Getting elected to SAA Council for me was a mix of “so excited! so awesome!” and “crap! what did I get myself into!” So learning that there was going to be a kind of onboarding for us newly-elected folks made me feel much better. We’ve got four new Council members (me, Courtney Chartier, and Bertram Lyons, all elected to three-year terms, and Michelle Light, a previous Council member elected to fill the last year of a term that had been vacated) and a new Vice-President/President elect (Tanya Zanish-Belcher, who previously served on Council).
We all met at SAA HQ in Chicago on May 11th for our orientation to SAA Council. Current President Dennis Meissner, current VP/President elect Nance McGovern, some of the current SAA Council members, and some of the SAA staff members were there to help us learn the ropes.
So, I’ve been involved in SAA for a while. I’ve been a member since 2001, and I’ve served on (and even chaired) a number of appointed committees and steering committees for sections/roundtables. But learning about the behind-the-scenes work of Council (as well as the hard-working folks in the SAA office) is eye opening. Here are a few of the things covered during the four hours or so of orientation on Wednesday morning:
- SAA Council members are appointed as Council liaisons to six to eight SAA groups (sections, roundtables, committees, etc.). They’re placed on both the general and steering committee email lists for those groups. Their role is two-fold: take information from the group leadership to Council and take information from Council to group leadership. Essentially you’re listening to concerns while also helping group leaders navigate the organization. SAA Council takes a hand-off approach with most group work, letting groups do their own thing. Some groups have well established membership and/or essentially run themselves; others have more leadership turnover and/or work better with a more active Council liaison. Council members no longer make a personal appearance at each group meeting during the annual meeting (to limit the time suck and the repetition of message), but your Council liaison is there to serve as a resource whenever you need one. I’ll be writing a lot more on this aspect of Council work in weeks to come.
- In terms of Council-related assignments, in some ways, you work throughout your term with the cohort that you’re elected with. The three first-year Council members are tasked with planning the leadership orientation/forum at the annual meeting (so, Courtney, Bert, and I will be doing this at the 2017 meeting in Portland). The second-year Council member cohort makes up a Governance Manual review group. Prior to the start of the third-year of service, one of the third-year cohort is elected by the Council members to serve as their representative on the Executive Committee (more on that in a bit). The other two serve on the Nominating Committee alongside the three other members who are chosen during the general member election in the spring.
- In addition to the fun of serving on the Governance Manual review group, one second-year member is entrusted with “the shovel.” Yes, there is an actual shovel. The person wielding the shovel basically has the power to call a stop to a discussion in a Council meeting that has become circular or is no longer really valuable or on point. The current shovel bearer also has the responsibility to designate his/her successor, who will take shovel responsibility at the first meeting of the new Council at the close of the annual meeting. For those wondering, Pam Hackbart-Dean currently wields the power of the shovel.
- The Executive Committee consists of the elected third-year Council member, the President, the Vice President/President Elect, and the Treasurer. Lisa Mangiafico is the current Council representative to the Executive Committee. The smaller Executive Committee is able to act in a more expedient manner than the full Council, and the issues that they tackle are usually pretty straightforward (do we sign on to this letter of support?). The Executive Committee does the Council liaison appointments and, with the immediate Past President, forms the Class A membership of the SAA Foundation Board (the rest of the members of the Foundation Board are nominated by the Board members and elected by Council). The Executive Committee also is tasked with evaluating the work of Nancy Beaumont, the Executive Director of SAA.
- We discussed strategic planning and SAA’s current strategic plan in depth. The current strategic plan covers 2014-2018, so we will be discussing it in detail next year. One take away I had has to do with the general set up of the strategic plan. The section marked “Core Organizational Values” is the key here. These are values that are meant to stretch across all four of the identified goals. Full disclosure: I didn’t understand this when the strategic plan was first released, so the description was very helpful. The strategic plan is used to direct the organization’s efforts and it is referred back to at each Council meeting in detail — what has been addressed, what progress has been made, what aren’t we doing and why, etc.
- In addition to the Council-related assignments I mentioned earlier, there are currently two Council Internal Working Groups — one on member affinity groups and one on diversity and inclusion.
- At each winter meeting (thankfully now held in November instead of January, since I’m based in North Carolina/from South Carolina and don’t want to have to buy a heavy coat!), Council sets aside time for high-level thinking and a discussion on a “mega issue” impacting the profession and/or the organization.
During our orientation, we also had an introduction to SAA’s budget. But I’ll talk more about that in my next post about the Council meeting itself, which had as a key action item the review and approval of SAA’s proposed FY17 budget. More info to come!!