2017 Executive Director's Report

By: Lynda Park, Executive Director of ASEEES

This article was originally published in the January 2018 edition of NewsNet.

I am delighted to report that ASEEES experienced a remarkably successful year in 2017. The programs that we launched in 2015 and 2016, after a strategic planning process of 2013-2014, continued to provide additional benefits for our members. We added more travel grant and mentoring programs in 2017. The annual convention in Chicago was a well-attended, dynamic event. We launched the ASEEES Commons, a new online discussion and repository platform. Finally, we forcefully advocated not only for our field but for higher education and academic freedom.

Membership The Association’s individual membership continued to increase in 2017, after a dramatic 8% increase in 2016 from 2015. For 2017, we had 3,330 members: 665 student members (20%); 312 affiliate members (9.3%); 994 international members (30%) from 50 countries, of which 251 (7.6%) were from the 18 countries in Eastern Europe and Eurasia. The top five countries outside the US with most members were the UK (153), Russia (142), Canada (141), Germany (105), and Poland (51). In 2016, we had 3,268 members: 641 students, 930 international members from 47 countries. For trends in membership over the last decade, please see the table below. In terms of institutional members in 2017, we had 56 members (4 new): 20 premium members and 36 regular members.

Convention The 49th Annual Convention at the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile on November 9-12, 2017, was an exceptional event. The Convention
program featured 657 sessions (48 more than the 2016 DC convention), a presidential plenary, 6 film screenings, and 40 meetings. The theme of “Transgressions” resulted in many innovative sessions and papers. The presidential plenary on “1917 and Its Implications” featured presentations by Gerald Easter, Laura Engelstein, Sergey Glebov, Serguei Oushakine, and Andrei Soldatov. The 2017 ASEEES President Anna Grzymala-Busse gave her presidential address on “Betraying the Revolutions?” at the award ceremony. Thirteen institutions provided sponsorship at various levels. We especially thank our Platinum Sponsors: Cambridge University Press and Williams College, and the Mobile App Sponsor - the American Councils for International Education. The Exhibit Hall featured 61 exhibit booths set up by 58 companies/organizations. We thank the Program Committee, especially the chair Keely Stauter-Halsted and the associate chairs, for their tremendous work.

The Convention was well-attended, with 2,488 registrants (783 international from 45 countries): 2,227 members; 261 non-members; 485 students (412 members; 117 international); 442 first time attendees (228 international; 198 students). Of the 783 international registrants, the largest contingents were from Russia (118), the UK (112), Canada (109), and Germany (77). In total, we had 2,620 attendees, including the exhibitors. We faced an unexpected problem when the US embassy in Russia announced in late August that it would not schedule non-immigrant visa interviews outside of Moscow due to massive staffing shortages. We sent a letter to the US embassy requesting assistance for Russian participants impacted by this decision. While the embassy contacted us with advice and willingness to assist, we heard from a number of Russian participants who failed to get visas. We are still trying to determine the details of this impact.

To mark the centenary of 1917, we had a wide array of activities and exhibits outside the convention sessions. The planning committee, made up of Robert Bird, Christina Kiaer, Harriet Murav, Kristin Romberg, Mark Steinberg, and Padraic Kenney, worked to set up exhibits and other events around the time of the convention in Chicago. The Smart Museum at the University of Chicago held an exhibit called “Revolution Every Day,” for which they offered a reception and tour for the convention attendees followed by a film screening of Vertov’s “Three Heroines” in 35 mm. The Art Institute of Chicago had a major exhibit called “Revoliutsiia! Demonstratsiia! Soviet Art Put to the Test,” for which a walking roundtable as part of the convention program was held. The Art Institute also offered free admission for the convention attendees, for which we were very thankful. We also set up a website on 1917 resources on the ASEEES Commons. Not related to the theme of 1917, we sponsored a talk by Andrei Soldatov on “Russia’s Cyber Offensive” as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival. Finally, the convention featured a photo exhibit, “High Stakes of Macedonia’s Colorful Revolution,” sponsored by U of Chicago CEERES, at the convention venue.

The 2018 Convention, which will be the 50th convention and 70th anniversary for ASEEES, will be held at the Boston Marriott Copley Place on December 6-9. This is later than our usual dates. We hope to organize a variety of special events to celebrate the anniversaries. Peter Rutland will serve as the program committee chair. The convention theme is “Performance.”

2019 ASEEES Summer Convention We plan to organize the next summer convention in the region in 2019, in Zagreb, Croatia, working with the University of Zagreb. The tentative dates are June 14-16, 2019.

Convention Travel Grants In general, we offer three convention travel grants – the Davis Graduate Student Travel Grant, the Regional Scholar Travel Grant, and the Convention Opportunity Travel Grant. For 2017, we awarded 41 grants for a total of $21,445. For the Davis Travel Grant, we awarded grants to 19 graduate students (12 to students at US institutions and 7 at non-US institutions, including citizens of 8 different countries); for the Regional Scholar Travel Grant, we gave out 12 grants to scholars from 8 different countries; and for the Convention Opportunity Travel Grant, we awarded 10 grants to scholars from 7 countries.

New for this year, we received a two-year grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York to provide travel grants to the convention participants from Russia for 2017 and 2018. For 2017, we awarded 26 grants of varying amounts. We will offer this program again in 2018.

Slavic Review Slavic Review’s partnership with Cambridge University Press was launched in 2017, after a year of transition work. Slavic Review is now available online on Cambridge Core. ASEEES members have access to the entire collection on Cambridge Core. JSTOR will still maintain an archive but with a wall of three years. In terms of subscriptions and global access, we saw a dramatic increase due to CUP’s consortia arrangements around the world.

The editorial office at the U of Illinois, under the leadership of Harriet Murav, continues to handle all content and editorial work on the journal. For the first time, we published a special online-only issue, on “Global Populisms” and “Russian Influence in 2016 US Presidential Election,” with free access until the end of 2017, which was well-received. The fall issue was on “1917-2017, The Russian Revolution a Hundred Years Later,” featuring 18 articles that were shorter than the usual format.

Fellowships and Grants In its second year, the Cohen-Tucker Dissertation Research Fellowship (CTDRF) Program awarded four $22,000 fellowships to: Simon Belokowsky (History, Georgetown U), Gabrielle Cornish (Musicology, Eastman School of Music), Kathryn David (History, NYU), and Joy Neumeyer (History, UC Berkeley). We thank the KAT Charitable Foundation for its continued support for the program. Also in its second year, the ASEEES Dissertation Grant program awarded 11 grants up to $5,000 to PhD students in diverse disciplines, from linguistics to sociology, at 10 US universities; 4 being international students studying at US universities. Finally, in its third year, we disbursed $10,000 in total to award first book subventions for seven books in 2017.

Mentoring The mentoring program continues to be well received by our members. For the 2017 program, we matched 31 pairs of mentors and mentees. The program is intentionally designed to be low-key and informal. We also launched a new program this year called “Exploring Career Diversity” modelled on a similar program offered by the American Historical Association. The program provides informational interviews for those graduate students and junior scholars interested in non-academic careers to speak with non-academic professionals with post-baccalaureate degrees in our field.

ASEEES Commons & Online Presence As a pilot project partner with the Modern Language Association (MLA), we launched the beta version of the ASEEES Commons at the 2016 Convention. Built by the MLA as part of the Humanities Commons, the ASEEES Commons offers a platform for members to create their own professional profile (rather than on the for-profit academia.edu) and website, create and join discussion groups, and deposit their work in the CORE repository, which provides a DOI for each upload. MLA is still adding on new functions and improving the site’s usability. We plan to make a concerted effort in 2018 to improve the ASEEES Commons and increase its use. In addition, we continue to be active on social media—Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn— pushing out information and promoting ASEEES. As of Dec 8, 2017, we have 6,834 Facebook fans, 3,208 Twitter followers, and 3,408 LinkedIn group members. We are phasing out our use of LinkedIn to promote the usage of the ASEEES Commons.

Development/Investment We received $175,683 in contributions for FY 2017 (July 1, 2016-June 30, 2017), most of it from the KAT Charitable Foundation for the Cohen-Tucker Dissertation Research Fellowship program. Members’ contribution of $18,062 for the General Investment Fund was deposited into the ASEEES fund at Northern Trust. Contributions to the Davis Grant Fund and the Regional Scholar Grant Fund of $825 and $771 respectively were disbursed for convention travel grants. As of Nov 30, 2017, the market value of the ASEEES General Investment Fund at Northern Trust is $2,691,526. The ASEEES Investment Committee reviews the fund on a quarterly basis.

Advocacy/Committee on Academic Freedom and Advocacy For many years we have been diligent about advocating for the field and for international studies. Since January 2017, however, we have been receiving many more advocacy requests concerning issues that we had not previously had to address. It started with a statement expressing serious concern over the White House’s so-called “Muslim ban” Executive Order. We signed an amicus brief for a case filed by Howard University and the Middle East Studies Association challenging the ban in court. In August, we issued a statement against racism and intolerance, arising in part from a request by Q*ASEEES and ADSEEES. Just recently we issued a statement and a call for action opposing the proposal to tax graduate student tuition waivers as income in the new US tax bill. We are also seeing more institutions and scholars under threat in the region. We issued a letter in support of the European University at St. Petersburg and Central European University. We joined the Scholars at Risk Network in January, and SAR sent a scholar from our world region to speak on the Vice President-organized roundtable on academic freedom and advocacy at the Chicago convention. Due to the influx of such advocacy requests, the ASEEES Executive Committee restructured the Advocacy and Public Outreach Committee, creating a new Committee on Academic Freedom and Advocacy to address these requests in a more structured process. The eight-member committee, consisting of Julie Cassiday (chair), Steven Fish, Anne Gorsuch, Bruce Grant, Emily Johnson, Brian Porter-Szucs, Mark von Hagen, and Amanda Wooden, was created in August. The process for advocacy request will be published on the ASEEES website. The advocacy work on federal funding for the field will continue to be handled by the Executive Committee with the assistance of select members and consultants.

Regarding federal funding, the US State Department increased the funding for Title VIII in 2017 from $1.5 million to $2 million. The competition results were announced in June with the following grantees: Indiana University; American Councils for International Education; Woodrow Wilson Center Kennan Institute; University of Wisconsin; Arizona State University; National Council for Eurasian and East European Research; Center for European Policy Analysis; and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Barring a major change, we anticipate the 2018 grant competition to be held on schedule as well, but it is difficult to guess what the program allocation will be. Regarding Title VI/Fulbright-Hays, which funds the National Resource Centers and FLAS Fellowship, among other programs, flat funding and annual threat of cuts continue. As of submission of this report, Congress is debating the FY2018 budget (current year, which began on Oct 1).

Board Election/Incoming and Outgoing Members The 2017 annual election for the Board of Directors was held from June-Sept, and the results were the following: Mark Steinberg (History, U of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) was elected vice-president/ president-elect for 2018; Janet Johnson (Political Science, CUNY Brooklyn College) and James Krapfl (History, McGill U) were elected membersat-large for 2018-2020; and Tetyana Dzyadevych (Slavic, U of Illinois at Chicago) was elected graduate student representative, 2018-2019. We sent out 3203 ballots to eligible members, and 1114 cast their votes. The other incoming Board members in 2018 are: Daniel Peris (Federated Investors) as Treasurer; Kristen Ghodsee (U Penn) as the AAA representative; Juliet Johnson (McGill U) as the APSA representative; and Robert Niebuhr (Arizona State U) as the representative of the Council of Regional Affiliates. Will Pyle agreed to serve one more year through 2018 as the Economics representative.

I thank the outgoing Board members – Padraic Kenney, Susan Linz, Mary Neuburger, Sarah Phillips, Michael Połczyński, David Borgmeyer, Erin Koch, and Scott Radnitz. I would like to express personal gratitude to Susan Linz, who served as the Treasurer since 2009, through the difficult years of the financial crisis and the association’s move from Harvard to Pittsburgh. She did yeoman’s work making sure that the ASEEES’ finances are in good shape and the reporting is transparent.

New Regional Affiliate At the November 2017 Board meeting, the Board approved a new regional affiliate – REECAS Northwest, an annual conference organized since 1994 by the Ellison Center for Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies at the University of Washington, in conjunction with other colleges and universities in the Northwest. More information on the conference can be found on the ASEEES website.

I thank our members for their participation and commitment in making 2017 a great year for ASEEES. I especially thank the members of the ASEEES Board and committees, especially outgoing Board members – Susan Linz, who served as Treasurer since 2009. The Association and our scholarly community benefit enormously from their efforts. I thank the staff at our main office and the Slavic Review editorial office for their hard work. Finally, I thank the University of Illinois for hosting the Slavic Review office and the University of Pittsburgh for hosting the ASEEES main office and offer special thanks to Pitt’s University Center for International Studies for its support.