It’s my pleasure to get to write to you in my new role as POD Network President to share some updates about the organization, including some decisions made at the recent Core Committee business meeting. At that meeting we welcomed our newest cohort of Core members and offered our thanks to the members rotating off, including Past President Francine Glazer
New in the POD Office
Fran ended her time as Past President on a high note, leading a successful search for POD’s new Executive Director. You can expect an email from Fran soon with the formal announcement of our new ED, who will begin work in August. I am incredibly grateful to Fran and all the members of the search committee for the time and care they put into this process.
The staffing of the POD Office continues to evolve to meet the changing needs of our organization. The new ED will be joining Gaye Webb, recently promoted to Administrative Manager, and Karen Johnson, our new half-time Administrative Assistant, to staff the POD Office.
As part of the ongoing reorganization of POD’s professional staff, we have decided not to renew Keeghan Sinanan’s contract as POD’s social media manager. We thank Keeghan for his service to the POD Network and the many ways he’s helped grow our digital presence. The Digital Resources & Innovation Committee will be stepping up to manage our social media accounts for the time being. The new Executive Director will be responsible for continuing to evaluate the needs of the POD Network and shape the office staff accordingly.
At their June business meeting, the Core Committee met with the Conference Co-Chairs, Kristin English and Heeyoung Kim, to hear the latest updates from the conference team. The conference team has gone above and beyond this year, stepping up to fill the gaps left by Hoag’s departure, and Core expressed their great appreciation for all their work so far.
Kristin and Heeyoung shared that they received 434 total conference submissions that were reviewed by 192 reviewers. Once those reviews were completed, 21 Session Coordinators provided additional comments regarding which sessions should be programmed by session type. Decisions about proposal acceptances should be going out by mid-July.
Kristin and Heeyoung also shared a couple changes being made this year. One, they heard the feedback about session length and decided to go back to 60 and 75 minutes for most sessions. The online venue will feature recording of sessions to allow attendees to watch sessions after this year, plus attendees will have the option to dual register for both the Pittsburgh and online venues. Core also spent a good amount of time discussing the health precautions we’ll be putting in place at the conference. Once those details are finalized, we will share full plans with the membership.
The bulk of Core’s work in June was dedicated to approving a balanced budget for the 2023-2024 fiscal year. Building the budget involves anticipating what revenue POD will be bringing in this coming year — primarily via membership and conference registration fees — and making sure the organization’s expected costs don’t exceed that estimate. POD’s expenses consist of salaries and benefits for POD Office personnel, conference expenses, and funds to support programs and initiatives coming out of our volunteer-led committees and Special Interest Groups.
Responsibly balancing the budget was difficult this year, and I’m grateful to Chad Hershock, Finance Committee Chair, for his exemplary leadership of this process. Inflation, along with hikes in A/V and food costs, dramatically increased conference costs. Additionally, POD leadership recognized the need to grow the POD Office to meet emerging organizational needs. The Executive Committee also chose to significantly raise salaries for the Executive Director and Administrative Manager. The POD Network has historically paid the POD Office staff well under market rates, a situation that limited our ability to recruit and retain talented staff and also is counter to POD’s commitments to equity and inclusion. The above factors, along with larger budget requests from POD committees and SIGs over the last two years, increased expenses by over $300,000.
The Finance, Core, and Conference Committees worked carefully to reduce expenses, making numerous difficult decisions. Budget cuts included eliminating the social media position in the POD Office, planning to hold the Spring 2024 Core Committee business meeting remotely, reducing conference food expenses, and putting an $80,000 cap on total allocations to POD committees and SIGs (i.e., roughly 50% of the funds requested). The POD Office and Finance Committee continue to explore new revenue sources (e.g., sponsors for the conference, productive yet low risk investment strategies). However, in the absence of substantive and immediate new revenue sources, Core voted to raise membership fees by $35 and conference registration fees by $90 in order to balance the budget.
The POD Network’s goal is to provide maximum member benefits while keeping membership and conference fees as low as possible. For reference, from 2017-2022 conference and membership fees did not increase appreciably. POD’s 2023 fees remain lower than many comparable on-site and remote education-related conferences that offer fewer sessions than POD. Additionally, Core was still able to fund a number of extant and new programs aligned with values prioritized in POD’s strategic plan, including, but not limited to: Wulff Diversity Fellowships (DEI Committee), Career Development Grants (GPPD SIG), research grants (Scholarship Committee), book clubs (Equity & Education SIG), and Scholarly Writing Fellowships (To Improve the Academy).
Lowering Financial Barriers & Needs-Based Aid Pilot
As part of their budget discussions, Core also reviewed the report recently submitted by the Lowering Financial Barriers ad hoc committee, charged with investigating ways the POD Network could lower financial barriers that limit participation in the organization. The most significant of the ad hoc’s recommendations was a proposal to pilot a Needs-Based Aid program to support travel and registration costs for the remote and Pittsburgh conferences. Core approved $25,000 — to be taken from any surplus funds from FY23 and POD’s investments if necessary — to fund the pilot. Additionally, pending evaluation of the pilot, Core approved a plan to finance a similar or larger fund in future years that would not increase membership or conference fees.
We recognize that the needs-based aid pilot will only address some of the real need our members can face in attending the conference. We will continue to explore options for how we can make participation in POD accessible to all in our community.
I’m excited about the work that the Executive Committee, Core Committee, and all of POD’s volunteer leaders have ahead of us this year. And I look forward to sharing that good work with you as it develops.
Stacy Grooters (she/her)
President, The POD Network
Executive Director, Center for Teaching Excellence