I just returned from a two-day trip to the University of Richmond for the Virginia Social Science Association’s annual meeting. For the past two years I’ve served on the board of directors and worked as the organization’s secretary. This year I am taking on the chair of the student papers committee. We are a relatively small organization that brings together scholars from all of Virginia’s colleges and universities – as well as scholars from outside the state – and in all areas of the social sciences. In addition to our annual meeting we also publish the Virginia Social Science Journal once a year. Virginia Tech historian Peter Wallenstein has served as president for the last two years and will continue for one more year.
The meeting this year was a huge success. The program included sessions on terrorism and the future of U.S. foreign policy, the history of Virginia and the west, historical studies of higher education, and global developments in the twentieth century. Since we have scholars from various subjects the conference creates a wonderful interdisciplinary environment. This is perfect for people like myself who tend to think that departmental walls prevent relevant and potentially fruitful interaction. The highlight of the conference is the awards ceremony. This year we presented three scholars awards to historian Warren Hofstra of Shenandoah University, Anthropologist Tomoko Hamada of William and Mary, and Political Scientist Sidney Milkis of the University of Virginia. All three shared personal stories of their intellectual journeys. Our service award this year was presented to former Virginia Governor A. Linwood Holton. He is still in good health and had us in stitches with his family stories. I enjoyed it all.
What I enjoy most about being involved in this organization is the emphasis on student research and involvment in the annual meeting. We encourage both undergraduate and graduate students to submit their work for consideration for the meeting. This gives students an opportunity to present their research in a more public forum and a taste of what goes on in these types of meetings. We offer both graduate and undergraduate awards for best papers and we encourage the award winners to submit their papers for possible publication in our journal. I was lucky enough to present the graduate award to a student who like myself is completing his M.A. degree and teaching high school.
Next year’s meeting will also take place at the University of Richmond. I anticipate great things for this organization in the coming years.