What happened to the Special Interest Groups (SIGs) in SIETAR USA, you might ask? Yes, indeed, we did have several active Special Interest Groups in the early days of SIETAR USA. They provided a place for people with common cause to gather at the conference, a quiet place where they could talk about things in their work that were challenging them, breakthroughs in their thinking or research—connecting with like-minded people.
Some SIGs who are part of the history of SIETAR USA:
- Foro Intercultural Latino comprised of Latino/ Latinista professionals in the intercultural training, education and research field who came together to build community and share ideas, referrals, news items and any other information of mutual interest. This SIG began in January 2002.
- Language, Culture & Worldview established in 1990 as one of the SIGs within SIETAR. Its purpose was to explore the nexus between language, culture, and worldview. Members drew on a multidisciplinary approach to further the understanding of the explicit interconnections between language, culture, and worldview for interculturalists and language educators.
- PAC – Pride Across Cultures with its mission to provide a forum for g/l/b/t/q/+ (gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered/queer + others) and straight members of SIETAR to educate each other and the wider SIETAR community about issues related to g/l/b/t/q+ culture in the workplace and across cultures. Started: June 1996.
- Simulation Gaming group members focused on interactive training activities such as simulation games and ice breakers. They created an ethical code for debriefing interactive training and ensured that there were simulation game sessions at each conference.
So, where did they go? SIGs by their nature tend to be small groups. The glue that holds them together is their common focus, an eagerness to meet at the conferences, a champion who keeps them in touch even if it is just arranging for a meeting at the conference. When any one of these are missing, the group fades. When it was evident that the SIETAR SIGs were no longer active, SIETAR USA conference planners stopped including time in the conference program for them to get together, other than designating tables at one of the lunches for SIGs. Anyone who has eaten lunch with a group of SIETARians knows that it is impossible to hear anyone more than one person away because we like to talk at very high decibels all at once. This is not conducive to holding a meeting.
SIETAR USA feels a need within our association to bring back SIGs. Other organizations have very successful SIGs. We would like to provide that opportunity to SIETAR USA members as well. Resurgent SIGs could provide groups, such as Practitioners of Color, the opportunity to meet around their issues or just to get to know each other. We know that there are many foci within our community that could benefit from a brief time together to quietly relax among colleagues and friends, hold lively discussions, or brainstorm ideas for the future.
What we need is a SIG Coordinator who can gather ideas for how to organize the SIG meetings at the conference, lend support to people who want to find others like themselves within the association, and be the SIG champion. Nothing happens without a champion. Are you a member of an association that has an active SIG program? Do you have time to take some of their ideas and make them work for SIETAR USA? If this sounds like something you could contribute to SIETAR USA, please contact Karen Fouts at email@example.com to let her know and she will be sure that Sandy Fowler gets your name and contacts you within minutes. Think about it. If we hear from several people, they become the coordinating team, which makes the organizing process all the more fun!