Letter from the President of the World History Association.
It has been six months since I had the pleasure of writing to you all in the 2015 Spring Edition of the WHA Bulletin, during my second year as President of the WHA. My focus for the past six months, in conjunction with WHA officers and Executive Council members, has been to continue to work towards financial and membership stability, and to maintain our reputation for staging successful conferences. Thanks to the hard work of our Administrative Coordinator/Executive Director Kerry Vieira, I am delighted to report that we have made substantial advances on all fronts. Kerry has assembled a very competent team to work with her in our office at Northeastern University, including Graduate Assistant Olivier Schouteden, and returning student worker Cathy Tripp. Under Kerry's supervision, the WHA NU team is efficiently and energetically managing the affairs of the WHA, looking after our finances, communications, member inquiries, conference planning and management, and a host of other matters. On behalf of all our members I want to thank Kerry for her enormous contribution to the WHA.
I also want to thank again my fellow officers--VP Rick Warner, Secretary (and Conference Program Committee Chair) Maryanne Rhett, and Treasurer Carolyn Neel--for their hard work and support; and of course all members of the Executive Council for their energetic and diligent attention to business, as exemplified at our annual meeting in Savannah in June. Our secretariat in Boston and our elected representatives from all over the world have evolved into a truly formidable team that has carried the WHA through a significant relocation last year to a successful and stable 2015. I also want to note that this edition of the Bulletin of the World History Association is the first to be edited by Dr. Denis Gainty. The Bulletin is the product of a congenial partnership between the WHA, the Southeast World History Association, and the History Department at Georgia State University. We are delighted that this arrangement will continue for at least the next five years, and on behalf of all members I say welcome aboard Denis, and thank you for your willingness to serve the WHA in this important way!
Since I took up the presidency in January 2014 my principal goals have been to ensure that our membership continues to grow, that we maintain regular communication with current and former members, that planning for our future conferences and symposia is carried out meticulously, and that our financial situation becomes more and more stable. As I write this report our membership is approaching 750 (from a low of around 430 at the start of 2014). We have been conducting regular membership drives ever since Kerry took up her position, and I will take the lead in another membership push towards the end of this year. Our finances are also in a much better position than they were six months ago, with more than $60,000 in our current operating accounts. In addition, some small repayments of the amount borrowed from the Endowment Fund have been made, and VP Rick Warner will help spearhead a fundraising drive in December, from which all funds raised will be sent directly to the Endowment.
The World History Association also staged an excellent 24th annual conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Savannah, between June 30th and July 2nd this year. Maryanne Rhett did a superb job in putting together a complex program of panels, roundtables, Meet the Author sessions, AP workshops and so on; and Kerry was able to attract many publishers and other sponsors to the conference. In the end close to 300 people attended the conference to enjoy its many highlights, including two excellent receptions, some 75 panels and workshops featuring a range of established and up-and-coming world historians, a fascinating keynote address from Professor Candice Goucher, the presentation of Pioneers of World History Awards to Candice and Sharon Cohen, and the awarding of a range of other prizes and scholarships including the William H. McNeill Teacher Scholarship to Sally Stanhope & Earl K. Cherry, Jr., the WHA World Scholar Travel Fund awards to Aksadul Alam & Matthew Wiseman, and the WHA Dissertation Prize presented in Savannah to Bryce Beemer. Congratulations to all these worthy recipients!
Following our success at Savannah, a great deal of work has been going on planning the 25th annual conference, which be held at the University of Ghent in Belgium in July 2016. Kerry and her team, in conjunction with the WHA officers and our Belgian colleagues Torsten and Eric, have booked some superb conference venues and hotels, and are in the process of organizing some fascinating pre- and post-conference tours. Just a week before writing this message the Call for Papers was released, and I have no doubt that Ghent 2016 will be a huge success, the latest in the long line of wonderful international conferences the WHA has organized. I know that many members are already gearing up to combine the Ghent conference with some exciting European travel in the summer of 2016. Coincidentally, the International Big History Association will be staging its 2016 conference at the University of Amsterdam a week or so after the WHA Ghent Conference, so perhaps some of you might consider attending both conferences, and partaking of the spectacular tours being organized by both Associations.
During 2015 several WHA affiliates have staged very successful symposia: a combined California and Northwest Affiliate gathering in Seattle; a terrific New England Regional WHA Affiliate symposium in Boston; a congenial Southeast WHA Conference in Savannah; and an intellectually stimulating Midwest World History Association Annual Conference at Wabash College in Indiana, which I had the pleasure of attending and from which I have only just returned as I write this message.
At the sessions I attended at Wabash I was struck by the amount of fascinating research that is being undertaken by seasoned world historians and graduate students alike, and thoroughly enjoyed the many papers I heard from a numbe of colleagues and graduate students, including a 'delicious' keynote on food in world history delivered by Dr. Jonathan Reynolds!
In conclusion, I am delighted to report that world history is thriving around the country and indeed all over the world. This will be my last Bulletin message as President, and I want to thank you most sincerely for your trust in me, and your continuing support for the Association, for Kerry and our Boston team, and the elected representatives whose duty it is to oversee operations. I know we can count on you to continue your membership of the WHA in the future, to encourage your colleagues and students to also join, and to remain committed to this great community of world historians who are dedicated to improving the present and future of the planet through I research, education and advocacy.
Craig Benjamin, PhD.
President, the World History Association (2014/15)