The American Evaluation Association has opened its registration for the 2013 meeting in Washington DC. This meeting promises to be attended by the most people yet. Eleven years ago we were in D. C. and broke all attendance records to date. I remember because that was my presidential year…the year that the evaluation profession started thinking that evaluation was a system; that everything we do is connected. Several people have commented about AEA–that they didn’t know there was such an association; that they didn’t know about the conference; that they weren’t members. So folks, here is the skinny on AEA (at least part of the skinny…).
The American Evaluation Association was officially founded in 1986 as a combined organization of the Evaluation Research Society and Evaluation Network. ERS was academic and EN was practitioner; merging the two was a challenge as each thought something would be lost. This is a good example of where the whole is greater that the sum of its parts. The differences were pronounced and debatable (now you only see AEA). Robert (Bob) B. Ingle was the force behind the conference; he mounted the first EN/ERS conference in 1981 in Austin, Texas. I was a graduate student. I was in awe. Although I had been to numerous professional conferences before attending this first conference, I had never met any one like Bob Ingle. His first comment to me once we connected after playing phone tag was, “You spell your name wrong!” (Turns out he was the Scotland branch of the German house of Engel; my ancestors changed the spelling when they came out of Germany.) I was a nascent graduate student in love with my studies and here comes this brusque, acerbic, and outrageous giant. He became my good friend–I knew him from 1981 until he died in 1998. He believed passionately in program evaluation. I think he is smiling at the growth in the profession and the organization. He knew a lot of us; he saw the association through the good times and the bad times. I could end here and say, the rest is history…only there is so much to tell. The association went from an all volunteer organization at its founding in 1986 to an organization of over 8,000 members run by an association management firm. Susan Kistler (of Kistler Associates) was our executive director for the last 15 years. (The association has transitioned to a new management firm [SmithBucklin] and a new executive director [Denise Roosendaal]). Seeing the association transition is bittersweet; growth is good, the loss of family feeling is sad. The association is no longer feels intimate, family; it offers so much more to folks who are members.
David Bernstein is the co-chair of the local arrangements working group (LAWG) for this year’s conference. He lead off a week of AEA365 talking about the conference. Read this post. It tells you a lot about the conference. This week AEA365 is being written by the local arrangements working group. The role of the local arrangements group is to make sure the folks who attend the conference have a good time, both at the conference and in DC. DC is a wonderful city. You cannot see it in a week; it is always changing. Take a day if you have never been to see the city’s high points. It is the nation’s capitol, after all, and there are many high points.
The members only AEA August newsletter also talks about registration with hyperlinks to the registration site, the conference program, and hotel accommodations. (The members only newsletter is just one reason to join AEA.) I’ve been going to AEA since 1981. This is the first year I will not have a paper/poster/etc. on the program. (I am doing a professional development session with Jim Altschuld, though; it is number 22).
Each year I attend AEA, I think of the three evaluative criteria that FOR ME makes a good conference: See three long time friends; meet three new people who could become friends; and get three new ideas. If I do all this, I usually come home energized. I hope to see you there.