SAA Committee Member Highlights: Devhra BennettJones

This post is from Devhra BennettJones. Devhra is a member of the SAA Membership Committee; the Society of American Archivists Navigator Program Subcommittee; the Society of American Archivists Mentoring Subcommittee; the Society of Ohio Archivists Membership & Awards Committee; and the Society of Ohio Archivists Social Justice and Black Lives Matter Task Force.

Devhra, what drew you to archives?
A love of history embedded in childhood drew me to the field of archives. Growing up in rural Texas one often had to be inventive and “make your own fun”, in the words of my mother. Road trips to area museums and libraries were a regular source of entertainment. We would eagerly pile in the car for 60—450+ mile trips on what was dubbed a “Mystery Ramble”. When we heard this word it always meant that the journey was to a museum, library, or historical destination unknown to us until our arrival. Whether we traveled to the Kimbell Art Museum in Ft. Worth, the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, or the Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas the emphasis was always on history and the cruciality of the field in developing an understanding of the present. These sojourns led to an appreciation of the integral role of history in our society and how access to information is critical in a culture that purports democratic principles. I was drawn to work in archives in order to contribute to the preservation, conservation, and accessibility of history.


Why did you get involved with the Committee or Subcommittee?
I wish that I could say that the primary reason for initial involvement in SAA Committee and Subcommittee work was to contribute to the betterment of colleagues and archives organizations. While those goals are my current inspiration, the original motivations were to earn points for the Academy of Certified Archivists license, and (being a lonearranger) to have regular interaction with other archivists. This impetus quickly changed to altruistic incentives once I grasped the impact committees have in archives organizations. Through committees with the Society of Ohio Archivists I saw first-hand the positive difference that scholarships and career-recognition make for new and seasoned archivists. This engagement with the regional archives committee led to a calling to contribute on a national level to our Society of American Archivists organization.


What’s your favorite thing about your work on the Committees or Subcommittees?
My favorite thing about work on Committees and Subcommittees are the rewards of active association with other archvists and how the mandates of committees influence the lives of the organization’s members. Working on the SAA Mentoring Subcommittee, Navigator Program, and Membership Committee, has provided interaction with stellar colleagues who are an inspiring force to maintain enthusiasm about the archives field. Committee membership offers the opportunity to learn from professionals that were trained in different perspectives and schools-of-thought than oneself. Most important of all, committees impact our membership through the quality of the archives organizations making them vital contributors to archivists’ professional development and career paths.


What do you wish SAA members knew about your Committee or Subcommittee or its work?
I wish that SAA members knew how fulfilling and fun it is to join with other archvists on SAA Committees, Subcommittees, and committees in regional archives organizations. I currently work on several Society of Ohio Archivists, SAA committees, and subcommittees.


Through service on the Society of Ohio Archivists Membership & Awards Committee there have been opportunities to work with students and early-career archivists in their professional development endeavors by means of the Annual Meeting. The awardees are spotlighted at the conference, receive monetary support, and an opportunity to publish about their Annual Meeting experiences. This committee also offers merit award recognition for individuals and organizations that contributed to archives in the state. The merit acknowledgement proffers the opportunity for committee members to connect with cutting-edge leaders and projects.


By joining the innovative Society of Ohio Archivists Social Justice and Black Lives Matter Task Force there is the gateway to contribute to identifying and educating on antiracist and social justice resources, efforts, and actions for the organization. This recently formed and vital initiative will identify ways to incorporate the social issues of acknowledgement, diversity, and equality in the agenda of the Society of Ohio Archivists.
Support of SAA by serving as a Mentor allowed for seeing through the eyes of another archivist about the issues and challenges that they encountered in their educational pursuits, job searches, and the need for advice throughout the archivist career life-cycle. It was especially enriching to mutually determine the expectations and structure of the mentor-mentee relationship.


Service as an SAA Mentor led to joining the Mentoring Subcommittee which operates under the auspices of the SAA Membership Committee. This Subcommittee matches mentors and mentees based on their shared goals and backgrounds. The Subcommittee members develop mentoring resources and meet regularly to assess the effectiveness of the mentoring relationships and programs.


The pattern of one good thing leading to another has held true to form in presenting the gateway to join the SAA Membership Committee. This vibrant committee’s prime directive is to serve the SAA membership through developing services, increasing membership, advocating for underrepresented groups, keeping the members informed about resources, services and benefits, working with the SAA organizational leadership, and identifying ways to benefit archivists that are not members of SAA. The SAA Membership Committee is composed of new and seasoned professionals. The committee work allows members the juncture to interact with archivists from different geographic regions that hold varying perspectives on how the organization can appeal to the diversity of archivists from a professional and personal perspective. The enthusiasm of the current SAA Membership Committee makes it a special honor to work with this group of professionals. They are implementing new programs in mentorship, career development, diversity, publishing through this blog, and adapting priorities with the virtual conference platforms in 2020 and 2021.


Through the SAA Membership Committee I currently serve on the Mentoring Subcommittee and the SAA Navigator Program. The Navigator Program is a short-term mentoring program that focuses on conference attendance by connecting experienced Annual Meeting attendees with new members, first-time meeting attendees, or anyone that is interested in having advice during the SAA annual conference. Working on the Navigator Program involves establishing effective Navigator—Navigatee matches to help attendees get the most out of the conference experience, their time commitment, and the funds they have allocated for professional development. The Navigator Program offers a fulfilling networking opportunity for both Navigatees and Navigators. Navigatees learn from Navigators as they impart their wisdom gleaned from years of experience. Navigators get to proactively give back to the profession that has nurtured them.


The progression of committee work over time has dominoed in that each opportunity has led to another enriching occasion to serve the SAA organization and membership. I encourage SAA members to seek out the inspirational experience of committee membership in our archival profession.

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