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Each section is required to meet at least once each year, and many sections choose to hold both fall and spring meetings. Having an interesting program is a major contributor to the success of a sectional meeting. These meetings should be widely publicized, that is, not only among the membership of the section, but also to every mathematical sciences department in the section.

Since sections have their own characteristics and traditions, the following suggestions are not intended to be prescriptive but rather to report on a wide range of successful experiences. The Committee on Sections urges all sections to seek new ways to improve their meetings and to discuss their experiences, innovations, and successes at the Section Officers Meetings, in annual section reports, and in the MAA Section Officers community on MAA Connect. 

The Program Committee

These suggestions provide a resource and a guide for program committees. Program committees are encouraged to consult programs from recent meetings, past program chairs, section officers, and long time section members. Program committees typically have a certain amount of freedom in determining the program, but any major departure from section traditions should be discussed with the section officers.

Program committees usually should consist of three to five members and be coordinated by a program chair. Some sections have an elected officer who serves as program chair for a sequence of meetings; other sections appoint a different program chair for each meeting. In some sections, the executive committee serves as the program committee. Some sections have separate committees to choose the speakers for certain named lectures. In any case, a wide variety of members and possible meeting participants should be included, such as women and men, junior and senior faculty, as well as two year college, university, and four year college faculty and possibly high school teachers. One person on the committee should be designated as the local arrangements chair.

The program committee is responsible for the following:

  • choosing the basic program elements: the talks, workshops, panel discussions, etc., and determining the schedule for the meeting;
  • inviting the speakers and presenters;
  • obtaining titles, abstracts and biographical information from the speakers and presenters;
  • providing the following information to the newsletter editor and webmaster far enough in advance of the meeting for members to make arrangements to attend: the titles, abstracts, biographical information and schedule form of the meeting; all local arrangements information such as directions to the campus, parking information, a campus map, location of registration, lodging information and costs; the pre-registration form;
  • discussing with the local arrangements chair in what form the program information should be sent to facilitate the creation of the program;
  • providing all program information (the titles, abstracts, biographical information and schedule for the meeting) and the on-site registration form to the local arrangements chair, who is responsible for creating and copying the program;
  • providing a preliminary announcement of the meeting two to three months in advance to the section secretary;
  • communicating frequently with the local arrangements chair, particularly as to the room and equipment needs for the meeting, so that the necessary arrangements can be made as soon as possible;
  • arranging for people to introduce the speakers;
  • confirming date, time, and location of talk with each speaker and inviting the speakers to all social events several weeks before the meeting;
  • providing speakers' registration information, including social events they will attend, to the local arrangements chair;
  • coordinating with the local arrangements chair to ensure that the local plans are complete for local transportation, lodging, meals, room reservations, and technical support.

Meeting Formats

A section meeting may be held all on one day, or on two days, such as a Friday and Saturday. A typical format of a two day section meeting is two time slots on Friday afternoon, an after dinner speaker on Friday, two or three slots on Saturday morning and one or two slots on Saturday afternoon. During some of those times there may be concurrent talks or workshops; at other times, such as during a major speaker's presentation, there should be only one activity. Some sections plan additional time slots for undergraduate or graduate student papers, new or future colleague activities, and contributed paper sessions.

Costs of Meeting Programs

In designing the program, the program committee should be mindful of costs. Speakers from within the section should generally cover their own travel and any lodging expenses, but expenses of all other invited speakers usually are reimbursed. All speakers usually are not charged for registration or for social events during the section meeting. An honorarium usually is not offered to any speaker. When contacting a speaker from within or outside the section, the issue of travel expenses should be directly addressed, and there should be an explicit agreement in writing before the meeting on what the section is covering.

Section Visitors Program

The MAA Section Visitors program provides a strong link between the Association leadership and the sections. Most sections now take advantage of this plan on a regular basis. The effectiveness of these visits can be greatly increased by the section's planning for maximum participation of the Section Visitor in section affairs during a visit. In addition to a one hour lecture on a topic of his or her choice, the Section Visitor should be invited to meet with the executive committee of the section, perhaps at lunch or dinner, and invited to contribute to the discussions at the business meeting of the section. The Section Visitor also might be asked to participate in a panel discussion that would be a scheduled part of the section program. The Section Visitor should be invited to all social events as a guest.

The Section Business Meeting

Each section meeting should include an informative business meeting. The section governor should report on actions taken by the Board of Governors and other Association activities. The chairs of the section committees should report on their major current activities. An invited Section Visitor should be given the opportunity to make some remarks at the business meeting. Part of the business meeting can be devoted to giving recognition or making appropriate awards to invited guests, such as the top scorers in the Putnam Prize Competition and the High School Contests.

Programs of Section Meetings

The following provide some additional suggestions, ideas and parameters for section meeting programs.

  • The program committee's most important goal is obtaining good speakers and presenters who will talk on subjects of interest to all section members, including two year college, university, and four year college faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, mathematicians outside academia, and possibly high school teachers. To that end, the committee should strive for a program that includes a balanced mix of speakers, including underrepresented groups as well as those both established and not yet well-established in the field.
  • A good program has a healthy balance between mathematical and pedagogical topics; and a mixture of presentations, workshops, and other activities is desirable.
  • The program committee may organize the program around some theme, but that theme should appeal to a wide audience and allow for a sufficient number of speakers whose topics are not extremely specialized.
  • Sections can apply to have an MAA Polya, AWM, or NAM Lecturer speak at a meeting with the speaker's travel expenses covered by the national MAA, each are eligible for one speaker from these rotating programs every year.
  • Each academic year, sections can apply to have an MAA Section Visitor speak at a meeting with the speaker's travel expenses covered by the national MAA.
  • On a rotating basis, sections can apply to have an MAA Editor Lecturer speak at a meeting with the speaker's travel expenses covered by the national MAA.
  • Sections may consider holding joint meetings with other organizations, including AMS, AMATYC, SIAM, and NCTM.

In addition to invited addresses, there are a number of elements that could be part of section meetings:

  • Student Paper Sessions: Many sections have a student activities coordinator or student papers coordinator who arranges these sessions for undergraduate students. Students from the section who have performed especially well in a contest on modeling or problem solving may be invited to give presentations. Some sections schedule these sessions so that they do not run parallel with other program activities.
  • Contributed Paper Sessions: A section member may be asked to arrange a contributed paper session for faculty members or graduate students. The papers presented should be accessible to most members of the section.
  • New Colleagues Sessions: Project NExT offers support for sections to start local versions of the NExT program for new faculty and to continue an established program. Sections may include Project ACCCESS participants, graduate students, and faculty members a few years past the national requirement of only the first two years of full-time teaching. Some sections have a specific session that features presentations or other activities for new colleagues.
  • Future Colleagues Sessions: These sessions could occur at the section meeting for those who are finishing graduate school and expect to be searching for jobs within a year or two.
  • Named Lectures: These are featured lectures of a section meeting.
  • The Distinguished Teacher Lecture: The section's Distinguished Teaching Award winner may be invited to give a talk.
  • Student Workshops: At a section meeting, there could be a special workshop/presentation designed for students. Generally, others are also welcome to attend, but something else should be scheduled simultaneously. The presenter could also give a general talk.
  • Social Opportunities: Each meeting should include opportunities for informal interaction at social events (a reception, lunch, or banquet) and at various locations (registration area or exhibit area).
  • Poster Sessions: Poster sessions may be held for undergraduate students, graduate students, or the general membership.

Registration Options for Section Meetings

MAA is pleased to offer all sections the ability to use our event management platform, Fontiva, to streamline online registrations for section meetings. This will allow for the collection of both credit card and check payments, with regular reporting available to track all data.

Requests to use Fontiva for section meetings must be made via this form.

For more information regarding the use of Fontiva, please refer to our FAQs. If you cannot find an answer to your query on this sheet, please contact us at for more details.