Friday
Mar272015

Daniel Perlman, 2012-2014

Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind.

Nathanial Hawthorne

Overall the period August 1, 2012 through July 31, 2014, was a period of success for IARR. My President’s Column, “A Look Back,” in the Spring 2104 Relationship Research News was a combined review of milestones and thanks.  It served as a good summary of the activities that stood out for me.  This brief history of the era as seen from my Presidential vantage point largely overlaps with that RRN column.  This report goes beyond the column by embellishing some previously made points and covering the final stages of the period after the RRN column was submitted. 

If I were to pick highlights of this period, for me I would say:

1. The Financial health IARR enjoyed as a result of the success of the 2012 Chicago Conference and the steps forward the Finance Committee made in managing IARR’s cash reserves,

2. the Establishment of IARR’s historical archives,

3. The establishment and work of the Teaching Committee.

Conferences. IARR’s July 2012 Biennial Conference in Chicago was a wonderful springboard into this administrative period. The Chicago Conference enhanced size of the Association’s membership and got excellent ratings in an evaluation survey completed by attendees.  As icing on the cake, due to higher than expected attendance and the organizing committee’s excellent management, revenues very substantially exceeded expenditures.  With that surplus, IARR entered the 2012-2014 biennial period in the strongest financial state it had enjoyed to date. 

In October 2013 Micheal Cunningham and Anita Barbee hosted a stimulating conference on Multi-Level Motivations in Close Relationship Dynamics at the University of Louisville.  In conjunction with that conference, the Mentoring Committee, ably chaired by Jen Theiss, arranged a pre-conference professional development day. 

Under Sue Sprecher’s able leadership, the Future Conferences Committee set the stage for three conferences:

  • •       A mini-conference on Relationships, Health, and Wellness will be held in New Jersey June 19-21, 2015 (Jennifer Theiss and Kathryn Greene, Rutgers University, Organizers)
  • •       A mini-conference on “Self-regulation and Close Relationships” will be held in the Netherlands July 9-11, 2015 (Catrin Finkenauer, Francesca Righetti and Tila Pronk, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Organizers)
  • •       The 2016 Biennial Conference of the International Association for Relationship Research will be held July 20 - 24 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada (Geoff MacDonald, Emily Impett, and SiSi Tran, University of Toronto, Organizers).

Looking back, I feel one of the key decisions the Board made at its July 2012 meeting was to agree that Local Arrangements Committees for Biennial Conferences could hire a Conference Planner.  This makes it easier for IARR volunteers to run a conference but adds expense and makes the experience somewhat less of a grassroots operation. 

Also in the Conference domain IARR had approved (before the Chicago Conference) a “Dyadic Stress and Coping in Close Relationships” Conference for May 2013.  At the 2012 IARR Annual Meeting this conference was discussion with some suggestions made.  In trying to work through these suggestions, an impasse was reached and it was agreed that the conference would not go forward under IARR’s sponsorship.  For me personally this was one of the most difficult aspects of my Presidency and I look back with sadness that agreement was reached.

IARR has enjoyed an admirable tradition of biennial and mini Conferences.  They are among the Association’s key activities.  They are, nonetheless, demanding as well as complex to organize and can either modestly contribute to IARR’s financial well-being or put the Association at risk for financial losses. IARR has a generally good system in place for selecting Conference Organizers and for fostering the success of its meetings.  I am deeply appreciative of the efforts Conference (mini-conference) organizers have invested and applaud their successes.  This is an area where IARR might continue to build an organizational memory for the optimal selection of host sites, guidelines on how to operate conferences that provide optimal experiences while avoiding unnecessary expenses, etc. 

Finances. Under the Chairpersonship of Secretary-Treasurer Leah Bryant, a reconstituted Finance Committee (Chris Agnew, Bob Milardo and Sue Sprecher) reviewed IARR’s financial situation and decided to move some of IARR’s funds from a savings account to a balanced mutual fund.  In the summer of 2013, the Board also authorized some expenditures to help IARR more fully achieve its goals. 

In general, I felt IARR had matured as an organization and could cautiously and prudently begin to consider expanding the things it resourced.  A major allocation of resources in 2012 and 2014 was support for graduate students attending IARR’s Biennial Conferences.  For Melbourne, $19,000 was allocated. Some additional funds were also allocated to the Editor of Personal Relationships to take a step (only partial) toward bringing the Editor’s package more in line with what editors of peer journals and the Editor of JSPR receive.  Although Biennial conferences have sometimes provided the Association with welcomed injections of one-time revenue, I don’t believe the Association should become dependent on this less predictable source of revenue.  Instead, my view is that IARR should work to have annual revenues from reliable sources meet or modestly exceed annual expenditures. 

Historical and Administrative Archives.  To foster effective organizational functioning and preserve aspects of IARR’s history, IARR Board member Susan Boon established an IARR archive (see http://www.iarr.org/document-archive/).  Susan had advice from Rosemary Blieszner, Jacki Fitzpatrick and Sandra Petronio and web help from Ben Le.  The archive has both a public section with organizational milestone and an administrative section for IARR officers.  With Board members and Committee chairs typically changing every two years, it is important to have a repository of organizational memory including dates, practices, forms and the like.  Having this information will help incoming officers get oriented toward their responsibilities and help IARR avoid pitfalls. 

Teaching Committee.  Kelly Campbell lead a Teaching Committee, IARR’s first.  The Committee accomplished a lot, especially creating a web area.  It contains sample syllabi, a listing of texts, classic readings, media for teaching, a listing of IARR’s Teaching Award recipients, and sources that offer awards to recognize outstanding teaching and/or provide funds to support research on teaching and learning.

IARRs Web Site.  The value of the previous two initiatives were greatly increased because of the IARR web site.  One of the many good things Past-President Chris Agnew did for IARR was to appoint Ben Le as the IARR Webmaster in the spring of 2012 before the rotation of officers.  Ben, with help from the Science of Relationship team, was getting a revamped web site operational just as the 2012-2014 set of officers’ terms began.  Ben has continued enhancing the web site throughout the time since.  He handed off these responsibilities to Dylan Selterman circa the late spring 2014.

Publications. With an Advances Series, ownership of Personal Relationships, and an advisory role for Sage’s Journal of Social and Personal Relationships (JSPR), publications are a key area of IARR activity (John Caughlin, Publication Committee Chair).  During the period 2012-2014, IARR’s publications keep humming along. That included negotiating contractual agreements with Sage and Cambridge University Press, overseeing the editorial transitions for the Advances Book Series, recommending Geoff MacDonald as the next JSPR editor, and the like. Chris Agnew accepted a 3-year term as the Advances Series Editor. In the Advances Series, IARR is proud of Renate Klein’s (2012) Responding to Intimate Violence Against Women: The Role of Informal Networks and was looking forward in the fall of 2014 to Chris Agnew’s Social Influences on Romantic Relationships.  Justin Lehmiller assumed the editorship of the Relationship Research Newsletter and was in the process of innovating its format to be more in line with contemporary electronic communications. Terri Orbach chaired an ad hoc committee to discuss ways IARR might facilitate dissemination of relationship science knowledge to the public and submitted a report for the 2014 Board meeting.  Possibly further follow-up will occur during 2014-16.

In the fall of 2013 the Personal Relationships Editorial team rejected a paper by Andrew Ledbetter.  He believed the decision showed bias against research by communication scholars.  A flurry of email exchanges ensued.  I personally cherish IARR’s multidisciplinary nature and worked to insure that submissions from various disciplines are reviewed fairly.   

Membership. The Membership Committee, chaired by Rozzana Sánchez Aragón, translated information about IARR into multiple languages.  That will help IARR better achieve its goal of being an international association.

International Emphasis. Complementing the multilingual thrust of the Membership Committee, the International Committee (Gery Karantzas, Chair) conducted semi structured interviews with members living outside North America.  The key issues identified were: (1) the ability to network with international scholars in similar regions as well as other regions – the networking can enhance cross-national and cross-cultural collaborations; (2) strategies and tips to enhance publication success in the two IARR journals; (3) developing a stronger emphasis on relationship research that integrates cultural perspectives. 

Media.  The Media Committee (Bjarne Holmes, Chair) successfully promoted the work of several IARR members, helping to get their findings and ideas into esteemed media outlets such as NBC News, CBS Morning Show, New York Times, Washington Post, National Public Radio, and Canadian Public Radio. Bjarne Holmes’ Relationship Matters JSPR podcasts, sponsored by Sage, have garnered over15,000 listeners.  The Media Committee worked as a team together with Melbourne organizing committees to develop a Media Kit and a system for Press participation in the 2014 conference. A press friendly event was held the day prior to the opening of IARR’s Melbourne Conference.

Melbourne Board Meeting and Conference. The capstone of the 2012-2014 period was the Melbourne Board Meeting and Conference.  The Board effectively worked through a full agenda (the agenda book and meeting minutes have been archived), with some members/committee chairs participating via conference call.  The meeting discussed various reports, considered a motion to divide the Secretary-Treasurer's position and devoted time to discussing IARR’s web and media relations.  Concrete decisions were not made at this Board meeting regarding the latter two domains but follow up is likely. 

The Local Arrangements (Gery Karantzas, Chair) and Program Committees (Rebecca Pinkus, Chair) worked hard to insure that the 2014 IARR Biennial Conference had the key ingredients we desire: a program packed with cutting edge and exciting research, opportunities for networking and a dash of academic tourism.  Approximately 240 participants attended.  Evaluations of the Conference were very positive.  As a first for IARR Conferences, the Program Committee arranged to videotape the keynote addresses and make them available to all IARR members. 

Tasks Needing Further Attention. As I looked at IARR’s situation at the end of my term, I saw some tasks warranting further attention.  These included:

Reducing the fluctuation in the size of IARR’s membership by better retaining members following well attended conferences,

Further fine tuning IARR’s budgeting procedures consistent with IARR’s larger size of operation, being deeply thankful that IARR’s finances have worked very well in the past,

Reviewing the goals of the IARR web site to consider its purpose and audience (e.g., primarily IARR members vs. a broader audience) as well as IARR’s media relations/knowledge dissemination agenda. 

As with many innovations, I feel a review of the decision to have Conference Planners would be appropriate, perhaps in conjunction with the 2016 IARR Board meeting.  Should IARR retain a Conference Planner?  If so, when should they be hired (e.g., prior to arranging hotel and other contracts or afterwards)?  What should their tasks be?  Should IARR be getting advice on the cities in which conferences are held? 

Signing Off and Thanks.  It was an honor for me to serve as IARR President.  Mid-way through my term, I made a list of IARR’s current committee members and past key officers.  It numbered over 100, roughly one of every five members.  To all of you and to all others who have supported IARR, you make the organization the success it is.  I express thanks. 

January 11, 2015

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