The MAA/Department Liaisons Program is designed to facilitate two-way communication between the national MAA organization and its members. Originally, the program's goals included:
- providing timely information of professional interest to mathematics departments;
- publicizing MAA programs, publications, and activities; and,
- increasing responsiveness of the MAA to member needs and interests.
As the program has developed, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of involvement of MAA Sections. This involvement has the potential both for service by, as well as benefit to, MAA Sections. In the first place, sections provide a natural stage for regional input to the national program. Information that is readily accessible to leaders in sections can be completely unknown outside the section.
At the same time, sections offer opportunities for interacting with the liaisons on a much more personal and immediate level than what is possible from the Washington office. In the second place, section programs and activities have much to gain from the access to members (and prospective members) that liaisons provide. From publicizing section meetings and workshops, to encouraging nominations for section awards; from gathering information for newsletters, to identifying candidates for section office, liaisons can be a tremendous asset to the success of MAA Section programs.
Diversity of MAA Sections is one of the great strengths of the MAA. The MAA Sections have rich traditions of their own, and a history of serving their regions in their own individual styles. Accordingly, it is to be expected that each Section will find its own best way to interact with the liaisons program. Over the years, discussions of the liaison program have been held at section meetings, producing a wealth of good ideas for section liaison activities. A number of these are outlined below. It is hoped that these will be useful to Section officers who are developing their own ideas for working with liaisons in their Sections.
The ideas to follow can be separated into three categories. First, there are things that the liaisons can do to contribute to the activities and programs of the section. Second, there are activities that can be organized by the section to contribute to the development of a vital and effective liaisons program within the section. Third, there are steps that can be taken by the section to contribute to the operation of the liaison program. In all of these areas, some sort of coordination within the section would be required.
Liaison Contributions to the Section
There are many ways that the section can make use of the liaisons network. Here is a list of possibilities:
- Provide distribution of information from the section to members, and others, within the section: newsletters, calls for papers for section meetings, information about meeting location and registration, etc.
- Obtain information for the section: formal or informal surveys on section activities, news items for the newsletter, participation rates among department members at section activities, etc.
- Encourage contacts to nominate individuals for various section awards.
- Help the section connect with its student chapters.
- Provide a pool of nominees for other roles in the section, such as committee members and candidates for officers.
- Help the section secure meeting venues.
- Aid the section in welcoming new faculty, and making them aware of section activities.
Section Support for Liaisons
Here is a list of possible steps that a section can take to develop a vital liaisons program. It is emphasized that these cover a wide variety of approaches. Not every section will want to do all of them, and indeed, some of these would not make much sense in combination. It is hoped that they provide some ideas that would be appropriate for a variety of sections.
- Provide for a section “Liaison Coordinator”. Some sections have created a new officer to serve as liaison coordinator. In other sections another existing officer, such as the section secretary, has taken on the duties of liaison coordinator. Those duties might include maintaining an up to date email mailing list for liaisons, controlling what messages are distributed to that list, calling meetings of liaisons, organizing activities for liaisons at section meetings, sending letters of welcome and appreciation, and generally facilitating whatever activities the section develops for liaisons. A liaison coordinator could be involved in most or all of the remaining suggestions.
- Working with the MAA Department of Programs and Services, the section Liaison Coordinator should help maintain an accurate and complete list of MAA/Department Liaisons. Within the section, the coordinator should help control what information gets distributed to this list.
- The coordinator should help the section plan activities for liaisons at section meetings (e.g., a breakfast for liaisons), and help the section determine how to recognize the liaisons for their service (e.g., at an appropriate meeting event, asking all liaisons to rise and be applauded, and/or providing liaisons with special stickers for their name badges.
- List the liaisons on the section webpage, and provide a link to the MAA's "Department Liaisons" page. Supplement this information with anything that is particular to the section, as to the duties the section expects its liaisons to perform.