As current student members of the Northeastern Anthropological Association, we would like to take this opportunity to tell you a few things about our association from the students’ perspective.
Our association is unquestionably unique. More than any other national or international professional organization, the NEAA provides a supportive environment for anthropologists at all stages in their careers representing all the anthropological subfields. Moreover, because this is a regional association, the connections we make with other members are easy to sustain and grow into lasting research partnerships. The supportive community that we have developed as members is one of the most important and positive aspects of our association. We were all attracted to this aspect of the association and continue to value and sustain it as students.
One of the nicest features of our association is that it has very active professional, professorial, practicing, and student members. All of the anthropological subdisciplines are represented in our membership. As a result, the association is successfully able to implement broad disciplinary collegial relationships among students and between students and faculty. This facilitates the development and refinement of research skills, presentation skills, and academic/intellectual sophistication.
One exciting aspect of our association is that there are ample opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to present research alongside faculty and other practicing anthropologists in formal and informal forums. In addition to paper presentations, workshops, and poster sessions, the annual association meetings typically offer social festivities that have a relaxed, casual atmosphere about them, inviting long conversations among interesting combinations of minds encouraging intellectual development and lively discussion in a variety of research areas. Several faculty members have organized student-faculty research groups that present regularly. Students are strongly encouraged to present their research. These meetings provide opportunities to exchange ideas, receive feedback, and to learn how to present research ideas.
It is not uncommon for faculty and practicing anthropologists to approach students during our annual meetings after a presentation with constructive feedback and invitations to continue conversations in a relaxed, casual atmosphere. Students are able to interact with anthropologists other than those at their host institutions, who can provide critical feedback on presentations and research projects.
An appealing feature to many undergraduate and graduate students is the opportunity to meet other students with similar academic interests outside of their own university or college. The Northeastern Anthropological Association also provides networking opportunities for students to form lasting interactions with existing faculty. Whether you are an undergraduate interested in graduate schools, or a graduate student interested in job opportunities the regional atmosphere makes for a positive opportunity to make beneficial connections between colleagues, possible graduate programs, and potential future employers.
There are numerous opportunities for student participation and input into the association and annual meeting planning. Student representatives sit in on the association committee creating a framework that encourages students to be involved in more than just presenting and audience roles. This model extends beyond annual meetings and association affairs. All students are encouraged to become involved in local anthropology clubs and professional organizations that affect us as anthropologists. Students of any level are encouraged to present their research in either oral presentation or poster form at the annual Northeastern Anthropological Association meetings. This activity provides invaluable feedback for future professionals. Students are also encouraged and supported in their efforts to gain anthropological experience either by forming network bonds with other students and professionals or by attending workshops at the annual meetings.
The Northeastern Anthropological Association is a professional association that stresses accessibility and affordability. Annual fees for students are minimal especially compared with other national anthropological associations. Our annual meetings are always located in the local geographic area making travel easier and lodging less expensive. Because of this accessibility and affordability, students are able to focus more on the various benefits that sustained membership to a regional organization such as the NEAAs has to offer. Moreover, the casual atmosphere of our annual meetings makes presenting our research as students less stressful than other national meetings. Undergraduates, graduates, junior faculty, senior faculty, and professionals are all welcomed to attend and present their research and then have lively discussions that follow the group into a local café, pub, or coffee shop.
Angela Labrador (UMass), Graduate Student Representative
Heather Slivko-Bathurst (SUNY New Paltz), Undergraduate Student Representative
Matthew Trevett-Smith (St. Lawrence University), Membership Coordinator
Since its founding in 1961 and its first annual meeting of a hundred registrants in Buffalo, New York, the NEAA has earned a reputation and a devoted following as the informal regional professional association holding conferences that professionals and their students from Pennsylvania to Quebec and Maine enjoyed attending.
The first NEAA conference I participated in set the tone for me. I stepped in at the eleventh hour to help archaeologist Al Dekin (now emeritus of the Public Archaeology Lab at SUNY Binghamton) to co-chair the 1975 meetings here at SUNY Potsdam. The entire conference was on campus— the paper sessions, rooms, meals, and evening entertainment were all a short walking distance apart. At one point we 150 participants filled a student residence hall lounge, munched free popcorn washed down with free beer, and watched ethnographic films. I was impressed how the informality seemed actually to increase the level of scholarly exchange. I made collegial contacts I retain thirty years later.
Obviously other people felt the same, because ten years later, when I helped archaeologist Steven Marqusee (SUNY Potsdam) and a supportive team from St. Lawrence University and Clarkson University to host the meetings in Lake Placid, twice as many anthropologists attended. The association had grown to over 600 members and had accumulated a nice nest egg for projects like publishing Confronting the Creationists and awarding student paper prizes in a competition for both graduates and undergraduates.
Now in its 48th year, the NEAA remains the premier anthropology association in our region. With your participation, Barrett Brenton of St. John’s College, NEAA’s president, and his executive committee will retain the following qualities that make the association worth your membership:
1. It’s integrated. We affirm the value of cross-field communication among archaeologists, physical anthropologists, applied, cultural and linguistic anthropologists. Panels at our meetings have represented all the subfields. Members who teach at liberal arts colleges benefit enormously from this breadth. Though I am a cultural anthropologist, for example, I’m an historical archaeology buff, so I go out of my way to catch the conference presentations on forts, farms, and slave cabins.
2. It’s collegial. Members and conference participants include professors from research universities, instructors at two- and four-year colleges, practitioners in government, nonprofit and commercial sectors, students, amateurs, and public school teachers. This collegiality grounds us in the full range of application of anthropology.
3. It’s inexpensive. We set membership fees so that anyone may join, stay informed, and attend conferences. We hold conferences on campuses or venues where costs can be minimized. Your executive committee will not ride off in all directions at once, but will continue to do a few things well. Our newsletter, website, and conferences are primary. We will also continue to offer annual student paper and poster prizes.
4. It’s international. Including New Jersey and Pennsylvania, then north to Ontario and east to Newfoundland, our association doesn’t ignore local and national differences among us—it relishes them. Regional association means that conferences and colleagues are not far away, so interaction is relatively easy and inexpensive.
5. It’s informal. Organization is minimal. We have no paid employees. The budget is small and we will work within it. Conferences usually break even (with generous help from the host institution). To get something done, call an executive committee member. Better yet: volunteer to do it yourself! Conferences provide great flexibility in the way sessions are organized. Hosting a conference is manageable for a team of two or three people, a corps of enthusiastic students, and a little help from the dean or boss.
John T. Omohundro
Distinguished Teaching Professor & Director of Learning Communities
Department of Anthropology