Tara Sheehan, APPAM Executive Director
From the Director: Four Years Later, APPAM Continues to Grow
May 16, 2014 01:07 PM
I had a rather momentous anniversary over the weekend that took me by surprise. While taking my kids to see Thomas the Tank Engine in Baltimore (exciting stuff, I know), I glanced at the date on the ticket and noticed it was May 10. That date happens to be the anniversary of my start date at APPAM. I’ve been the Executive Director for four years now. It’s hard for me to remember a time when APPAM wasn’t part of my life. The last few years have been quite eventful and I’m proud of where the organization is and where we are going. What I’d like to do is take a look back at the most memorable things that have happened since 2010.
APPAM’s Board of Directors (the Policy Council) was, at one time, 43 members. I remember being taken aback by how large the Board was and how the size seemed to really counter efforts of engagement. After a lot of discussion about the best way to tackle the problem and countless versions of a plan to represent the APPAM membership on the Board, the Policy Council and membership voted affirmatively in 2013 to reduce its ranks over time from 43 members to 25 members. While 25 members is still a bit larger than your average non-profit board, it’s a step in the right direction. Hopefully, the size reduction will result in a more engaged and easy to manage Board.
APPAM underwent a full website redesign in 2012; the site had not been redesigned since the early 1990s. In addition, we changed the approach of the site to feature not just APPAM news but news about the field of public policy, projects our members were undertaking, and coverage of events and issues of interest to our members. Today, the site averages more than 11,000 visits a month and our social media presence is vibrant and growing. APPAM.org is becoming a destination for public policy news, rather than just a pit stop for information about the Fall Research Conference.
APPAM initially designed its logo in 1994. A fair amount of thought and symbolism went into the original logo and it was certainly synonymous with APPAM. It was, however, complicated to explain; without the benefit of the accompanying prose, the symbolism was lost on most. Last year at the Fall Research Conference, two final logo designs were created and the membership invited to vote for their favorite. The winner is the logo you see on these pages and one that, I think, is both contemporary and timeless. I’m particularly proud of the process we used to select the new logo. Who knows better what symbol should represent them than an organization’s members?
Fall Conference Growth
The Fall Research Conference has grown quite a bit since 2010. My very first conference in Boston (complete with non-working elevators and a labor strike!) had 1,265 attendees, 167 sessions, and 789 proposals. The 2013 conference here in Washington, DC had 1,689 attendees, 211 sessions, and 1,819 proposals. Not everyone agrees that the increase in size is a good thing, but I think it is. A bigger tent means more researchers get to present their work and more academics and practitioners become familiar with APPAM. A large part of the growth stems from activities designed to include students. I’m very happy about that change; attracting students ensures APPAM becomes an essential part of a public policy professional’s career and will keep APPAM strong in the future
APPAM is finally at the point where we have fulfilled all of the old contracts for the smaller hotels that have a hard time accommodating the current size of our conference. We are now able to select future conference sites with the idea of growth in mind. This also makes conference planning a bit easier. Attendees won’t be squeezed into a space that is too small for them, allowing for easier networking and collaboration.
APPAM Membership and Finances
APPAM’s membership has grown over the last four years. While we have quite a few more student members, our professional membership has also increased. We have almost 2,200 members in our ranks. Our finances are quite strong and APPAM’s budget has grown by 20% since 2010. We undergo annual audits and the Executive Committee receives regular updates on the sanctity of the finances.
Staff and Leadership
Finally, the staff and volunteer leadership have changed dramatically. We added a new staff position, a Communications Manager, so our staff is now at four full-timers and several contractors and consultants. The APPAM staff is incredibly bright and dedicated to the APPAM membership. Every day, all of us are thinking of new ways to make APPAM a stronger organization, one in which you truly value your membership.
I have had the privilege of working with five APPAM Presidents: Rich Burkhauser, Sunny Ladd, Sandy Archibald, Paul Decker, and Angela Evans. All very different and dedicated to APPAM. It’s amazing; I actually forget sometimes that they are volunteers. They don’t get paid for their time. They do this out of dedication to the organization, despite being an incredibly time consuming role. I can’t think of a more supportive, great group of professionals. I’m very lucky to work with such smart, capable, and pleasant people each day.
I love APPAM. I love what I do every day. I forget sometimes how lucky I am to have the job that I do; this reflection is a good opportunity to remember that. A lot of things have changed in the last four years but these have not. I’m excited to see what the next four years will bring!