2010 COPAA Annual Meeting Minutes

March 25, 2010, Merida, Mexico

Prepared by Kerry D. Feldman, COPAA Secretary

The Consortium of Applied and Practicing Anthropology Programs (COPAA) held its annual business meeting during the Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA) annual conference held in Merida, Mexico, March 25, 2010 from 1 pm until 2:20 pm. Thirteen departmental representatives attended from 9 academic departments and 1 Practicing Anthropology consultant organization (Cultural Keys, LLC).

Departmental representatives included:

Sunil Khanna (Oregon State U)
Linda Whiteford (U South Florida)
Lisa Henry (U North Texas)
Christina Wasson (U North Texas)
Bob Rotenberg (DePaul U)
Judith Friedenberg (U Maryland)Shirley Fiske, U Maryland, CoPAPIA Chair
Linda Bennett (U Memphis)Toni Copeland (Mississippi State U)
Kerry Feldman (UA Anchorage)
Elizabeth Briody (Cultural Keys, LLC)
Don Stull, (U Kansas)
Jane Gibson (U Kansas)

Order of Business

Welcome by Linda Bennett, COPAA Chair and introductions by participants


1. Report from COPAA Chair, Linda Bennett

Linda Bennett provided a brief background of COPAA, noting that this was the 10th anniversary of the organization’s founding in 1991 that occurred, also, at the SfAA meetings held that year in Merida, Mexico. COPAA began with 9 departmental members, growing over the years to now include 26 departments located around the U.S. Linda thanked several people for their COPAA contributions this past year: the current Board of Advisors, Christina Wasson for updating the COPAA website and providing regular reports on its usage this year, and Lisa Henry who again served as the Chair of the COPAA program planning for sessions (5) at this year’s SfAA meetings.

Linda noted that this was a momentous year for COPAA in that a change in our leadership structure would be proposed for approval. After 10 years with Linda chairing COPAA, working with a 3 member Executive Board, she proposed a transition plan that would result in a 3 member co-leadership structure for COPAA. The co-leaders would include Nancy Romero-Daza, Sunil Khanna and Lisa Henry. (Nancy came to the meeting before it began to explain that she couldn’t attend due to a conflicting session being offered at the same time, but supported the 3 member leadership team proposal). Linda had consulted widely with members and the Advisory Board throughout this past year about this proposed leadership change, with support received for it. More about the duties of each co-leader are presented below, and the vote taken on this proposal.

2. New Departmental member this year: University of Kansas, Department of Anthropology

Kerry Feldman nominated the Department of Anthropology of the University of Kansas for membership in COPAA. The request for membership had been received by the Executive Board of COPAA earlier this year from Don Stull and Jane Gibson, Chair of the U of Kansas anthropology department. Stull (past SfAA president and past Editor in Chief of Human Organization) introduced Jane Gibson. Jane explained the new directions being taken at the U of Kansas, supported by the department of anthropology, one primary feature of which was the beginning of an internship program for graduate students pursuing applied anthropology careers. Stull will have released time this coming academic year to identify appropriate applied internship positions and set the internship program in motion after approval by the anthropology department and academic boards of the university. The nomination was unanimously approved. The U of Kansas becomes the 27th member of COPAA.

3. Highlights Summary of COPAA this year (by Linda Bennett)

For the past 2 years, COPAA has been a co-sponsor with CoPAPIA (Committee on Practicing, Applied, and Public Interest Anthropology), at the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), of the AAA “Employer’s Expo.” This will occur again this fall at the AAA meetings in New Orleans. These gatherings ($600 is the shared cost for holding these jointly sponsored events) thank employers of anthropologists, encourage organizations/employers to hire more anthropologists and provide a dialogue opportunity with potential employers. For example, a representative from the State Farm Insurance Company attended this event for the first time last fall. The results of that participation are offered below.

The leadership transition discussions for COPAA were begun at the SfAA meetings last year, held in Sante Fe, New Mexico.

A regular COPAA column in the SfAA Newsletter was begun this year, lead by Lisa Henry.

COPAA sponsored 5 sessions at this year’s SfAA meetings in Merida, organized by Lisa Henry.

4. COPAA Website Report (by Christina Wasson)

After much research conducted among users of the COPAA website, Christina initiated changes in the website and the reporting on its usage. The user group needing the most assistance, via the website, are students, she learned. The website contains resources for students as well as resources for departments, clearly identified. There will be 2 annual updates of information on the website in the future. A monthly analytical report of users of the website will be prepared, using GOOGLE reporting service. Christina again asked COPAA member departments to include a link to COPAA’s website on their departmental websites. Students (and others) can confer with each other via the YAHOO GROUP discussion board on the website.

Kerry Feldman recommended that Christina send an annual consolidated report of website usage to member departments, to bring to their attention the existence of the website and its increasing usage by potential students in the U.S. and abroad. Christina will check to see whether GOOGLE can provide annual consolidated reports of usage.

5. Treasurer’s Report (by Linda Bennett on behalf of co-Treasurers Gina Sanchez Gibau and Jeanette Dickerson-Putman)

Linda Bennett reported that COPAA’s balance is $6,534, and reminded department members to pay the $100 per year dues (now lower than the original $150 annual department member dues). 14 department members are up-to-date in their dues, with other departments indicating that checks are “in the mail”.

This past year, expenses included $600 to fund the Employer’s Expo Reception, and $1,000 for the COPAA Visitor’s Fellow Program. Shirley Fiske will send a reminder to COPAA regarding the jointly sponsored reception planned for the AAA meetings this year. Elizabeth Briody shared a story about how the 2009 Employer’s Expo Reception benefitted a student. The representative from State Farm Insurance Company who attended the Expo in 2009, for the first time, said he wasn’t sure “how it would go” for the company regarding employing an anthropologist. A week later he called, thanked Elizabeth for talking with him, and hired the student from the U of Memphis anthropology program with whom he’d spoken. This State Farm representative worked in the Human Relations department of State Farm, and was developing a user design project for which the anthropologist seemed ideally suited.

6. CoPAPIA Report (by Shirley Fiske and Elizabeth Briody)

Shirley Fiske (CoPAPIA Chair) and Elizabeth Briody (CoPAPIA member) discussed the goals of CoPAPIA, which include facilitating a bridge between academic and non-academic employment. CoPAPIA is a standing committee now of the American Anthropological Association, whose goal is to increase the visibility of practicing and applied anthropologists in AAA. All four fields of the discipline are included in the CoPAPIA mission. CoPAPIA completed its survey of MA applied program students, with the results now available on the CoPAPIA website (http://www.aaanet.org/cmtes/copapia/upload/MASurvey DeptChairs.pdf). Bob Trotter will present the findings at the fall 2010 meeting of the AAA. In general it was found that MA graduates have very positive views of their training. MA graduates usually find employment within 6 to 12 months following completion of their degree. CoPAPIA is interested in how to bring a greater variety of employment opportunities to MA graduates. What can be done to “get the word out” to potential employers regarding how applied anthropologists can serve their needs? This question involves how to link graduates with employers. Networking by MA graduates has been the primary way employment is achieved. Is there a role for CoPAPIA to play related to networking? More than networking skills are needed by non-applied MA graduates to find employment, even though the latter probably need the data CoPAPIA reports from their MA graduate survey more than COPAA member departments/students.

7. Report on COPAA Visiting Fellows Program (by Lisa Henry)

The first COPAA Visiting Fellows Program award was received by the Department of Anthropology at the University of South Florida (USF) in 2009. USF received $1,000 to support the USF proposal that brought J. Schensul and Diane Austin to their campus, fall 2009, to assist in revitalizing their Center for Applied Anthropology. This COPAA program solicits applications from member departments to enhance partnerships between them and practicing anthropologists. No department applied for this award this year. COPAA has increased the award amount available per year to $2,000, to cover travel, lodging and provide a modest honorarium for practicing anthropology partnerships to work with departments receiving the award in the future. Sunil Khanna will chair this program and solicit proposals.

8. COPAA Leadership Transition Proposal (by Linda Bennett)

Why is a change in leadership structure of COPAA being proposed? Over the past 10 years, COPAA has become very complex in terms of its activities and projects. We have had several new initiatives, each requiring much time and concentration. One person cannot effectively direct and lead in all of these areas. Co-leadership, with specified responsibilities for each of 3 leaders, would more effectively serve these goals, without overburdening a single person. Linda Bennett would remain as Emeritus Advisor to COPAA; Kerry Feldman would remain as Secretary; Gina Sanchez Gibau and Jeanette Dickerson-Putnam would remain as co-Treasurers. A student would be added to the co-leadership group. By-Laws for COPAA would be developed, formally identifying a vision in addition to by-laws for COPAA a year from now.

The process by which the Co-Leadership’s tasks were identified involved Lisa Henry examining the summary of the current COPAA Chair’s tasks, and dividing them up into 3 major areas of responsibility as per the accompanying 3/15/2010 draft.

Discussion of this proposal:

– Sunil Khanna thanked Linda Bennett for her work on COPAA, as did all those present. He noted that Skype was a good way for folks to “meet” and discuss their ideas and responsibilities prior to annual meetings. He noted that members can send emails to the person heading some area of COPAA, who should be noted on the website of COPAA.

– Elizabeth Briody noted the difficulty of having a 3-way leadership of an organization. She thought 1 person might be needed to “make the call” on various issues needing a decision. She recommended that we consider evaluating whether we need a single leader “down the road,” in the future.

– Bob Rotenberg thought we could keep the 3 person leadership team but give them staggered term limits such that the “longest” serving person on the leadership team would play the role of being the “center of gravity” on issues faced by the team.

The new leadership team approach was approved.

9. Open Discussion of Tenure and Promotion Criteria Panels and Recommendations

Since 2003, COPAA has held sessions at the SfAA meetings regarding the issue of tenure and promotion criteria in academic settings where applied scholarship is a focus of some anthropological (and other) faculty. Such a session also occurred at the Merida meetings this year. One goal has been to allow faculty from various universities to learn about these criteria as followed at other universities. Recently, the current president of the American Anthropological Association, Seth Low, became interested in COPAA’s and CoPAPIA’s concerns and efforts in this regard. It was noted that the Society for Visual Anthropology has a website list of how their “products” of scholarship are evaluated by practitioners of visual anthropology. A major session on this topic is planned for the 2010 meetings of AAA, with representation from COPAA and CoPAPIA included. Those planning the session, including Sunil Khanna, Sherylyn Briller, Nancy Romero-Daza and Linda Bennett, will be gathering data and the experiences of various universities on this topic. A publication is anticipated about Reviews in Applied Anthropology, presenting sets of guidelines from universities around the country for tenure and promotion processes and structures, including how reviews of applied work is conducted, including the role of external letter writers for those undergoing review. Both PhD and MA granting institutions will be included in this survey/summary. Sunil explained that these issues come up over and over in sessions sponsored by COPAA at SfAA meetings: how to use applied work vis-a-vis tenure and promotion evaluations. Much of applied anthropological work consists of process, of projects involving many people, that may or may not be able to be written about/published.

Shirley Fiske recommended that COPAA request the guidelines for promotion and tenure currently in practice at the University of Southern California, School of Public Administration (in which faculty engage in applied work). She noted that similar discussions have occurred in departments of public health and folklore, among many others. It is not an issue solely experienced by applied anthropologists working in academia.

10. COPAA Distinguished Lecture, 2011, SfAA meetings in Seattle

The next SfAA meeting will be held in Seattle, Washington. COPAA began a distinguished lecture offering at the 2008 meetings in Memphis, to which Dr. Sue Wright was invited, and gave an outstanding lecture. She also participated in a COPAA sponsored conference session about teaching public policy research to graduate students, from which developed an issue of the British journal that she co-edits, Learning and Teaching in the Social Sciences (LATISS), published fall 2009. Whom might COPAA invited to provide the distinguished COPAA lecture at the Seattle meetings of SfAA in 2011? Kerry Feldman suggested we find an “internal” or “local” practitioner/applied anthropologist whose work might be of interest and inspiration to applied anthropologists. Time for discussion of this topic ran out, and the meeting adjourned.

The meeting ended at 2:20 pm.