Publication Date

April 25, 2023

Perspectives Section

AHA Activities

Behind the Scenes at the AHA is a new series offering insights into the inner workings of the Association. Curious about how the AHA works? Email with questions that could be addressed in this series.

When the AHA election begins each June, members often wonder: How is the slate of candidates selected? The Nominating Committee, a group of nine AHA members who are themselves elected, selects those who will stand for election to lead the Association on the Council, the Nominating Committee itself, and the Committee on Committees.

Elections are held annually from June 1 to July 15, so the Nominating Committee’s work takes place in January and February. In the fall, the AHA solicits nominations for elected positions on the Council and committees; these must be submitted by early January for consideration. Nominating Committee members consider these nominations and also compile lists of their own. They then meet at AHA headquarters in Washington, DC, along with an AHA staff liaison and the executive director (who serves ex officio on all AHA committees). The committee discusses each position and the historians who might be well suited to serve, and then contacts the potential nominees to see whether they will accept the nomination. “The meetings are a wonderful example of collaboration and goodwill,” said Liz Townsend, who staffs the committee and is the AHA’s manager, data administration and integrity. “The committee members work hard to present a competitive and diverse ballot that will bring different voices and experiences to the Council and committees.”

All those elected serve three-year terms. Annually, the AHA membership elects three Council members, a vice president to lead one of the three divisions, the president-elect, and the president. Every three years, an at-large Council member is also elected. All elections are competitive except for the president, who simply advances from the president-elect position. The slate also includes three slots on the Nominating Committee and one to two slots on the Committee on Committees, the body that makes recommendations to Council for members of all appointed AHA committees.

Developing the slate is no easy task—it requires a great deal of balance and thoughtfulness. When considering candidates for elected positions, Nominating Committee members consider criteria including an individual’s suitability to the work involved in a position, their track record for conscientious committee work, and their reputation for fairness and open-minded perspectives on historical work.

An essential component of choosing nominees is diversity, including work context (e.g., secondary schools, two-year colleges, four-year colleges, graduate institutions, public history, and independent scholars); employment status; demographics; career stage; regional distribution; and areas of specialization. The committee must consider not only these categories but also how a potential nominee is likely to balance with continuing members of Council and the elected committees. The Council and committees benefit from members who bring a wide range of perspectives and a diversity of experiences, backgrounds, and expertise. In these considerations, the Nominating Committee is guided by the AHA’s Statement on Diversity in AHA Nominations and Appointments.

Want to help shape the leadership of the AHA? Make your voice heard by submitting nominations each fall and by voting in the election each summer. Watch your email for voting instructions on June 1. The Council and elected committees are your representatives at the AHA, so be sure to participate in the process.

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Alex Levy
Alexandra F. Levy

American Historical Association