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The April 2019 Convention is more than half a year away, but if you are proposing a panel that may dictate whether you can attend or not, the convention ghost makes a visit this week. Panel proposals are due September 17. Online submissions make it easy to submit your plans.  But successful submissions still depend on the critical eyes of your peers.

Panel submissions are an open invitation to join the party, and an academic directive to share that invitation with others. Knowledge means nothing if you don’t share it, and to get with this program, you have to get in the program. One thing that many members don’t know is that it is possible to submit a panel idea before identifying all of your panelists. In this case the idea needs to carry the full potential of the proposal, but once accepted, allows you to openly seek academic peers who have expertise for the topic, and BEA has social media to help.

As always, superior content is key. Reviewers are looking for cutting edge ideas that will make your panel relevant. Your idea will be successful if your panelists introduce state-of-the-art teaching pedagogy, knowledge-enhancing research revelations, unique production techniques, and fresh ideas for using technology to push the envelope on audio, video and graphic creativity. A catchy title that captures the unique essence of your panel can seal the deal. Thinking outside of the BEA membership box is a big plus. Resist the temptation to let your personal hang ups keep you from calling someone you don’t know, then don’t let them hang up until they hear your pitch. Remember that if you convince two non-members to participate, and if they sign on as members, your membership for the coming year is free.

With that many clichés in just a couple of paragraphs, you probably hope that I’m finished suggesting ideas for your panels. But there’s one more essential component. When you get into the panel submission site, you will encounter questions about diversity and inclusion. These questions are not meant to be a subtle hint to expand the cultural scope of your considerations about panelists and content. Instead, they are a direct “ask” for you to help BEA become a leader in communicating the importance of diversity and inclusion.

In my opinion, we are well past the era when it is necessary to dance around this subject with carefully crafted language that “implies” the importance of inclusivity. At the same time, though, this is not a rule, and there are no quotas. Instead, it is a call for action to affirm a dedicated, proactive effort to seek, find, and involve scholars, teachers, and creators who represent the diversity of our society, values, and academic expertise.

Perhaps most important is a direct attempt to find panelists and topics representing inclusive populations. BEA is an organization founded on the impact of audio and visual programming. There is no better way to represent our commitment to inclusivity than to ensure that the blended, on-stage personality of BEA clearly represents the widely diverse voices, faces and cultures associated with race, gender, national origin, religion, and LGBTIQ communities. It’s an organizational philosophy, but individual commitment has to inspire personal action.

There are many ways you can approach this sometimes-delicate, but always relevant effort. First and foremost, look around you. Which members of your faculty can add dimensions of diversity to BEA programming? Do you have current or former graduate students with diverse perspectives? Have you met or heard someone at another conference who can improve BEA through sharing who they are and what they know? Hint: The extensive AEJMC, ICA, NCA, IAMCR, SPJ and NAB programs (as well as others) have numerous lists of new and existing faculty at member institutions. These are just some of many potential resources available, and don’t forget to take a look at former BEA programs for names of graduate students who have gone on to academic careers. The list of your potential sources could even include BEA’s entire international community.

Have you seen or heard broadcast or online programming related to inclusion that can lead you to producers who are potential speakers? You certainly have a network of fellow scholars and faculty. Contact them and ask them to help contribute information for your search. Your BEA division chair has a network. The BEA Board of Directors includes members with decades of experience and thousands of connections in academia and the profession. Diversity and Inclusion committee members, including chair Kim Zarkin, likely can connect you with individuals who can contribute.

So please consider this a call to action. Seek and find the diversity that we need to become an even greater organization. Look in, and beyond the offices down your hall. Use BEA resources to seek panelists for specific topics, and let others know that diversity and inclusion are important factors to make the topic of your panel idea whole. If the ideas above don’t help, give Google or Siri a chance to help.  They like to show off, and they have more connections than all of us.