MAA Department Liaisons and MAA Sections
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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 department;
- 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 national office. In the second place, section programs and activities have much to gain from the access to departments 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. In the past two years, discussions of the Liaison program have been held at several section meetings, producing a wealth of good ideas for Section Liaison activities. A number of these are outlined below. We hope 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 national program. In all of these areas, some sort of coordination within the section would be required. Some sections may choose to create a new officer to serve as a liaison coordinator. In other sections, this may become one of the duties of an existing officer.
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 within a department: 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 a department to nominate someone for section awards, such as the outstanding teaching award.
- Serve as a Liaison between the section organization and a student chapter if there is one. For example, the secretary of MD, VA, DC section made use of liaisons to get some information to the students at each school who made presentations at a section meeting.
- Provide a pool of nominees for other roles in the section, such as committee members and candidates for officers.
- Encourage departments to offer to host section meetings. Serve as a conduit for information on what is involved in hosting a section meeting. Facilitate communication between local organizers and program committee members.
- Serve as collection point for sectional dues. If a section wished to collect a voluntary dues supplement of a few dollars per person, the expense of doing the solicitation by mail from a central organization might easily consume a significant portion of any funds raised. However, if each departmental liaison collected the contributions of whoever wished to contribute, then forwarded that to the section treasurer or secretary, that would be essentially free of overhead. The same thing might be said for any kind of section fund raising effort.
- Welcome new faculty to the section, and make 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. We emphasize 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. But we hope that these will provide some ideas that would be appropriate for your section.
- Appoint a coordinator for liaisons. 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.
- Create a standing committee on Liaisons in the section. Appoint the members from the liaisons network, involve them in the leadership of the section, have a report from the committee at the business meeting, and so on.
- Create an organization of all liaisons in the section. This organization could have its own officers, elected by the liaisons, could decide on activities and goals for each year, hold annual meetings, and so on. Examples of activities and goals might be to recruit liaisons at institutions without one, raise funds for a section project, increase membership in the MAA or attendance at section meetings, facilitate formation of student chapters, or any other worthwhile contribution to collegiate mathematics in the section. Such an organization would also be a natural pool from which to recruit candidates for section officers.
- Create a special newsletter for liaisons in the section.
- Host special activities for liaisons at section meetings, either as a working or a social session.
- Provide special perks for liaisons at the section level: reduced section meeting registration, priority registration for workshops, are examples.
- Recognize the accomplishments of the liaisons in the section in some way. Examples: asking all the liaisons to rise and be acknowledged at section meeting banquets or luncheons; mention in newsletters; identification of liaisons on meeting name badges (with stickers available from the national office or produced locally); letters of appreciation from the section to the liaison at the end of each year.
- If the section has a home page, provide information about and for liaisons in the section on that page.
Section Support for National Liaisons Program
We conclude with a few things that the sections can do to contribute to the national program.
- Make contact with institutions in the section without liaisons, and encourage them to appoint a liaison.
- Participate in gatherings of liaisons and section officers at national meetings. Share ideas developed in your section at these gatherings.
- Participate in the liaison reappointment process. Details of this kind of involvement have not been worked out, but there is definitely a need for local participation.