Essential purposes of the American Academy of Religion as a learned society and a professional association are carried out at both Academy-wide and regional levels. Activities designed to implement these tasks at either level reinforce and supplement the work of the other. At present the annual Academy-wide meeting is augmented and expanded by ten geographically distinct regional meetings.
Regional meetings of the Academy often incorporate patterns of organization and presentation similar to those followed at the Academy-wide meetings: section meetings, giving and responding to papers, plenary speeches. Regional meetings, however, offer unique and distinct opportunities for members. Regions have developed a distinct character of their own, providing the following opportunities:
Greater personal contact among members than is possible at the AAR Annual meeting.
Greater local accessibility for members.
More opportunity for academic exchange across sub-field specializations.
Occasions for cooperative research projects.
Flexible and accessible programming.
Experimentation within annual meeting programming, as well as programming for regionally-specific issues.
Higher local visibility of professional development efforts through mentoring, workshops, and programs to enhance teaching skills.
Ready access to graduate students for presentation of their work.
Contact for job opportunities opening late in the academic year.
Networks for sharing of research among local scholars.
While the Board of Directors has supervision of the whole, regional officers have direct responsibility for the regions. The Regional Coordinators provide a natural link between the interests and concerns of regions and those of the entire Academy.
The Regions Committee
The Regions Committee is a working group of the Board whose membership consists of the ten Regional Coordinators. 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.
Regions Newsletter January 2012
Goals of 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 program.
The smaller scale of regions enhances opportunities for developing and designating leadership for the Academy. Regional officers bear special responsibility for student members who are entering the Academy. Programs for assisting young scholars and for opening doors to participation in the AAR by students and other young members are important.
Regions sponsor workshops of various types, such as the Lilly Workshops on Teaching Religion conducted by the Midwest, New England/Maritime, Eastern International, Southwest, and Southeast regions between 1991 and 1996. Several other activities have been held, some in conjunction with the annual regional meetings and others at different times. These include: Workshops on Teaching Religion for Graduate Students; Workshops for Secondary School Teachers; Consultations on Special Topics; Faculty Exchanges; Planning Retreats.
Regions sponsor special training sessions to enhance both the work of the regions and the personal teaching and scholarship of members. Some regions have sponsored training sessions on the use of electronic communication for regional officers to improve communication regarding regional affairs and on the use of computers in research and communication among scholars.
Some regions have endowed lectureships that support a scholar from the region to lecture in institutions of the region or that support a scholar from outside the region as plenary speaker for the annual meeting.
Regions Task Force
The AAR Regions Task Force, which was charged with the responsibility of evaluating the structure, purposes, and functions of the AAR’s ten regions, concluded its work in March 2011 and submitted its final report and recommendations to the AAR Board of Directors. The Board unanimously approved the Regions Task Force recommendations and accepted the Operating Agreement for Regions at its April 2011 meeting in San Francisco, California.
The Task Force, Chaired by Brian K. Pennington of Maryville College, was appointed by former AAR President Ann Taves to address a handful of specific challenges: 1) The heightened federal scrutiny of nonprofit organizations as a result of the Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002; 2) The tremendous variability in regional structures and in regional relationships to other learned societies, such as the SBL; and 3) The absence of a uniform understanding of the relationship of the regions to the AAR as a whole. Highlights of the recommendations include incorporating all ten regions as LLCs in the State of Georgia; adding a student representative to all regional boards; allowing members to choose the region to which they will belong; and providing additional support from the AAR office in Atlanta.
To view the full final report submitted to the Board of Directors, click here.
To view a sample Operating Agreement, click here (PDF) or here (Microsoft Word).