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News & Press: Conventions

WSCA 2016 Convention - One for the Ages

Tuesday, March 29, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Christina Yoshimura
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By Paul A. Mongeau, Immediate Past President

Our 2016 convention in San Diego was one for the ages. Everything fell into place and all the elements were in our favor. The weather was sublime (marine fog in the morning, warm afternoons, and cool evenings), the location (the Bahia Resort Hotel) was beautiful, and the conversation lively. On top of that, no one ended up in the bay on their way to the boat. From beginning to end, it was filled with good food, good company, good fun, and good intellectual discussion.

Saturday represented a very successful opening with the Ungraduated Scholars Research Conference, coordinated by Eric Aoki (WSCA 2nd Vice President). The USRC consisted of 33 presentations spread across 9 panels. Students from many campuses and states came to share their scholarship. The USRC sessions were followed by the Graduate Student Workshop and a very well-attended Graduate Program Open House. In addition, there were several intellectually stimulating workshops, a brewery tour, a bike ride around Mission Bay (replete with brightly festooned riders), and a whale-watching trip.

Saturday’s highlight was undoubtedly the Conference Kickoff, a debate on the topic of “Resolved: The rise of online education has contributed to the fall of the University.” The mature and experienced Negative team of Walter Zakahi (Keene State College) and Brian Spitzberg (San Diego State University) extolled the virtues of online education (e.g., “an online college education is better than no college education at all”). The young Positive squad (Jason Jordan and Robert Layne, both of the University of Utah) argued equally vociferously for the obverse (e.g., “get off my lawn”). Much hooting, heckling, and applause ensued as a good time was had by all. By audience response, the Negative team won a split decision.

The rest of the convention (Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday morning) was filled with early-morning yoga, panels, interest group business meetings, and departmental receptions. Top paper panels abound on Sunday as interest groups try to pair the business meeting with their most important panels. Sunday closed with our annual sock hop powered by the band Seven Word Story.

Several noteworthy panels occurred on Monday. Running at the same time were a panel honoring last year’s Distinguished Scholar Award winner, Sandra Petronio, and a roundtable on the contributions of the (then) Immediate Past President, Patty O’Keefe. Zhe P. Gavel made an appearance at both panels and was particularly well received at the latter. The highlight of most all conventions is our convention lunch. From what I can tell, this was the first WSCA Luncheon to occur in a tent. The Luncheon represents our opportunity to convene and nosh together as well as to honor past leaders and editors and provide the association’s most prestigious awards and honors. Announcements of the winners are provided elsewhere in the newsletter. Monday ended with an efficient and controversy-free Legislative Assembly meeting and one last party, the President’s.

Although the convention was fantastic, that’s not to say that everything went exactly according to plan. Did you attend a panel of the boat (The Bahia Belle)? Up until about two weeks before the convention, we (especially the Convention Program Planner, Mark Bergstrom) were planning on having two boats at our disposal for panels, parties, meetings, and general shenanigans. Shortly before the convention, however, the Coast Guard ordered one of the boats to dry-dock and Mark had to scramble to find two more rooms. Shortly after that, one of the elevators in the tower building went on the fritz requiring repairs on Monday and Tuesday of the convention. Noisy repairs. Immediately adjacent to two meeting rooms. Strike two more rooms from the plan. The hotel made the arrangements and what were supposed to be guest rooms were transformed into meeting rooms. [This is why some of the meeting rooms had their own wet bar, bathroom, and patio.]

 Despite the unforeseeable, again, WSCA2016 was one for the ages. It takes a village to put on a convention and there are so many people that deserve recognition. [Unfortunately, there’s not space to thank them all.] The WSCA leadership team (Heather Hundley, Mark Bergstrom, Michelle Holling, and myself) spent considerable time dealing with final details and the inevitable exigencies that arise when trying to put on such a complex event. The interest group and affiliated organization program planners worked hard to provide the intellectual structure for the convention.

No matter how much planning and forethought that takes place, there are two groups that have considerable influence on how well the event turns out: the local host team and the hotel staff. We were very fortunate that both groups excelled in their tasks. The local hosts provided a warm welcome, considerable useful information on the local area, as well as handled several important with aplomb (e.g., providing AV and hiring the band for the sock hop). Local host chair Bill Snavely and his assistant Ingrid Yeh and their entire team of associates literally broke the door down performing their varied tasks. They deserve our great thanks for a job marvelously done. Finally, if the hotel staff is not attentive and competent, all the planning in the world won’t make a great deal of difference. We were very fortunate that the staff at the Bahia Resort Hotel were friendly, motivated, and willing to go out of their way to help. Julie Deeb and her entire staff did a marvelous job to make sure that our convention was intellectually and socially invigorating.

 Now it’s on to Salt Lake City! I’m looking forward to it already.

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