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Noshir Contractor, ICA President: What Being ICA President Taught Me About Networks

  • 1.  Noshir Contractor, ICA President: What Being ICA President Taught Me About Networks

    Posted 28 days ago

    What Being ICA President Taught Me About Networks

    By Noshir Contractor, ICA President (Northwestern U)

    Less than three weeks away from assembling for #ICA23, many of us will join in person in Toronto, others will join virtually via one of the Regional Hubs in China, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, and Nigeria, and still others of us will connect remotely from elsewhere. I offer my heartfelt congratulations and deep appreciation to ICA President-Elect Eun-Ju Lee for spearheading an impressive conference schedule that reflects the optimism, challenges, and concerns the world faces as it reimagines society after a once-in-a-generation (we hope) pandemic. I hope #ICA23 provides all of us an opportunity to create and maintain the bonds and networks that form the bedrock of the ICA COMMunity.


    As a scholar who has devoted my professional career to the study of networks, I decided to dedicate my last column as ICA President to reflecting on what I have learned about networks during my tenure. My key takeaway: In the short term, we all focus on making networks. In the long term, it is these networks that make us - individually and collectively. I have had the privilege of distilling this insight from the many activities I have had the privilege to carry out as part of my Presidency at ICA.


    One of my initiatives was to create the ICA Podcast Network. I envisioned this network would be a collection of podcast series that focused on many of the important and, in some cases, relatively marginalized voices in our discipline. We have now published 50 episodes (and counting) across seven series: Architects of Communication Scholarship, Communicating for Impact, Digital Alchemy, Feminist Networks and the Conjuncture, Growing Up Comm, Interventions from the Global South, JCMC: The Discussion Section, and One World, One Network‽ The ICA Podcast Network owes its success to the tireless efforts of a diverse network of some of the finest scholars in ICA, who served as hosts in conversations with a superbly curated set of guests, including scholars from communication and other disciplines, practitioners, and activists. The ICA Podcast Network was made possible through the generous financial support of a network of communication thought leaders from around the world: Annenberg Center for Collaboration Communication at USC and the University of Pennsylvania, Hong Kong Baptist University, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, Northwestern University in Qatar, Northwestern University in the US, and the University of South Florida. In addition to showcasing our scholarship for the ICA community and the world, I am gratified to see excerpts, or entire episodes, increasingly being incorporated by faculty as "listening" material in their undergraduate and graduate courses. I hope that we will continue to build on this momentum. 


    Networks were also vital in helping with my second initiative: piloting the formation of ICA Regional Chapters worldwide. For the first time in our 73-year history, and 54 years since the name of our association was changed to the International Communication Association, the ICA Executive Committee has set up procedures for regions worldwide to submit a petition to become an ICA Regional Chapter. In the past two months, we have launched ICA chapters in Indonesia, Nigeria, China, and Kenya, with additional Chapters on the way. This effort owes its success to mobilizing a network of dedicated and visionary scholars within each of these countries working across institutions to generate a collective public good while seeking the support of the leadership at their respective institutions and endorsements from ICA members around the world. It also required a network of ICA representatives on the Regional  Endeavors, Affiliate Conferences, and Hubs (REACH) committee to carefully review and provide feedback on the petitions before recommending them to the ICA's Executive Committee. 


    Aside from these two initiatives (Podcast and Regional Chapters), building and maintaining networks was the social element that helped me contribute to ICA's ongoing commitments:  organizing our annual conferences and the Regional hubs, overseeing our publications, supporting Regional conferences, advancing the work of our various ICA Committees and Task Forces, and managing our finances, to name just a few. Over the past two years, as President-Elect and President, I am grateful for all I have learned from an informal network including hundreds of our ICA members across multiple generations of scholars. Your passion and vision are a testament to the vitality of ICA!  


    I want to express my deep indebtedness to ICA Executive Director Laura Sawyer and her "Dream Team," including Julie Arnold, Brad Brewer, Jennifer Le, Tom Mankowski, Karly Senesac, and Katie Wolfe. Besides their strong internal network, we benefit significantly from their networks reaching out to members of the larger ICA community - and beyond. Finally, my heartfelt gratitude to all the members of the ICA Executive Committee since I joined the EC in the Fall of 2020: past EC members Paula Gardner, Peter Monge, and Patricia Moy; outgoing EC member and Chair of REACH Terry Flew, as well as Claes De Vreese, Mary Beth Oliver, Eun-Ju Lee, Silvio Waisbord, and Treasurer Elisia Cohen. The bonds we have built in this network have enabled us to cohesively leverage the wide range of expertise, insights, and perspectives we each offer the ICA CommUnity.   While I will hand over the gavel to our incoming President Eun-Ju Lee at #ICA23, I look forward to serving on ICA's EC in my role as Immediate Past President and Past President, until I will transition out, in the memorable words of Past ICA President Peng Hwa Ang, as "President-Eject." Meanwhile, I hope you continue to make the networks at #ICA23 that ultimately nurture you as a scholar and us as an ICA CommUnity in the long term!  

    Tom Mankowski
    Washington DC
    United States