From the President - To Be Seen, Heard in NCA and the Discipline

March 2, 2023

Ahlan wa sahlan (“Welcome” in Arabic) to my first Spectra column as President of the National Communication Association.  

January 1 marked the beginning of my year of service as NCA’s President. My primary purpose in this role, as I see it, is to help create the conditions for each of us to thrive in this discipline. I sit at a unique vantage point that shapes how I will go about my work as NCA President. My particular identities have provided a glimpse of the ways that the Communication discipline has historically opened doors for some and closed them for others. Those experiences partly shape my strong commitment to equity and access and make me clear-eyed about the challenges ahead of us.  

As an immigrant to the United States from Lebanon, with a Palestinian Father and an American Mother, my road to NCA’s top leadership position has been un-even. To be clear, I occupy several positions of privilege: I pass as White, come from economic advantage, am a cis-gendered male, am not living with a disability, am highly educated, was trained in the methods and epistemologies that have long dominated my sub-area of the field (Interpersonal Communication), and I have been supported from the earliest stages of my career by many of the most giving, well-networked, people in the field. These  privileges have shown me what access looks like when doors are open.  

But despite my privilege and those open doors, I would have thought an NCA presidency impossible, even until recently. As evidence of my pessimism, I would point to the time in graduate school when someone recommended that I change my name to increase the chances of being hired, or several occasions (even recently) when anti-Palestinian racism or Islamophobia have entered the fray. Indeed, no group of people more frequently told me they felt seen for the first time in our discipline by my approach to planning the 2022 convention (and its theme, “Honoring PLACE: People, Liberation, Advocacy, Community, and Environment”) more than Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims. Those experiences, and, importantly, having the good fortune to be invited into spaces with members of other minoritized or marginalized communities in our discipline, have made clear what access looks like when doors are closed.  

So, where do we go from here?  

I am in awe of the sheer excellence I have witnessed from so many, and the shared commitment to an Association in which all members can thrive. Thanks to all who labor, NCA has taken steps during the past several months to create structural conditions that make sustainable change more likely. Included among those essential action items were unanimous support from the Legislative Assembly for the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access (IDEA) Task Force report, the agreement to hire a Director of IDEA for NCA in 2023, the inclusion of IDEA as a central feature of the Association’s 2023-2027 Strategic Plan, and the just-completed report from the Future of Conventions Task Force, with an emphasis on the issue of convention access, among other important recent successes.  

It is critical that we continue to work together to create change and do so in ways that lifts all ships. Toward that end, I invite you to reach out to me ( with ideas, criticisms, appreciations, suggestions, and/or ways to do things better on behalf of our Association and members. The only way that NCA can improve as an Association is to make sure that our members always demand better of its leadership and its structures, and that all of you feel empowered to make sure that you are heard. Your voice is essential as we chart a bright and impactful future for NCA.  

Despite my best intentions and the care and preparation with which I try to do things, I am confident about two realities: (1) not everyone will agree with the positions for which I advocate or the path that NCA takes, and (2) my term as president will not be mistake-free. Support for structural change never creates unanimous support, and successful change is almost never without improvements and lessons learned along the way. I commit to doing my best to only make mistakes that come from efforts to create the conditions for each of us to thrive in this discipline.  

I look forward to hearing from you about how those efforts are going and how we can do better.  

In community,