Dear RJA Colleagues,
First, I want to thank you for the robust response to the recent questionnaire. A response rate of 10-15% is considered good for questionnaires of this sort. We greatly exceeded that. Approximately one third of our 140+ members responded.
An Overview of the Responses:
The first question (I’m a member of RJA because…) drew the most complete response:
- Two thirds of RJA members identify as “general readers” who want programming on RJ and/or want to encourage the study and teaching of RJ.
- About 11% report that RJ is a primary focus of their research and writing.
- About 22% report that RJ is relevant to their research but not the primary focus.
At its start in 1995, RJA was a relatively small organization of several dozen academics for whom Jeffers was a primary research focus. The responses to the first question document a shift in RJA’s membership:
- Academic researchers focusing primarily on Jeffers are now a minority of our community and fewer in number than in the later 1990s.
- Academic researchers for whom Jeffers is relevant to their broader research now outnumber those focused specifically on Jeffers, and this probably reflects at least in part shifts in academic research where it is now typical to focus more on topics (such as environmental literature) than individual authors.
The second question (What I want from RJA…) drew 108 responses. Several respondents checked all the options, several checked multiples options without ranking them, and some checked multiple options and rank ordered them:
- 30 members want programming that presents new approaches and research for “general readers.” 5 placed this as their highest priority, another 5 as the 2nd highest priority, and 3 as their 3rd highest priority.
- 27 members want programming that encourages the teaching of Jeffers. For 3 members, this is their highest priority, for 2 their second highest priority, and for 3 their 3rd highest priority.
- 20 members wanting events where we gather as a community. For 2 respondents, this was their top priority. A total of 8 members ranked this as the 3rd, 4th, or 5th
- 18 members want programs where members could share research on Jeffers with those studying related figures. For 6 members, this is their highest priority, for 2 their 2nd priority, for 3 their 3rd priority, and for 1 the 4th
- 13 members want programs where members share their research. For 1 person this is the top priority, for 6 the 2nd priority, and for one the 3rd
In all, 71% of these responses prioritize programs for general readers, which aligns with responses to the first question.
Many members left the third question (Zoom programming…) blank. Those responding indicated wanting RJA to continue providing on-line programming using Zoom or other digital media. Several offered suggestions for improving this programming.
In response to the fourth question (submitting to Jeffers Studies…), only one member indicated the likelihood of submitting articles to the journal, while several indicated they would submit an article to Jeffers Studies if it wasn’t accepted at a journal (such as Western American Lit or ASLE) with a wider circulation. Most members left this question blank.
The fifth question (organize a panel at a conference…) elicited a couple of “maybes” and one member indicating interest in organizing a panel at a creative writing conference.
Most members left the sixth question (participating in focus groups to assess/plan for specific initiatives…) blank. Several expressed interest in participating in multiple focus groups. In all, each of the proposed focus groups drew 3 expressions of interest.
Most of RJA’s programming (the journal, the conferences in Carmel, sessions at national conferences, and such) was initiated when its membership was primarily academic researchers focused on Jeffers. The questionnaire shows that that is no longer the case. It also shows that the scholars whose primary focus is Jeffers are not, by and large, our younger members. This suggests we need to consider three related matters:
- How to expand programming for the general readers who are the majority of our membership
- How to build the audience for Jeffers, including how to encourage the teaching of Jeffers in high schools and colleges
- How to adjust existing programs and projects (the journal, conferences, the web site, and such) to better align with current patterns of scholarship and modes of scholarly conversation and in light of our actual intellectual resources.
To identify options and help formulate recommendations for the RJA Officers and Advisory Board to review and bring to the membership at the next Business Meeting, I’ll be setting up five discussion sessions (aka focus groups), each to meet on Zoom for 90 minutes:
- RJA programming for General Readers (priorities, formats and topics)
- Initiatives to encourage and support the teaching of Jeffers
- The RJA website (audience[s], purpose[s], content, etc.)
- Conferencing (RJA research-focused gatherings both on-line and in person and RJ-related sessions at national conferences)
- Jeffers Studies (staffing, production, technology, challenges and opportunities)
If you would like to participate in one or more these planning discussions, please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) as soon as possible and no later than July 12 with times that are typically convenient for you. I’ll then schedule the discussions and send the information (with zoom links) to RJA as a whole so that others can join in if they’d like. The RJA Officers and Advisory Board will then draw from these discussions and prepare a report to the membership to be circulated in advance of the Business Meeting (we expect this to be late in the summer or early fall). My thought is that each of these discussion groups will meet one time, but we’ll have the option of scheduling additional sessions if needed and if people want them.
All the very best,
Executive Director, RJA