This past weekend I attended the national conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies in Salt Lake City. In addition to the usual conference activities of presenting a paper, serving as the discussant on a panel, and doing a lot of schmoozing with colleagues, I attended my first meeting of the Education Committee of the Association. This was a duty I volunteered for because it seemed to me that the AAASS could be doing a good bit more to promote our field through the ways that our varied subjects are taught.
AAASS is an ecumenical scholarly society in that anyone in any discipline that is in any way associated with Slavic, Soviet, or East Bloc society can feel at home. Thus, we have historians, political scientists, anthropologists, economists, linguists and literary scholars all mingling together. During the Cold War, AAASS was where it was happening. Although I didn�t join the association until after the collapse of Communism in Europe and Eurasia, I sure heard enough stories about how much bigger the Association used to be. In any given year, more than 3,000 scholars and others would attend the annual meeting. Last weekend somewhere around 1,000 people showed up in Salt Lake City and I�m willing to bet that membership in the Association is down by a similar percentage.
So, given that our field is now going to be smaller than it was when understanding those East Bloc types was vital to our very existence, why not reinvigorate what we�re doing by focusing more on our students? One way to accomplish this would be to get the Association�s membership thinking more about the scholarship of teaching and learning. We�ll see what�s possible to achieve in the months to come.