by Heather Deyling, SCAD foundation studies professor
If you are pursuing a career in academia, joining professional organizations and participating in those organization’s conferences is an excellent way to expand your knowledge and network. Some conferences, such as the national College Art Association, or CAA, offer a job search component. With more than 5,000 attendees, the CAA conference can be psychologically daunting, and some members attend only when they have an interview or are seeking a job. However, smaller and regional conferences with no job search component offer professional networking opportunities and are a great way to gain knowledge of pedagogy and practice in your field. In this article, I will focus on two conferences I attend regularly. I encourage you to become involved in professional organizations in your field.
The Southeastern College Art Conference, or SECAC, is a yearly conference that draws about 500 – 600 attendees from all disciplines of studio art and art history. SECAC will be hosted by SCAD in Savannah, Georgia, November 9-12. The SECAC conference offers interesting sessions on a variety of studio art and art history topics, which are the core of the conference. A keynote presentation is a conference highlight, and Ann Hamilton will be featured this year. A juried member’s exhibition with a reception takes place during the conference. For SECAC 2011, SCAD has engaged Dan Cameron, founding director of Prospect New Orleans, as the juror. Networking opportunities include a luncheon and awards presentation, trips to local museums, tours, state meetings, a members’ breakfast meeting, evening receptions, and more. These social events are a great way to connect with peers and faculty from other institutions. Sandra Reed, SCAD painting professor and SECAC 2011 coordinator, says, “Through SECAC, I’ve met other professionals who care about the things that I care about, and many have become friends or mentors. SCAD faculty, staff and students are preparing to make the most of the chance to share both our city and our school when SECAC comes to Savannah this fall.” Individual membership is $65 and conference registration is $150.
Foundations in Art: Theory and Education, or FATE, is a biennial conference that focuses on teaching foundations students in a variety of disciplines. It is the first professional conference I attended after going to the CAA conference in search of a job for three consecutive years. I was pleasantly surprised by the FATE conference. As a foundation studies professor, I found the sessions to be very engaging and accessible. The other attendees were very friendly and it was easy to meet new people. The FATE conference provides its attendees with breakfast and lunch at the conference hotel, and these meals are a great opportunity to interact with faculty from other colleges and universities. In Spring 2013, the FATE conference will be hosted by SCAD in Savannah, Georgia. Current individual membership for two years is $50.
There are several ways to participate in conferences.
- Attend the conference for professional enrichment and networking.
- Present a paper. It’s not as daunting as it sounds. Check the call for papers on the organization’s website. Look for sessions that match your knowledge or experience. At SECAC this fall, for instance, the session, “Practice and Research: Work by Emerging Educators” offers a way for professors who are early in their career to present work to a diverse audience and may be less intimidating than submitting a paper to a more specific session. The deadline to submit proposals for SECAC 2011 is April 20.
- Chair a session. I recommend presenting a paper before attempting to chair a session, so that you are familiar with the conference and the responsibilities of session chairs. The first step to becoming a session chair is to submit a proposal or proposals to the call for sessions, which typically opens 11 months in advance of the conference. Session chairs are the liaison between the organization and session presenters. Responsibilities of a session chair include organizing the session, reporting session information, reporting scheduling and AV requests, and communicating with presenters. During the session, the chair must be sure presenters adhere to a strict time schedule and that the session ends on time in order to accommodate the next session.
Eric Standley (M.F.A., painting, 2004) is a member of both SECAC and FATE and participates in both conferences regularly. He says, “Attending academic conferences is an invaluable means of maintaining perspective on my efforts as an educator and art practitioner. Not to mention the company is always great …” Standley is assistant professor of studio art and foundations coordinator of the School of Visual Arts at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia.
Learn more about the SECAC 2011 call for papers and conference details.