You are here

Organization of an Effective Section

This chapter provides information on the overall organization of an MAA section. It is intended to stimulate the officers and members of every section to be active participants in both the local and the national activities that promote the MAA objectives. Since the MAA sections differ in many respects, some of the guidelines may not be applicable in all sections. It is hoped, however, that these suggestions will be discussed and considered by the officers and members of every section

Characteristics of Effective Officers

Of paramount importance is the election of officers from those members of the section who:
  • command the respect of the membership of the section,
  • have demonstrated an interest in the activities of the Association, for example, by having served on one of its national or sectional committees or by regularly attending meetings,
  • possess known leadership qualities, and
  • are able to give service to the section for the terms of the usual sequence of offices (such as chair-elect, chair, and past chair) or for the term of an office not in a sequence.

The Section’s Nominating Committee

In order to ensure that the best people are elected, the chair of the section or some other person or group of persons designated by the section bylaws should appoint a nominating committee more than half a year prior to the time at which it is to report, so that the nominating committee can give the necessary careful attention to the selection of its nominees. The nominating committee should invite the members of the section to suggest nominees. No extra expense is incurred if the request is sent in the section newsletter, in an email message to members and departmental liaisons, or in one of the section secretary’s mailings.

Diversity Among the Section Officers

While the qualifications listed above should be considered of overriding importance, the section should strive for diversity and balance in representation. For example, it may be desirable that at least one officer come from a major university; one from a two-year college, one from a four-year college, and one from industry. Consideration should be given to diversity with respect to geography, gender, race and ethnicity.

The Secretary of the Section

The position of secretary is a key position of the section. The success or failure of a section depends to a large degree on this officer. Prior to being nominated, the person should be carefully instructed concerning the duties of a secretary. (See Chapter III, "The Section Secretary or Secretary-Treasurer".) The secretary should have access to secretarial and clerical assistance and to adequate facilities for communicating with the members of the section. This includes facilities for electronic communication, as well as help in preparing and mailing letters, announcements, and programs of meetings. The secretary should have a clear conception of the importance of the position. Because of this crucial role, the secretary's term of office should be at least three years with an option for re-election.

The Chair of the Section

The section chair should be selected with special care. In addition to possessing the qualifications outlined above, it is desirable that the person also be distinguished in some mathematical endeavor, which could be in mathematical research, curriculum development, contest construction, exemplary teaching etc. A member should never be excluded as a nominee because of a suspicion that the nomination will be declined. A person should, however, never be nominated solely as an honor. There are other and better ways to confer an honor upon a mathematician.

With the qualifications suggested above, the chair should be in a position to exert the necessary leadership in the section. Early in the term of office the chair should conduct a review of all section activities, discontinuing obsolete ones, improving others, and initiating new ones. Means should be devised for increasing attendance at section meetings. All possible influence should be used to encourage participation of all institutions within the section that are involved with the undergraduate mathematical sciences.

Since it takes a year to learn the routine of the office of section chair, it is unwise to have him or her serve for merely a year. Accordingly, it is recommended that section bylaws provide a chair to serve first for one year as chair-elect (unless a vice-chair is ordinarily nominated for the position of chair), for two years as chair, and then to remain on the executive committee for an additional year as immediate-past chair. Thus, he or she will be a member of the executive committee for a total of four years. The section bylaws should state that a chair is not eligible for re-election to a consecutive term as chair-elect or chair. The year as chair-elect gives the prospective chair the opportunity to become familiar with the administration of the section and the responsibilities of the office. It should enable the incoming chair to decide what he or she would like to accomplish during his or her term of service.

The Treasurer and Other Section Officers

Each section must have a treasurer, whose term should last for several years. A section may want to combine the offices of secretary and treasurer. (See section J below.) In order that the sections function in a healthy manner, it is recommended that each section have additional officer positions such as chair-elect and several vice-chairs. For a number of reasons (the most important of which is to provide for the possibility that at the end of a term the first vice-chair might be nominated as chair-elect), a chair-elect and a first vice-chair should commence and end their terms at the same time.

The Executive Committee of a Section

The executive committee should include the chair, section governor, secretary, treasurer (or secretary/treasurer), and all other officers. The newsletter editor, webmaster, student activities coordinator, and section liaison coordinator as well as members at large should be considered for membership on the executive committee. The executive committee should hold regular formal meetings, at least once per year, at which all aspects of the operations of the section should be given a thorough review. In particular, special attention should be given to recommendations made by the national MAA office and the Board of Governors as well as to suggestions made at the national meetings of section officers.

The executive committee should give high priority to arranging effective section meetings (See Chapter IV, "Preparation for Section Meetings".) and also to devising ways and means to assure a good attendance at section meetings. In addition, the executive committee should promote meetings and programs that interest mathematics students and faculty at the various types of collegiate institutions within the section’s geographic region.

Yearlong Schedule of Section Officers’ Responsibilities

Some sections have found it useful to construct a schedule of the annual duties and standard actions for the section officers. Such a timeline is particularly useful for new officers just assuming their positions.

The Section Newsletter

A newsletter can be an effective means of communication and may encourage increased activity within the section. Because the section secretary has many duties, the section should consider having someone else serve as newsletter editor. (See Chapter VII.)

Financial Reports

The section treasurer must submit an annual financial report to the national MAA office as soon after January 1 as possible, but in no case later than January 31. In addition, the treasurer should report on financial activity at section business meetings and through section newsletters and web pages.

The Section Web Site

A section’s web site provides a means of communicating with the section members as well as other interested people. The site should include the following:

  • names and email addresses of the officers,
  • announcements of planned section meetings,
  • pre-registration forms for section meetings,
  • news of individual and institutional members,
  • past reports of the chair, secretary, and section governor,
  • the section bylaws, and
  • a link to MAA Online.

The site should contain other interesting material, such as historical section pictures and stories, mathematics in the local news, and articles on local people honored for a mathematical achievement. The section webmaster should notify the MAA webmaster whenever the URL of the section website changes. 

Money-saving Tips

  • Use a savings account instead of putting everything into a checking account.
  • Use email and the section web site as the major means of communicating with section members.
  • For any mailed communications, use bulk mailing rates within the U.S.. Many institutions already have a bulk mailing permit that they may let sections use. Check with the public relations office or alumni office, and check with the Post Office about current regulations. Copies of the Internal Revenue Service's notification of the MAA and its sections as income tax exempt are available from the national MAA office. (See section VIII-A.) Note that MAA sections are not exempt from paying sales taxes.
  • Use MAA department liaisons to distribute any mailed programs and announcements.
  • Make plans early with the host institution of a section meeting. Many host institutions are willing to help with the expenses of a meeting if they have enough advance notice to budget the amount needed. Different institutions have different policies regarding what types of expenses they can cover. Some common expenses for a meeting are refreshments during registration or a break, refreshments for an informal social hour in the late afternoon or evening (such as punch, wine, cheese and crackers), and paper and postage for preliminary and final announcements.

Questions about Sections? | email Programs and Services at