The MLA is an organization of nearly 30,000 scholars, most of whom are teachers of English and the other modern languages, and the annual MLA convention is the most visible of the association's activities, attracting about 10,000 people a year to meetings in various cities across the continent. I am personally delighted that the 2007 convention was held in the city where I live, Chicago. For most of us, the convention is a way of keeping up with both our fields and our friends, as we attend formal sessions, check the new books being issued by publishers, and get together for conversations.
All this is familiar, but what may be less obvious is how much the MLA and its yearly convention act as a form of professional development that enables us to return to our classrooms and our research with renewed excitement. More than any other entity I can think of, the MLA visibly embodies the common parlor conversation--to borrow a much-cited figure from Kenneth Burke--of the languages and literatures and provides us with occasions for taking stock of our enterprise, of where we've been and where we want to go.
In addition to the convention, there are many things the association does on behalf of members that you may not know about. We are increasingly taking a leadership role on important professional and public issues, and our influence is being recognized. The recent Report of the MLA Task Force on Evaluating Scholarship for Tenure and Promotion has provoked widespread response from journalists and professional organizations, and feedback from college administrators suggests that the report's recommendations are having an impact on tenure and promotion practices. A more recent report by our Ad Hoc Committee on Foreign Languages is also generating long overdue discussion of foreign language issues. And a response earlier this year by the MLA Executive Council to a report commissioned by Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings is strengthening our voice in the national debate on education. The association hopes to be increasingly active in addressing such challenging problems as the poor job market and the growing dependence on part-time faculty members, controversies over outcomes assessment and the revision of the curriculum, and the gap between college and high school education.
I am honored and excited by the chance to work with you as president for the year 2008. I urge you to participate as fully as you can in our association's activities, and as your president I hope you won't hesitate to contact me about any issue that concerns the organization. In 2008 you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
or by mail c/o Modern Language Association, 26 Broadway, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10004-1789.Published January 2008