Call for Session Proposals

32nd Annual Visitor Studies Association Conference

Omaha, NE   • July 15-18, 2020

Navigating the Politics of Visitor Studies

As people who work with and advocate for visitors, we wear many hats and are responsible for hearing and responding to a range of audiences. We are often negotiating competing needs, trying to challenge the dominant ways of doing things while also adhering to our field’s standards for rigor and accuracy. How do we responsibly use our expertise to represent the diverse voices of current and potential audiences while also serving the specific needs of internal stakeholders? How do we create positive and productive social change and provide space for the joint construction of ideas, compromise, and collaboration?

Building on last year’s theme “Ways of Knowing,” this year we invite attendees to consider how they negotiate different epistemologies and stakeholder needs in their day-to-day work. We know that this negotiation is part of every step of the evaluation process, from research design to data collection to analysis, synthesis, dissemination, and application of findings. Some questions we think this conference will allow speakers and presenters to address include the following:

  • How do we balance the unique needs of visitors with the diverse perspectives of stakeholders? How do we ensure that our work is representative of all voices?
  • What are the recurring issues we need to constantly negotiate? How do the values that guide our work help us navigate these issues?
  • How do we productively “rock the boat” to advocate for change?
  • How do we build space for shared authority and collaborative storytelling while maintaining and exercising our expertise?
  • How do we ensure that the interpretation and dissemination of data is meeting the needs of all audiences? How do we effectively and creatively demonstrate the value of our work and encourage use? 
  • How do we represent people in an accurate way in our data? What does accurate mean and who gets to decide?
  • How can we approach negotiations differently and creatively? When are traditional methods appropriate and where do they fall short when working with a diverse group of stakeholders? 

 Evaluation Criteria

Proposals will be rated on the following criteria:

The proposal provides a clear picture of what to expect during the session, including how presenters will elicit dialogue with the audience about project relevance and implications.

The proposed learning objectives are realistic and achievable.

The proposal should represent diverse perspectives.

The proposal demonstrates presenters’ knowledge of and experience with the topic, including relevant methodologies, sources of evidence, and/or literature.

The proposal highlights specific findings and conclusions and their relevance to the visitor studies/informal learning field.

All presenters should be confirmed by date of submission.

Submissions are now closed.


December 16, 2019 11:59 pm PST: Deadline for Submission

January 2020: Sessions undergo peer review

February 2020: Program Committee finalizes decisions and arranges program schedule (If there are any special presenter circumstances that would impact scheduling, presenters should list them in the submission form) 

Mid-March 2020: Notifications sent to applicants 


Questions?  If you have questions or require additional information, please e-mail the VSA Office at [email protected]