Dear UACES colleague,
I hope you and your friends and family are well during these troubling and uncertain times. It has been great to see that the UACES community has remained as vibrant and supportive as ever online and on Social Media as colleagues have adapted to the realities of teaching, researching and staying in touch in a virtual environment. The UACES office have been doing a great job working remotely from home since March 13 to keep us connected so my thanks to Emily, Emma and Melina for all of their efforts. These have included setting up a series of ‘midweek meetups’ where members have discussed a range of topics such as work-life balance and ideas for online teaching. If you would like to be part of our #FeatureFriday on Twitter and Facebook, do please contact the UACES office on the firstname.lastname@example.org email. If you are looking for European Studies related materials and ideas during the lockdown, can I draw your attention to some of the excellent materials in our archive? Also, do please continue to send your blogs to Ideas on Europe.
Earlier this month, due to the continued uncertainty surrounding the COVID19 pandemic, the UACES officers took the difficult decision of cancelling what would have been our 50th Annual Conference, which was due to take place in September. I, like many colleagues, was much looking forward to this milestone event in Belfast where I have great memories of the conference there back in 2002. I would like to say a big thank you to Viviane Gravey, Lee McGowan and Dagmar Schiek, the organisers at Queens University, for all of their hard work and endeavour in coordinating what I know would have been a great gathering of our UACES community. We much look forward to returning to Belfast in the near future.
We have had a very positive response from our Belfast paper givers about the prospect of organising some online events or some form of virtual conference to fill the gap left by Belfast. The UACES office will be in touch with you shortly with some details about this as well as news about the rescheduling of the AGM which would have taken place in Belfast. We also hope to be in a position to update members soon about our plans in terms of future annual conference destinations. In the meantime, I can confirm that it is our intention that the 2021 conference will take place in Liverpool as planned.
Sadly, the Graduate Forum (GF) Annual Conference, which was scheduled to take place in Berlin in July, also had to be cancelled. My thanks to Rachael Dickson and the GF committee for all of their efforts preparing for this event. I am very pleased to report that a series of GF virtual research sessions, allowing UACES PhD students and Early Career Researchers the opportunity to showcase their work, was launched earlier this month so do check out the excellent programme.
I am happy to report that the inaugural workshop of our Erasmsus+ Jean Monnet-funded project DIMES on the theme of Diversity, Inclusion and Multidisciplinarity in European Studies did take place as scheduled in March in Leiden. I would strongly recommend that colleagues check out the podcasts and video recordings from this excellent workshop. Also, do look out for a special issue in JCER in 2021 emanating from these discussions. My thanks go to the advisory board Dickson Ajisafe, Maxine David, Maria Garcia, Toni Haastrup and Frank Mattheis for making the project possible.
In terms of the governance of the association, I am delighted to announce that Kathryn Simpson will be the new UACES Secretary and that Roberta Guerrina will take up the new role of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Officer. Koen Slootmaeckers will remain on the Trustees Committee and will be joined by Benjamin Farrand. These roles will take effect from September 1. I look forward to working with you all.
Rereading my last Chair’s message (before writing this one) where I began with some personal reflections on the UK’s departure from the EU, I was reminded of how uncertain the situation remains with regard to what impact Brexit will have on our Association and the wider European Studies community. We still are no clearer as to what it will mean in terms of UK Universities’ future access to EU funding or what the impact will be for the UK and EU member states if the UK no longer accesses the Erasmus+ scheme, from which so many of us as well as our students have benefitted. With both COVID19 and Brexit very much remaining live issues for the foreseeable future, I am sure that we will continue to face challenges ahead. I remain optimistic that the strength of UACES as an international community and the willingness of its members to support each other in testing times leave us well placed to face these challenges.
My thanks to all of you for your continued support of UACES. Do please email me if you have any suggestions about the Association and its future. Finally, on a personal note, I would like to thank UACES colleagues who messaged me on social media following the recent death of my mother. Your kind words were greatly appreciated! Do look after yourselves and I look forward to seeing you in Liverpool if not before.
Nicholas Startin, University of Bath