GAIRPAQ: How It All Began

by Pat Dewitt, Shorter College, Founding President

An outsider might wonder how GAIRPAQ came together as it did, instigated largely by a group of people from private institutions. When I first became a member of AIR and SAIR, I looked for a state association. I learned that Georgia did have a state association which held several meetings each year, but that it was for state institutions and concerned primarily with state issues, so that even if private representatives were invited, we would find little of interest. Other organizations existed, likewise for a limited group of institutions. Each year at SAIR or AIR, I would ask Larry Jones of the University of Georgia when we were going to have a state IR association; eventually Sam Baldwin of Clark Atlanta University came to me and said that Larry thought he and I should get some people together and start a state association.
Janet Maddox of Oglethorpe University soon joined the ad hoc group, and we began meeting for casual luncheons in the summer of 1994 to talk about our ideas regarding a state association. When we became serious enough, we invited Rachel Deems of Mercer University and Charles Harrington, then of West Georgia College to join us (both had earlier expressed an interest.) Although he left the state before GAIRPAQ became a reality, we owe Charlie a debt of gratitude because he drafted the original proposal for constitution and bylaws based on examples from South Carolina and Alabama and offered insights from the public institution perspective. Significant organizational help came from a meeting at SAIR in San Antonio last fall. For example, David Clements cautioned us against over-planning the conference, advising us to make sure to allow plenty of time for just talking and sharing.
We, [the organizing committee] are admittedly not the acknowledged leaders in the field of institutional research in Georgia, but we do have the support of these leaders. We are simply the people who wanted the state association most, and we had to want it badly enough to work for it. We believe that a state association can offer a connection with the profession at a reasonable cost. It can also be more informal than the larger groupings, and this informality fosters camaraderie and networking. Many small-college people and others are alone in our work, and sometimes we really long to talk with someone who will understand. Even institutional researchers and planners who cannot afford to attend the more expensive regional and national conferences need this sharing and should be able to afford the state group.
These, then, became the primary goals of GAIRPAQ: to provide essential information, networking, comraderie, and professional discussion and idea exchange for a wide spectrum of institutional researchers and planners and their ilk at the most reasonable cost possible. We hope to add to our ranks those who cannot justify the more expensive organizations and perhaps convince them of the value of SAIR and AIR so that they will eventually become members of these more august bodies.

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