Written by Jeni Hart, ASHE 2024 President
As an early career scholar, I worked at a regional state university. I remember my first ASHE as an assistant professor. I introduced myself to colleagues who would ask where I worked. Upon sharing, many would dismiss me and walk away. Others were more subtle, but the message was the same: I did not have the “right” pedigree; I was not an important scholar–or maybe even a scholar at all. The following year, I moved to another university–a large research university that was a member of the AAU. What a difference a year made. I introduced myself to colleagues who again asked where I worked. People were interested in what I was bringing to ASHE and what I had to share with the community as a scholar. These experiences made me reflect on what it meant to be a scholar and who “earned” that status. Did I really become more scholarly in a year’s time?
The intent of the 2024 conference theme, “I Am A Scholar,” is to not only consider our own identities as scholars, but to consider who we are as a scholarly community. As you reflect upon your own ideas about what makes you a scholar, I invite you to consider dismantling the hierarchies that have been constructed about who is worthy of the title “scholar.” I believe these often create barriers to better policy, practice, and scholarship.
The theme is not about navel gazing, something for which many of us are unfairly critiqued in our work. Rather, this is a project to welcome and learn from a community of scholars from a variety of institution types, associations, policy settings, unique identities, geographies, methodologies, epistemologies, positions within and beyond academe, and myriad other locations. Collectively, we can stake our claim as scholars who continue to transform higher education through the work we do.
Moreover, if inclusion, equity, and organizational diversity are among our values, we must be willing to consider the ways in which assumptions about who can and should be a scholar limit what we can accomplish as a community. We must critically interrogate the exclusionary practices in which we engage regarding be(com)ing a scholar and how those practices compromise the integrity of our scholarship. I believe we become better scholars by doing so—and in that way, we create better scholarship. Higher education, and the communities in which we work and live, are faced with vexing, complex, and wicked problems. We need all of our scholarly selves to find solutions and actively work toward our purpose and the purpose of higher education.
We must also acknowledge the tension that exists between neoliberal ideas of scholarly production and what role a conference plays in this—and at the same time, we hope to create a conference beyond reporting findings that centers on dialogue, exchanging ideas, learning from each other, and pushing ourselves to consider perspectives that may challenge our own. As you respond to this call for proposals, reflect upon how your proposal can shape the 2024 ASHE Conference to be a space and place to further realize who we are as scholars and as a scholarly community.