In just a few months, I'll be delighted to welcome you to our 64th Annual Meeting in Chicago. After our last meeting in Seattle, we received a number of comments and questions about the meeting. I'd like to address some general issues concerning our Annual Meeting. Treasurer Jeff Altschul talks about Annual Meeting finances in his new column, Money Matters (page 11), and Executive Director Tobi Brimsek discusses how our meetings are planned in her column, In Brief . . . (page 5).
The Seattle meeting was our largest ever, with more than 3,271 registrants. This should come as no surprise. SAA's membership has grown dramatically over the past decade (it now stands at more than 6,500), and meeting attendance has grown apace. The size of the meeting is also in part the result of a policy decision made by the board in 1993: that participation at meetings should be encouraged by providing members as many opportunities as possible to present papers, posters, and the like. This policy of inclusion has both a philosophical and a practical side. In terms of the former, it fosters the dissemination of scholarly information; in terms of the latter, it helps many of our members obtain travel funds, which in many institutions is contingent on formal participation in the meeting (i.e., one's name must appear on the program to receive institutional support).
One upshot of this growth in attendance and participation is the need for more hotel and meeting space, which generally, can only be found in large cities. (The days when the SAA membership could gather in Chapel Hill, as it did in 1964, are long gone!) And, sad to say, large cities tend to be expensive places to meet. I'm sure all of you have noticed the escalation in hotel-room costs over the past decade; this is, in part, a product of our own growth and success. Rest assured that the board does everything it can to keep the costs of attending the meeting as low as possible. But given the economic realities and the size of our organization, there is only so much we can do.
That said, it is also worth highlighting the growing diversity of our Annual Meeting. Some years ago, presenting a paper was the only way to participate. Now, there are many other ways to take part, including poster sessions, forums, roundtables, and workshops. We've especially tried to make students feel welcome and engaged through the Student and New Member Reception, student-centered workshops, and roundtable lunches where students can discuss topics of mutual interest with more senior members of the society. For all attendees, our goal is to create an environment that promotes interchange of ideas, cordial interaction, and professional renewal.
True enough, SAA's Annual Meeting is no longer the cozy little gathering it once was. But this is simply the outcome our society's extraordinary vitality and growth. The important thing now is to look ahead, and to think creatively of ways that the Annual Meeting can serve our members' needs more effectively, given the constraints of size and venue. With this goal in mind, SAA's Committee on Meeting Development, chaired by Paul Minnis, is seeking ways of improving the meeting. If you have ideas, please let me or this committee know. (My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org; a complete list of the committee's members can be found on SAA's website at www.saa.org. Note also that the committee will provide a questionnaire in the Chicago registration packets.) Hope to see you in Chicago!