TAJE

JEA Executive Director on 2017 Convention in Dallas

Kelly Furnas, JEA Executive Director

Kelly Furnas, JEA Executive Director

Kelly Furnas, JEA Executive Director

1. List the date and location of the 2017 national convention.

Nov. 16-19, 2017, Dallas, Texas, at the Hyatt Regency

2. Why did you decide to bring the convention back to Texas so quickly following the recent San Antonio convention in 2012?

Choosing the location is an incredibly complex process. Obviously the first factor we consider is whether the city’s venues can actually accommodate our convention, and Dallas is blessed with several hotels that would work for us. After that, we look at:

+ Where will we be the year before? Geographic diversity is important to us, so we try not to hit the same region two years in a row. (In Fall 2016 we will be in Indianapolis.)
+ Is the city affordable in terms of hotel rates and travel? Dallas is going to be an incredible value for our attendees with two airports — including the expiration of the Wright Amendment in 2014 — terrific hotel rates, and accessible ground transportation.
+ What is our membership like in the area? Texas is our second largest state in terms of membership, and yet we know many of our Texas members aren’t able to enjoy a national convention unless it takes place in-state. (It’s worth noting, however, that sometimes JEA’s mission can be the opposite: Sometimes bringing a convention to an area with low JEA membership can actually help strengthen the scholastic journalism presence there, and that is certainly our goal, too.)

We look at a lot of other factors, too, but you can see just how well Dallas fits our profile and why we didn’t waste time returning to Texas after our 2012 convention.

3. Do you expect to make it a regular part of the rotation for national sites in the future?

It depends on how we do at fulfilling the missions we set out to accomplish. Assuming amazing attendance, solid programming and that Dallas’ profile still matches our needs, we could certainly expect to put the city on a regular rotation. But it’s also very important that we work with our partners at TAJE to make sure we’re helping fulfill their goals, too.

4. What can we expect when we come to Dallas? What does it offer that’s unique to this area?

Having a fall convention in an area with temperate climate and great ground transportation opens up a lot of opportunities to explore the city. The heart of our program has always been our 300-plus breakout sessions, and that certainly will not change. But we work really hard with the local team of volunteers to help put a city-specific stamp on our convention while not sacrificing our educational purpose.

5. When will the convention director and local committee be named?

We will name the chair of the local team around May 2016, after our Los Angeles convention. That chair will then recruit area teachers to serve on the local team.

6. Has a theme been decided upon yet? If so, what will it be?

Oh, no. We certainly wouldn’t want to take that part of the process away from the local team. We’ll start working on themes and special programming in the summer and fall of 2016.

7. How soon will a keynote speaker be named?

We work with the local team here, too. Keynotes will start being announced in May 2017, after our Seattle convention.

8. What can Texas journalism teachers be doing now to prepare for their involvement in this convention?

Attend conventions. It’s so helpful when local team members already have the context of what a national convention looks like when it comes time to start planning. If you’ve never witnessed Break With a Pro, or Swap Shops, or receptions or lunches, it’s great to look at those things now to see how they work and if they can be improved.

Similarly, it’s helpful to bring the context of what students need in the classroom to our convention planning. Our job is never to replace what’s happening in schools, but what programming or activities can we offer to enhance the classroom experience?

9. Is there anything else we need to know at this time?

I’d especially encourage folks interested in serving — or simply interested in attending — to get plugged in heavily to TAJE. That type of networking is so crucial when it comes time for the local chair to start selecting team members. Even if you’re not planning to volunteer for the committee, attending a national convention can be so overwhelming without a network of teachers to help support you on the trip. Local scholastic journalism associations — and TAJE in particular — are perfectly suited to get teachers connected ahead of this major event.

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