Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Programs

March 17, 2017

An Open Letter from the Board

Dear AGLSP Colleagues,

On behalf of the Executive Board, I am writing today with updates about our activity during the first quarter of 2017.  It has been an incredibly busy time, with many changes and challenges to navigate so we thought it would be useful to inform the membership of recent developments and to update you on our plan for moving forward.

As most of you are aware, the Association has had the privilege of sharing its home office operation with Duke University for more than a dozen years, made possible through the gracious support of Duke’s GLS Program Director, Dr. Donna Zapf. The stellar work of Marialana Weitzel, AGLSP Office Administrator, as well as that of her predecessor, Ellen Levine, resulted in a mutually beneficial partnership with Duke, and under their leadership, the Association made major improvements in its operations and processes.   


Martha Banz, President AGLSP

Unfortunately, we received notification in December that Marialana would be transitioning to another staff position on the Duke campus.  That transition, along with other relevant considerations, led Dr. Zapf to notify the Board in January that we would need to find a new placement for the national office.  Although we are sad to reach the end of this particular chapter in the Association’s history, we want to take the opportunity to publicly express our deep and heartfelt appreciation to Dr. Zapf for the incredible support she provided while the home office was located at Duke University, and to Ms. Weitzel for the outstanding work she provided over the past three years.  The Association is on solid footing due to their good efforts, and we are grateful!

Since January, we have been investigating several options for the home office and those negotiations are continuing.  Until such time as a final decision is reached, however, the University of Oklahoma has agreed to take over day-to-day oversight on an interim basis, and we will do our best to assure that the good service and support standard set at Duke will continue uninterrupted.  The Association’s email address remains unchanged ( and should you need to contact us directly, the new phone number is 405-325-1245.

As a Board, we also want to update you on the status of the Annual Fall Conference.  As you will recall from our numerous earlier communications, the Association had signed a contract on 1 Feb 2016 with the Sheraton in Raleigh, NC to serve as our host site, and with North Carolina State University’s GLS program, under the direction of Dr. Michael Garval, as the local host.  A few weeks after our signing the contract, the North Carolina legislature enacted House Bill 2 (HB2), “The Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act.”  Controversy over this law erupted immediately, with a significant proportion of our member institutions reporting that they and/or their students could not or would not participate if the conference were held in North Carolina while HB2 was still in effect.  However, recognizing the significant financial penalty that would accrue from canceling the Sheraton contract, the Board decided to wait and see whether the repeal efforts would be successful, which would have rendered the issue moot.  Once it became clear in late January that repeal was not forthcoming, however, the Board began considering a range of other possible options (such as holding the conference elsewhere, changing the date, etc.).  In the midst of that exploration, we received word of Marialana’s resignation and the need to move the home office.  In addition, the in-kind conference support that NCSU had originally intended to provide was also withdrawn, complicating NCSU’s hosting responsibilities.  The “perfect storm” of these complications on top of the already-challenging HB2 situation led the Board to make the very, very difficult decision to cancel the national conference for this fall.  Although we will still incur a penalty for doing so, we are grateful that the Sheraton has worked with us to help minimize the financial hit as much as possible.

Because we recognize the important role of the Annual Fall Conference in the life of the Association, we want to ameliorate the consequences of its cancellation as much as we possibly can.  Therefore, we will be working with the various Regional Symposia, highlighting those venues in a more systematic way to the larger Association membership as a means for our students and faculty members to present their work throughout the year.  Our capable Confluence editor, Dr. Steven Burr, has also increased the capacity of the Association’s journal to publish a larger number of articles in a more timely fashion, increasing its utility as a publication venue for our Association members as well.  In recent years, the Thursday pre-conference workshop for program directors has also been very popular so we are working on plans to provide webinars and/or other similar resources to support their work throughout the year and will keep you posted as those plans unfold.

We, your AGLSP Board, recognize that our decision to cancel the fall conference may not be a popular one and yet, given the circumstances noted above, we felt that this course of action was the most responsible one available to us.  We thank you for the candid feedback you provided to us, both at the 2016 fall conference as well as through the member survey and list-serve discussions.  That information was very helpful as we attempted to realistically investigate our options.  Please know that we are actively planning for the 2018 conference in a location that will be accessible to all our institutional and individual members and are confident of a bright future.  We especially thank you for your continuing support during this season of transition!

Best regards,
Martha L. Banz, Ph.D.
President, AGLSP