Questions for CSA Past Presidents
Responses by Frank Mills
CSA President 2003-2004
How did you come to specialize in Caribbean Studies?
I am of the Caribbean, and even though I studied in Canada and the United States, there was never any hesitation as to what I wanted to study or where I wanted to spend my professional life.
How did your interest in and commitment to Caribbean Studies evolve?
It was always my belief that Caribbean scholars are best equipped to resolve the development issues in the region. This alone explains my interest and commitment.
When did you first join CSA and what did it mean to you then?
My first CSA meeting was in St Thomas in 1981. It was refreshing to listen to some of the foremost Caribbean scholars then, including persons like Gordon Lewis. The great value was that it was the only place from which to obtain current scholarly information and data on the Caribbean since these would take years before some of them ever get into the text books.
What were your goals for CSA the year of your presidency?
One of the primary goals of my presidency was to make a concerted effort to encourage graduate students to join the association. I used some CSA funds to support the travel cost of students that year, raised funds myself specifically to fully support travel, lodge and per diem for five first-time students, as well as to host a morning reception for all the students.
What did you recognize to be the greatest obstacles facing CSA and Caribbean Studies during your presidency?
The absence of a permanent secretariat contributed largely to the issues I faced, coupled with the fact that there was not a sustainable source of funding for the Association.
What did you consider to be the greatest accomplishment of CSA that year?
The number of first-time graduate students and members who attended CSA for the first time.
Why did you choose the location you did for the CSA annual conference that year?
As a Kittitian by birth, it was a natural for me. CSA had met in St Kitts only once before (in 1984 when I was Program Chair), and it seemed appropriate to take the conference back there 20 years later where I could count on an efficient Local Organizing Committee, as well as on the Prime Minister and the government to provide substantive support.
Where do you hope to see CSA in the next ten years?
An association with a sustainable funding structure, a slightly enlarged secretariat, and a return to higher levels of scholarship than now obtains.
What is one of your fondest CSA memories?
My fond memories are largely in the several locations in Latin American countries where I would not have ordinarily visited.
What are you doing now in terms of the Caribbean?
I have given my professional life to the Caribbean, and my work with students and applied research are geared towards the improvement of the quality of life in the region. All of the writing I have done is about the Caribbean.
Where do see the future of Caribbean Studies?
If our CSA panelists could aspire to better prepared papers, if they could inject a higher level of methodology and scholarly rigor in their work, if panelists can be more accepting of constructive criticism, if we can improve the mechanism for making the conference papers more readily available to members and non-members alike, then the Association would be approaching the achievement of its original goals.
What would you recommend to a young scholar starting in Caribbean Studies?
For a serious young scholar to fully appreciate the content of Caribbean Studies, (s)he should definitely consider living in the Caribbean, even if only for a summer or a few short periods. This first-hand experience would provide a window on the world of the region that could never be fully realized from books, and would present a perspective and open vistas that would not be possible from literary sources alone. Seeing the people of the region at work and at play would provide the context for understanding the characters about whom one reads.