A History according to Keith Griffin:
In 1980, I was responsible for membership for the North Carolina Speech Communication Association (NCSCA). The genesis for what is now the Carolinas Communication Association began as a result of a conversation with my best friend, the late Bill Strickland of the USC.
As a Wake Forest graduate student, I had attended my first professional conference – the NC Speech and Theatre Association meeting in Raleigh in 1971. Six years later, when I returned to North Carolina after completing my doctoral program at Louisiana State University, I attended what I believe was the last combined conference of NC Speech and Theatre professionals. For some reason, the speech and theatre folks had decided to go their separate ways.
The NCSCA was finding its way after the split with theatre. When I became the officer in charge of membership, I decided to send a letter to every North Carolinian who belonged to SCA (now NCA) and/or SSCA but was not a member of the state association. I also wrote to the speech/language arts department of rest of state’s universities, colleges, and community college. I mentioned this to Bill Strickland, another LSU Ph.D., Chair of the Speech and Theatre program at the University of South Carolina, and my consulting partner. Bill expressed his frustration that SC had no association for speech communication professionals in higher education. In a blinding flash of the obvious, I thought it made perfectly good sense to expand NCSCA to a Carolinas Speech Communication Association (CSCA). So, I repeated the letter-writing process I had followed in NC and contacted every SCA and SSCA member from South Carolina as well as departments at the rest of schools in the state. The letters announced what I hoped would be the last meeting of the NCSCA and the first meeting of a new Carolinas Speech Communication Association.
We had an excellent turnout at the conference which was hosted by Wingate College. NCSCA had little money, I was an Associate Professor at Wingate, and the school provided meeting rooms at no cost. Among those present as I recall were: Bill Strickland (USC); Sandy Hochel (USCA); Dolores Jones (Charleston Southern); George Lellis (Coker); Charles Porterfield, Terry Cole, and Howard Dorgan (ASU); Ray Camp and Nancy Snow (NCSU); Betty Jo Welch, Bob and Rita Rosenthal (UNC-W); Ethel Glenn and Elliott Pood (UNC G); and Lloyd Rohler (Duke). There were also several people from Columbia College who regarded the new association as a threat to the SC High School Speech Communication Festival. Out of deference to them, we tabled a vote creating the new association for a year. However, we went ahead with planning a Carolinas conference for the following year. The CSCA officially came into being in 1981.
In 1987, I left Wingate and college teaching and joined BellSouth as a Manager of Training and Organization Development. I returned to academia in 2003 at USCA, and, that September, I attended my first Carolinas Conference in eighteen years. When a person at the registration desk asked if I was a first time member, Terry Cole laughed and said something like, “No, he helped start the Association.” While the name has changed from CSCA to CCA, it felt good to be home.
Responding to Elena Martínez-Vidal’s request for a short history of how CCA first began has taught me two things. First, I hadn’t realized how quickly time has flown by. And second, I have a much greater sense of both appreciation and misgivings about historical recollections. When I left academe for the corporate world, I sent my CSCA materials and notes to the archivist at UNC Ashville. I would love corrections from the person who now has archival responsibilities or any of the other founders.
In Fall 2010, Jason Munsell received an email asking CCA to share its story:
“[I am] a member of the Wittenberg University Communication Leaders Program. Currently I am working on a project to understand more about the Ohio Communication Association’s membership. For this project we are working with other state organizations such as yourself, to understand more about how you keep membership and make your association appealing to new members. Is there anything special that you do that sets you apart from other communication associations?”
Elena Martinez-Vidal and Charmaine Wilson were asked to respond:
We are unique because we are a smaller communication organization. We draw mainly from North and South Carolina and keep the conferences rotating between the states. Therefore, one year the conference is in North Carolina and the next year it is in South Carolina. We only broke with that tradition for a few years when we boycotted South Carolina because of the controversy over the Confederate flag.
Because we are small we can serve as a proving ground for those just beginning in the communication discipline. Research papers can be presented which later might be presented at SSCA or NCA. We also focus a great deal on conference sessions which deal with teaching public speaking. We call these panels G.I.F.T.S. (Great Ideas for Teaching Speech/Communication). We also have specific panels for undergrad and grad student papers with prizes in order to encourage students who are interested in the discipline.
Finally I can tell you that some life long friendships have been made among colleagues who might have barely known each other.
I think Elena has hit on most of the key aspects of our group that make us special. I would add that it is pretty common for long time members to bring their new colleagues to the annual meeting and introduce them to colleagues in the region and encourage their involvement in the conference or association. Those contacts are often important for research and teaching, and even the other tasks we engage in, such as program assessment. The conference is also a good place for newer scholars to get good experience and make the contacts that help them feel more welcome at the larger conferences.
We do virtually all of our communication via email these days. That is a constant challenge, but we try to create a new list each year and we keep folks from past years on the list, so that we try to reach out to former members as well as current ones.
And I cannot understate the impact of good people treating each other well. As Elena pointed out, we have developed some wonderful friendships and support networks. When one attends our conference, s/he will feel welcome and cared about. The association is very inclusive. There isn’t a lot of posturing or one-up-manship.