Questions for CSA Past Presidents
Responses by Cora Christian
CSA President 2000-2001
1. How did you come to specialize in Caribbean Studies?
I am married to one of the founding members of the Association. It was started the year before I got married and I attended my first CSA in 1976. I had always done applied research as a physician since my education at Johns Hopkins emphasized the importance of applied research. Being from the Caribbean and living in the Caribbean, it was important to do so although I was not at a university.
2. How did your interest in and commitment to Caribbean Studies evolve?
I started the Health section for when I joined it was mostly political and social sciences. I felt it was critical to include health for it is such an important area of study, i.e. Health to CSA.
3. When did you first join CSA and what did it mean to you then?
1976 See answer to #1
4. What were your goals for CSA the year of your presidency?
My goals were many but most importantly to have a world class conference and have CSA in the black financially at the end of my term. I accomplished both of these. Because of the structure of the organization, it is difficult to have long term goals. I am glad that you are pursuing this activity. I wish I had more time to truly think through most of your questions. I believe in the power of possibilities and I believe my presidency proved that for I am not in Academia. I am a practicing physician. I do hold a lecturer position at my alma mater but that is truly not the central activity that I am involved in.
5. What did you recognize to be the greatest obstacles facing CSA and Caribbean Studies during your presidency?
There was no money; the Secretariat had resigned; basically, the Association was at a point of collapse due to no staff and no money. In reference to the conference itself, paper submissions were a huge issue for they were not on time and often participants never submitted the paper that was required for presentation. We had to choose between attendance and our desire to receive papers for the publication. However, we did receive most abstracts. The conference was a huge success.
6. What did you consider to be the greatest accomplishment of CSA that year?
See #4. However, I would add that an additional great accomplishment was to honor all past presidents and program chairs at my meeting, which started the new century. All past presidents and program chairs received medals for their contribution to CSA. Please never forget that much of the work is done by the program chair since the main activity to date of CSA has been the conference.
7. Why did you choose the location you did for the CSA annual conference that year?
I chose St. Martin due to its cultural heritage, the French and the Dutch cultures; ease of access from many Caribbean countries as well as international destinations; knowledge of conference activities and a brand new hotel that could accommodate the CSA population at a reasonable price.
8. Where do you hope to see CSA in the next ten years?
Difficult to say. I realize there are several groups looking at the structure and organization of CSA. I believe it is important to allow founding members to be part of that process for the purpose of CSA is still needed in fact needed more than ever. I have participated in the Advisory group and have shared my thoughts in detail in that format. Again, due to the rush, I am requesting that you ask for those discussions to enlighten your process.
9. What is one of your fondest CSA memories?
Each CSA has fond memories. I guess the Gandhi/Martin Luther King Jr. /Ikeda exhibit was a fond memory the year of my presidency for it put in focus three very different and influential men that attributed their success to women in their lives. They changed their thoughts and as a result changed the world. It reminds me that you do not have to be visible to make an impact for some of the most important contributions. You always stand taller with someone else on your shoulders. CSA is always a great time for me. The papers are good for the most part; the networking is great; the parties are always the best; and I get a chance to see the upcoming generation take responsibility.
10. What are you doing now in terms of the Caribbean?
I am very involved in many projects but the one that is at the top of my mind right now is connecting all of health care in the Virgin Islands electronically. This will allow significant increase in efficiency and will give researchers the data they need for all data will be in a portal that can be accessed with the right permissions. Think of the banking system and how you can now do all of your banking needs electronically for all are connected. That is what we are attempting to do in the VI regardless of where you reside.
11. Where do see the future of Caribbean Studies?
CSA has been called many things- from a clan, to a network, to a family. Whatever you call it, wherever you are, whoever you want to be, whenever you decide you need it, CSA can be the organization that gives you what you need because of what, where, who and how it has functioned or its potential to function. I believe the founding fathers (they were all men) came up with a great approach.
12. What would you recommend to a young scholar starting in Caribbean Studies?
CSA proves that our region is an ever-shifting kaleidoscope that with a slight change, all the patterns are altered.