Dear fellow members of the Working Class Studies Association,
It is with great pleasure that I write to you as president of the Working Class Studies Association. I am truly honored to have been elected to the office, and hope to spend my time engaged in projects and efforts that will make lasting change, however modest, for the years to come. More specifically, I am interested in shoring up and strengthening our foundation so that we can continue to strive toward the goals we articulated at our founding in 2005.
In case you haven’t look at those goals in a while, they include promoting critical conversations, dialogues, and debates about issues important to the field of working class studies and its practitioners, as well as providing opportunities and spaces for people to share their work. When I think about those goals, one of the things that concerns me more and more is our responsibility, as an organization, to make sure that the voices of the next generation of academics, artists, activists, independent scholars, workers, and students are represented in those conversations and have a place at the table, so to speak. We need their presence and their contributions, and we should not expect that the process of attracting and retaining them will occur without concerted, thoughtful effort on our part.
We made a very concrete gesture toward this end at the 2014 How Class Works conference, organized by Michael Zweig and held on the campus of SUNY-Stony Brook, by hosting a meet-and-greet reception for graduate students and newcomers prior to the formal opening of the conference. According to WCSA secretary and steering committee member Michele Fazio, who greeted attendees along with Alicia Williamson, Katherine Kidd, and Sara Appel, the event was a rousing success, attended by around 50 people, newcomers and “old-timers” alike. She attested to the value of the event, saying that it was a great way for people to make connections and network before the conference began, in ways that paid off in the number, quality and depth of conversations that occurred across the subsequent three days. Less tangibly, perhaps, but no less importantly, it conveyed the message that the organization is welcoming to all. We hope to do something similar at the 2015 conference at Georgetown, and into the foreseeable future.
Along similar lines, this year we will be continuing the Young Scholars and Activists Initiative begun last year during Barbara Jensen’s presidency. We awarded seven grants, to Chase Bollig, Robin Brooks, Alana Glaser, Heidi Jones, Meadow Jones, and Raul Perez, all of whom are graduate students or recent graduates whose work represents a variety of disciplines across the humanities and social sciences. The awards were made based on the merit of the proposals they submitted to the Stony Brook conference; their work represents the future of the field, and it is important to recognize and nurture it. It is my firm belief that both the YSAI awards and the meet-and-greet reception are efforts that help us work toward multiple of our goals, both materially and symbolically. More importantly, I hope that these efforts will strengthen our organization by increasing and deepening ties among our members.
For these (and myriad other) reasons, I hope to see many of you at next year’s conference, scheduled for May 28-31. In one sense, the 2015 conference represents a return to the familiar, being organized as it is by Sherry Linkon, founding member and first president of this organization. Sherry, along with John Russo, former directors of the Center for Working-Class Studies at Youngstown State University, organized and hosted many working-class studies conferences at YSU, with the last one being held in 2005. We are extremely pleased that Sherry spearheaded efforts to host the conference at her current institution, Georgetown University, where she is Professor of English and Director of Writing Curriculum Initiatives. But this conference also takes the Working Class Studies Association into new territory, because it is being organized as a joint conference of the WCSA and the Labor and Working Class History Association. This is an exciting opportunity to explore our shared intellectual and political interests, and perhaps to discover new ones; I, for one, am looking forward to it.
All my best,