Submitted by Ann Darling, 2nd Vice President
Classes have begun, leaves are starting to turn, and it’s time to renew your Western States Communication Association membership. It must be fall. All this academic activity causes me to reflect on how I got into this work and why I’ve stayed. I attended my first WSCA convention as a first year Master’s student and have missed only one convention since. WSCA provided the perfect environment to become acquainted with the rituals of conventions because it was characterized by friendly, open and rigorous conversations. Turns out, it still is.
WSCA is a perfect environment for introducing young scholars to the practices of publicly sharing scholarship. While any convention can be overwhelming, WSCA has developed specific venues for helping newcomers navigate the convention and feel welcome. The Newcomer’s Reception is a well attended and welcoming event during which WSCA devotees and officers help first time attenders attach some faces to names and make some decisions about how to select programs to attend. Over the years it seems like the host schools have developed a little competition with each other about how many bright, happy, and enthusiastic host school students can be pressed into the service of welcoming and registering convention attendees as well as helping everyone, but especially first new convention goers, get oriented to the hotel and city. One of the most common comments about WSCA is that it is friendly.
A second quality of WSCA is its open social environment. While some professional associations can feel rather cliquey with individuals in particular subgroups sticking pretty closely to their own, at WSCA conventions people move fluidly from group to group and panel to panel and business meeting to business meeting. People are encouraged to work across sub disciplinary areas to develop exciting papers and programs. In fact, it is increasingly uncommon to see two panels in a row that are not characterized by some cross disciplinary influence. WSCA fosters open conversations across a wide range of boundaries. Like the geography of the West, we know that open spaces are magical.
Finally, WSCA is a regional association that acts like a small national. Some of the best scholarship in the discipline is first presented and discussed in a WSCA meeting room (or a bar). Nationally recognized scholars across the country regularly include the WSCA convention on their travel agenda because they know they are going to hear good ideas talked about in serious ways. I never leave a WSCA convention without learning something new that has become a part of a class that I’m teaching or a project commanding my attention.
The benefits of membership extend beyond convention attendance. Our journal, The Western Journal of Communication, is, like our convention, the best of the regional outlets. In it one regularly finds examples of the best scholarship in the discipline. Communication Reports offers short, data based essays on topics of broad interest and immediate relevance to communication scholars and teachers. The WSCA newsletter and website provide ample opportunities for being an informed and active member of our engaging association.
So, since it’s that time of year, a time of year to recognize and celebrate the great things about being a student of communication, I hope you will take a few moments to renew your membership. In the winter, when the days are short and cold, you’ll be grateful for a gathering that is long on warmth and stimulation. To renew your membership, please go to the WSCA website at http://www.westcomm.org/join/joinonline.asp. If you would prefer to complete a traditional paper membership renewal form, you may use http://www.westcomm.org/join/2010MemForm.pdf.
p.s., And if the scholarship isn’t enough to get you to re-new your membership consider the joy of the sock hop at the annual convention.