The Road to Boston
Larry Gross, President-Elect, International Communication Association
“First, a little institutional history.
In the early 1990s I chaired an ICA Task Force on Diversity that was charged, among other things, with recommending ways to increase the attendance at conferences and participation in the organization by members of underrepresented minorities in the United States. The Task Force, whose members included Julie D’Acci, Navita James, Geetu Melwani, Federico Subervi, James Taylor, and Angharad Valdivia, made a recommendation to the Board that a program of travel grants be initiated to support minority students who had papers accepted for the ICA conference.
After several years of discussion – or so it seems in recollection — at the Albuquerque meetings in May 1995 the ICA Board adopted the proposal to add a surcharge of $1USD to each conference registration fee and use the funds so obtained to provide travel scholarships to minority students attending the Chicago meetings (minority being defined here as African-American, Hispanic/Latino/a, Native American, Pacific Islander).
The program began small. In the 1996 Report of the Task Force, I noted:
Four nominations were forwarded from divisions to the ICA Headquarters, and an ad hoc consultative group (Task Force Chair Larry Gross, Conference Program Chair Stan Deetz, and ICA Executive Director Bob Cox) decided to award grants totaling $1300 USD to the four nominees (the figure of $1300 USD was agreed on as a reasonable estimate of the surcharge yield). We agreed to allocate $300 USD to each of three “mainland” student members, and $400 USD to a student member travelling from Hawaii.
That was then.
In the decade and a half since the travel awards were initiated, ICA has undergone a radical shift towards internationalization – a commitment to making the “I” in its name reflect reality as well as aspiration – and the travel grant program has expanded its focus to support the goal of encouraging and enabling participation of students, and faculty, from UN Tier B and C countries. In 2010, in Singapore, the Board voted to increase the conference fee surcharge (actually, this is folded into the conference fee) to $5.00 USD.
In 2003 the Annenberg School at the University of Pennsylvania endowed two funds in support of conference travel grants (one, embarrassingly, named in my honor). The interest from these funds provides additional money to the available pool of travel support. Finally, many divisions devote a large portion of the funds available to them to providing travel grants.
This year a total of over $35,000 USD was awarded to 55 conference participants. We are able to provide travel grants ranging from $500 USD to $900 USD (the amounts vary in relation to the distance and travel costs incurred). Travel fund recipients come from 22 countries, including the United States. Forty-three of the recipients are students; 12 are faculty members. The largest number come from the United States (22), followed by the People’s Republic of China and Korea with five each. Other countries represented include Argentina, Costa Rica, Egypt, India, Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines, Romania and Singapore.
The road to this point has been long, but the goal is an important one to ICA’s mission and the progress we’ve made since we started this effort 15 years ago is truly gratifying, even while it is clear that we still have some distance to go. So, please make the journey to Boston and join us as we build the ICA we all want to see flourish.”