Regional Coordinator Handbook
American Academy of Religion Regional Coordinator Handbook
Table of Contents
What makes regional meetings and activities important?
The American Academy of Religion (AAR), a learned society and professional association, carries out its work at both Academy-wide and regional levels. Activities designed to implement these tasks at either level reinforce and supplement the work of the other.
Regional meetings of the Academy often incorporate patterns of organization and presentation similar to those followed at the Annual Meeting: section meetings, giving and responding to papers, plenary speeches, workshops, and time for networking. Regional meetings, however, offer unique and distinct opportunities for members. Regions have developed a distinct character of their own, providing the following opportunities:
While the Board of Directors has supervision of the whole, regional officers have direct responsibility for the regions. The Regionally Elected Coordinators (RECs) provide a natural link between the interests and concerns of regions and those of the entire Academy.
Regions focus on creating a community of scholars of a special character based on regional size, ethos, cooperation with other scholarly societies, and potential. The special size and character of regions encourages accessibility, adaptability, service to scholars at various career stages, collegiality, and flexibility of programming. For example, some regions sponsor:
The smaller scale of regions enhances opportunities for developing and designating leadership for the Academy. Regional officers bear special responsibility for providing opportunities to student members who are entering the Academy.
The list of names and contact information for regional officers is here.
Your first point of contact should always be the region’s liaison, Elizabeth Hardcastle (email@example.com at 404-712-6654). She will forward your concerns or requests to the appropriate individual on staff. The AAR staff person will work with you directly and keep Elizabeth apprised on the progress of your request.
Possible reasons for contacting AAR National:
Main Telephone: 1-404-727-3049
According to Article IV of the Operating Agreement which constitutes the bylaws for any AAR region, the minimum number of officers for a region is four. These officers must be AAR members in good standing who reside in or have elected to be members of the particular region in question during the entire period of their service in regional officer roles.
Article IV of the Operating Agreement was customized for each region to reflect local differences in the composition and duties of their boards. The language of the article was approved by AAR counsel before being adopted by regional vote. Some regions have specified additional officers in their Operating Agreement, e.g. a President-Elect and/or Past President in the presidential line.
Officers are typically elected at the region’s annual business meeting, held during its annual conference. In the case of regions that do not hold an annual conference, alternate election procedures (such as online voting) have been devised. The AAR utilizes an online voting procedure for its elections. If the region’s board wishes to explore online elections, they may contact the AAR national office through their Regional Coordinator.
Conflict of Interest
Regional Board members should complete the Conflict of Interest Report on a yearly basis to avoid conflict of interest; these forms should be kept with other regional records. AAR Boards should agree that no member of the Board of Directors shall participate in any discussion or vote on any matter in which he or she or a member of his or her immediate family has potential conflict of interest due to having material economic involvement regarding the matter being discussed. When such a situation presents itself, the director must announce his or her potential conflict, disqualify himself or herself, and be excused from the meeting until discussion is over on the matter involved. The President of the meeting is expected to make inquiry if such conflict appears to exist and the board member has not made it known.
Coordinators are essential to every region. Provision for election of Regional Coordinators should be included in the regional Operating Agreement because Regional Coordinators have responsibilities to the regional entity and to the AAR. As officers of limited liability organizations that are wholly owned subsidiaries of AAR, Regional Coordinators are covered by AAR liability insurance when carrying out their duties. Regional Coordinators have a term of three years, with the possibility of reelection for an additional three-year term.
Regional Coordinators should communicate suggestions, concerns, and requests from the region to the Regional Director and the AAR regions staff liaison, Elizabeth Hardcastle (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Responsibilities to the AAR
Regional Coordinators meet regularly as members of the Regions Committee to discuss regional programs and activities, normally at the AAR Annual Meeting in November.
Retention of Records
Regionally Elected Coordinators are expected to keep a formal record of the meetings and activities of the region, including minutes of regional executive committee meetings, regional business meetings, and meetings at the AAR annual meeting.
All records no longer in use should be sent to the AAR Archivist, Elizabeth Hardcastle, email@example.com. Financial records older than seven years may be discarded.
The Regions Director must be a member with experience in the leadership of an AAR Region as a Regionally Elected Coordinator, President, Vice President, or Treasurer of an AAR region. The Regions Director shall serve a term of three years and may not serve an additional consecutive term (AAR bylaws V.5).
The Regions Director is a member of the AAR Board of Directors. Four candidates for the position are forwarded to the Nominations Committee by the AAR Regions Committee. The Nominations Committee picks two of the candidates and puts them on the ballot for the annual elections.
Regional Student Director
Beginning 2012, one graduate student is elected per region to serve the dual role of Regional Student Director and Graduate Student Committee (GSC) member. Regional Student Directors are voting members of their regional Board of Directors, responsible for representing the student members of the region and coordinating student activities, as defined by region. Student activities vary by region and may consist of, but are not limited to, organizing mentoring lunches for students, chairing a Student Section, hosting student workshops, or coordinating student social events during the regional meeting. As a member of the GSC, the Regional Student Director is also responsible for taking part in GSC meetings, organizing student events for the AAR Annual Meeting, and helping to develop student resources for the AAR.
The Staff Liaison is a member of the Executive Office Staff of the AAR, assigned to a specific committee or working group to assist them with fulfilling their charge as specified by the Academy’s Board of Directors and bylaws. The Staff Liaison assists the committee with budgetary needs, programming and productivity, and anything that will enhance the service of the committee to the AAR at-large.
The Regions Committee is a working group of the Board whose membership consists of the ten Regional Coordinators and the Regional Director who is a member of the Board. The responsibilities of the committee are defined in its charge:
The Regions Committee facilitates and supports the work of the American Academy of Religion regional structures. In doing so, the Committee has responsibility for general issues and for development and recommendation of policies relevant to the regions and their activities. The Committee administers certain funds for the support of regional activities.
The Committee thus has primary responsibility for supporting, promoting and developing regional activities. The Committee is the initial forum where regional concerns and policies are discussed and evaluated before being presented to the Board of Directors. It is also the group through which major new initiatives supporting the regions can be implemented.
Typically the Regions Committee meets at the AAR’s Annual Meeting in November; it may also meet electronically or in person at other times of the year as needed. Elizabeth Hardcastle is the AAR staff liaison to the Regions Committee. The Regions Committee is chaired by the AAR Regions Director.
Jury for Regional Development Grants
The Regional Director, two RECs from the committee and the region’s liaison meet and adjudicate the grants. The Regional Director prepares the award and rejection letters and may offer advice on developing a stronger grant to be submitted in the following year.
Regional Coordinators will also receive the award or rejection letters for the grant proposals from their regions.
Society of Biblical Literature’s Relationship with Regions
Because the AAR and the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) meet together at the national level, and because many AAR regional organizations have long histories of meeting with SBL regions at their regional meetings, it is helpful to understand the difference between the two organizations in terms of how they relate to their regions.
As a result of the Regions Task Force recommendations and the legal advice of its counsel, the AAR chose to give each region a distinct AAR identity through incorporation. SBL formed a Task Force on Regions in 2009, and its council accepted the task force’s report in 2011. The structure thus created differentiates between SBL regions, where a stand-alone regional meeting is the dominant activity (these are designated annual regional meetings or ARMs), and those where a regional organization has been formed with other scholars or groups (these are designated independent regional organizations or IROs). ARMs are activities of the SBL itself, carried out by locally elected (or appointed) coordinators and officers, rather than organizations with their own constitutions, bylaws, or legal identities. IROs (a category that covers what AAR has tended to call consortia or commissions) must include locally designated SBL coordinators as officers of the consortium, and must report on their activities to SBL. These organizations have their own constitution and bylaws, their own legal identity, and file their own federal and state taxes.
When working with SBL Regional Coordinators for joint activities such as meetings or workshops, AAR Regional Coordinators should be aware of the different relationships at work in the two organizations.
Meeting with Other Scholarly Organizations
AAR regions differ considerably in their meeting practices. Some have met with other scholarly organizations for years, and some have only had stand-alone meetings.
The Operating Agreements for AAR regions explicitly allow AAR regions to partner with other scholarly groups for purposes that are in line with the mission and values of AAR and of the region. The report of the Regions Task Force strongly urged that these long-standing local practices be encouraged and placed on firm legal grounds.
While a couple of AAR regions are members of regional commissions or consortia (as described in the next section), which are separately incorporated organizations jointly directed by representatives from the various scholarly organizations that constitute them, some AAR regions operate in concert with other scholarly organizations without a separate organizational structure. These ad hoc or informal arrangements have evolved over time to distribute duties like meeting planning, presiding, and so forth among officers from various organizations, sometimes in a revolving structure. Because the AAR regions’ Operating Agreement mandates that officers of AAR regions be AAR members, and that AAR funds including those of the region be under the control of duly elected or appointed AAR designees, these informal arrangements may not be sustainable in the clarified legal framework of the Operating Agreement. Consultation with the AAR’s attorneys through the AAR staff liaison to the regions is advised.
Most AAR regions organize annual conferences. These meetings are open to all registrants; one need not be a member of the organization or a resident of the region to attend. (Non-members may be charged differential registration fees.) Regional meetings may be held in college or university facilities, or at hotels or conference centers, based on the typical attendance and logistics of the meeting.
A typical regional annual meeting follows the format of the AAR Annual Meeting in miniature. A call for papers including several program units is issued. Paper proposals are accepted by program units and formed into sessions. The meeting may span two or three days, with sessions running concurrently as needed to accommodate the number of program units and schedule of presentations.
Some Regional Coordinators are also responsible for planning their regional meetings; this planning may include contracting for space at the conference venue, assembling the program, arranging for keynote speakers, and other such duties. Other regions assign various planning and preparation responsibilities for their annual meetings to regional officers or other designees. Where AAR regions meet with other organizations, planning and execution tasks may be divided among representatives of the various organizations. Specifics regarding the REC’s duties with regard to the regional meeting should be outlined in the region’s Policies and Procedures manual.
Program unit chairs are key members of the regional leadership in regions that stage annual meetings. Some regions have included their program unit chairs as members of their governing boards.
AAR regions, as well as the regional commissions in which they participate, often sponsor workshops at their regional meetings, and, in some cases, at other times and locations throughout the year. Workshops may originate from within the regional membership or leadership, or they may be organized and facilitated by outside organizations. Some workshops have traveled from region to region. Workshops typically take place before or after the regional meeting, and usually involve separate registration and fees. Advantages to meeting planners of including workshops around the regional meeting may include convenience for members, additional room nights and catering toward hotel contracted minimums, and networking with facilitators from other regions and institutions.
Grants and Sponsorships
In addition to, or in lieu of, sponsoring regional meetings, some regions use their funds to award small grants or sponsorships to other programs, conferences, or workshops initiated by regional members. Such use of AAR subvention funds is in keeping with the AAR’s purpose and values. Careful accounting of funds allocated, and a thorough audit trail for the process by which grants and sponsorships are awarded, is essential.
AAR funds its regions directly with annual subventions. Currently, the subvention is $2,500. Regions must file financial reports with AAR for the previous fiscal year in order to receive the subvention. The subvention check is made payable to the AAR Region and sent to the Regional Coordinator.
Regional Coordinators are responsible for opening, maintaining, closing, and transferring the region’s bank account. The region’s Operating Agreement and Employer Identification Number (EIN, also known as Tax ID) will be needed to open the region’s account with your local bank. Some regions may deposit or sign over AAR funds into shared accounts of consortia or meeting expense funds; careful records of the disposition of AAR funds must be kept for reporting purposes.
RECs should keep all bank statements in a secure file location. Receiving paper statements (as opposed to opting out of them in favor of electronic banking only) is useful, because this makes it easier to pass records on to the next REC by transferring a physical file.
RECs also are responsible for keeping all receipts and invoices for expenses paid out of the regional AAR account. Receipts and other supporting documentation for payments from regional funds are required by the AAR along with the yearly financial report.
In any case where regional AAR funds are combined with funds from other learned societies or commissions to pursue joint ventures or pay mutual expenses, special care must be taken to establish clear policies for payments into and out of the shared funds. The financial records of any organization or venture that receives AAR funds for such purposes are subject to examination by AAR under the terms of the regional Operating Agreements.
Financial Reporting to the AAR
Near the end of the fiscal year (late spring or early summer), AAR’s financial officer will request regional reports from all RECs. Using the template, fill out the requested information. Make copies of invoices and receipts for all expenditures. You may scan the supporting documentation and send along with the financial report spreadsheet as electronic files.
Subventions for the next fiscal year will not be mailed to RECs until the previous year’s financial reporting has been received by AAR.
Regional Development Grants
Regional Development Grants provide funds for special projects within the regions that promise to benefit the scholarly and professional life of AAR members and do the work of the AAR in the regions. Workshops, special programs, training events and other innovative regional projects may be funded through this source. Generally, grants funded fall into two categories: seed funding to begin ongoing regional initiatives, or one-time funds for special projects. Grantees are recognized at the annual AAR national meeting, and must be willing to discuss the results of their grant, or present a session about their grant at their regional meeting. Where possible, projects should be designed so that they may be duplicated or transported to other regions.
The lead applicant(s) must be current members of AAR and maintain their membership throughout the grant period. In general, grants will not be given to the same individuals in consecutive years.
Applications should include
No grant will exceed $4,000.
RECs should supplement the AAR’s announcement of Regional Development Grant application season with e-mail blasts or other communication to their regional members. RECs are encouraged to work with regional members preparing Regional Development Grant applications in order to answer questions and assist members in preparing well-conceived and complete proposals.
Grant applications are due June 1 through online submission. Awards are announced on September 1.
Online Registration and Paper Submission Program for Regional Meetings
Most regions use third-party registration systems such as Eventbrite for online meeting registration. Regions can contact Elizabeth Hardcastle at the national office for other options. E-mailing section chairs or Google Docs are usually used by regions for paper submissions.
Regions Booth at the AAR Annual Meeting
AAR provides a booth in the Exhibit Hall to highlight the work of the regions. RECs and officers of AAR regions are asked to sign up to staff this booth throughout the meeting. A reminder e-mail and link to scheduling software will be sent in October.