be possible, I have initiated a conversation with the Coeur d’Alene Resort about ways in which they might be able to arrange the physical environment to help us safely engage in any in-person option consistent with, and hopefully even beyond, national health practice guidelines and recommendations. We have reason to believe that this could be done. However, we are considering an in-person option very cautiously. We will only include it as an alternative to the virtual platform if it is even possible to hold.
So, the NWCA plans to convene for the 2021 conference from April 15-17. Although new information will continue to inform decisions about the details of the conference, we are fully committed to helping our members reach their professional potentials by offering this opportunity to reconnect. With that, please start considering the work you would like to have presented at the 2021 conference. Whether online or in-person, we are looking forward to “closing the gap” and moving together into this new era of communication and connection.
Message from the Conference Planner
Northwest Nazarene University
NWCA has always been about bringing scholars together to hear about academic research, to build a network of communication professionals across the northwest, and to make a space for friendship and collegiality. The gap caused by our missed conference in April 2020 has made many of us aware of how much we value one another and what a great place our conference is to introduce students to academic presentations and to bring together faculty from around our region to network, exchange ideas, and develop relationships.
This year, COVID-19, political division, and racial injustice have caused or revealed gaps – lack of physical proximity, absence of haptics from handshakes to hugs, loss of nonverbal expression because of masks, missed travel, empty classrooms, lost civility in discourse, gaps between the haves and have nots, scarcity of resources and opportunities for the marginalized while seeing lavish abundance for the privileged and more. Our goal as conference planners is to close the gaps through the power of ethical and effective communication, scholarship that helps us better understand each other, and through the critical lenses that can identify and topple systems that perpetuate and widen the gaps. Connecting is apt to look different with at least some parts of the conference presented virtually (if not all) but NWCA’s conference still can be part of the important work of closing the gaps experienced in 2020.
I encourage you to submit papers, panels, or roundtable discussions and to encourage students to do the same. The deadline for submissions will be Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. This will allow sufficient time for reviewers and division chairs to do their work and for coordinating the format of presentations in whatever configuration we have of face to face, hybrid, or remote. I continue to be honored to serve NWCA and I look forward to hearing from you as we look to the future.