President's Report: Get Into the Fall School Spirit

Anisa M. Zvonkovic, Ph.D., NCFR President
/ Fall 2018 NCFR Report

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Fall is a traditional “back to school” time. Most of us, whether in faculty, student, or family roles, are attuned to the cyclical nature of the school calendar. As a person who has always been enrolled in school or serving as a faculty member, I am very much attuned to the rhythm of this calendar.

I love the crisp energy associated with a new school year, and I love seeing the faces of new families as they embark on an academic adventure: such as families with preschoolers in a child development center, children starting new grades, college students, graduate students, and the arrival of new faculty, which this year includes me, as I begin a new administrative position at a new university. Fall is a time of new possibilities and excitement about new things to learn and new patterns to establish.

Fall is also the time to finalize plans for attending the 2018 NCFR Annual Conference! We do hope to see you in San Diego for what promises to be an exciting conference. The program chair, Bahira Sherif Trask, has a column in this volume of NCFR Report with more information about the conference. For those who cannot travel to San Diego, we encourage you to attend virtually during any of 18 live-stream sessions, follow conference activities on social media, and look for recorded sessions in early 2019. 

I want to write a bit about the annual conference and urge you to take your “back to school” energy and use it to examine the online program carefully with an eye toward intentionally constructing new experiences for yourself at the conference. When I was program chair a while ago, I shared with the attendees at the Newcomers Welcome the idea that they should construct their program experience to be sure they got exposure to a variety of sessions. Those of you who are long-term attendees could take advantage of this advice, too. I believe you have an obligation to go outside of your typical sessions, especially outside of sessions in which you are an author! This is a great time to look at the program with fresh eyes and intentionally select sessions that will provide you with insights about Family Science that you haven’t typically explored.

As Family Scientists, we have a responsibility to learn about the broader field that shapes our discipline, and the annual conference offers unique and easy ways to do this. You can learn about a new area of study, see which areas have a lot of contemporary research interest, and hear plenaries by practitioners and scholars who are extremely well known. I would remind you that section meetings are very different from how they used to be more than five years ago. They are interactive events that are organized and arranged by section members—they typically involve exchanges of resources, working along with peers, and networking. Attending section meetings is a terrific way to develop relationships and get involved. Honestly, they’re worth being up for and in a meeting at 7 a.m.!

This paragraph is for the colleagues who are in my cohort—people who have been attending NCFR for many years. I have found that many long-time NCFR members often forget (or are too humble to realize) that we can be role models for others and that we are, in fact, the senior people to whom new attendees look for advice and for suggestions for navigating the conference and mentorship in general. I ask that you longer-term members make a point of being available to people you don’t know and try to encourage newer NCFR conference attendees in their work. Remembering the fall spirit of new beginnings helps me to remember when I was new in NCFR and how much I appreciated people who reached out to me.

Relatedly, my colleagues on the NCFR Board of Directors do want to hear from you—about your ideas for the organization and about your experiences. I can honestly say that we are interested in your perspectives so that we can best represent you. Please look for us at the conference (we will have “flair” on our name badges denoting our membership on the board) and please reach out via email to [email protected].

And now, I will share just how much I relate to new NCFR members and new conference attendees. At this very moment I’m sitting in a new office, with a new computer, trying to unlearn acronyms associated with one academic institution and to learn new ones associated with my new academic home. Today was the first time I didn’t get lost trying to find an office! All of us have been in the position of new member, and we are eager to assist with your learning and connecting with others—those are among the pleasures of being family-focused scholars and professionals!