President's Message

Sherylyn BrillerSherylyn Briller
SfAA President's Column
July, 2020

SfAA has always been about its people; now more than ever this remains true. Together, we are working to improve the world in many ways. As applied social science is very useful for change-making, hopefully our roles will only continue to grow. One heartening thing for me in these volatile times has been the opportunity to talk with our members about all of the hard work they are doing to address critical social issues. As we grapple with numerous complex problems, we have reason to be cautiously optimistic about the promise of real systemic change in terms of social justice, racial justice and more. Because these are challenging times, people are doing much to support each other – with time, know-how, resources, making connections and in many of other ways. Providing encouragement and being supportive of each other matters – in all kinds of times, but certainly right now. 

Another bright spot is all that people are doing for SfAA. As you know, our organization is experiencing a period of hardship due to the Covid-19 related meeting cancellation.  Since we rely heavily on our annual meeting for revenue generation, we needed to figure out how to deal with an unexpected shortfall of funds, recover from this disruption and move on. As you will read in this issue, we formed an ad hoc fundraising committee chaired by Past-President Susan Andreatta. Our goal is to try to raise $75,000 in three months. This money will be used for programming and for expanding our digital and other kinds of outreach. This fundraising committee, along with SfAA board members, are reaching out and calling SfAA Founders, Sustaining Fellows and other donors as we get started in this campaign. We are asking people to please donate to the “Programming and Technology Fund” ( ) as we invest in equipping SfAA for the future. In this way, we will be better able to stay connected as a community and also properly support large and small meetings, skill-building and professional development webinars and many other collaborative activities for our members. As we do key things like expand our international outreach and offer new meeting formats, such upgrading is essential.

We wanted to get off to a good start with this fundraising campaign –and thanks to our members’ generosity that happened. I will let you read on to Susan’s column to find out how much money we have raised so far. As part of the next phase of the campaign, we are sending a letter to all members explaining more about this appeal –and asking if people can help us with meeting our target goal. We are mindful that these are difficult times and the economic and life circumstances of our members vary a great deal. We are asking people to donate if they are in a position to do so - and very much welcome broad participation in this fundraising campaign. It is all appreciated – whether people can give a lot or a little or not at all right now – we are always grateful for our community’s support in many ways. We will be good stewards of this money and make sure it goes to creating the kind of robust online presence that we need now and building up various types of programming that our members want. While we have never done a fundraising campaign quite like this before, the drive has been good in several important ways. We recognize that people especially value human contact and meaningful connection in these strange times – so it has been nice to be reaching out to our members and we are making progress towards our financial goal. All of this is very significant for our future.

In the last several newsletters, I have written about SfAA’s longer term strategic planning process called “Road to 100”. This committee, chaired by Drs. Sunil Khanna and Heather Reisinger, is now established and has begun setting the agenda for charting our course forward. It is exciting that the Strategic Planning Committee has new and established SfAA members, people at different career moments and working in varying sectors, and people who bring many different personal, professional, educational, international and practice backgrounds to the table. This committee is comprised of people with a broad range of viewpoints and experiences who will help us gather fresh thinking from current and new members about what the Society’s future should be. Please note that this committee will feature rotating membership over time– so others will have the opportunity to participate as well. 

And in the now – I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to another ad hoc planning group which has been extremely active over the last several months, our Meetings Workgroup. Chaired by President Elect Michael Paolisso, this group has worked tirelessly to research the options for the 2021 Norfolk meeting and beyond. These days it is vital to fully understand the different types of hybrid, online and onsite formats to know what will work best for our Society. Similar to the Strategic Planning Committee, this work group also has many different perspectives and kinds of expertise represented – experienced program chairs and meeting planners, SfAA staff, practitioners, students, teachers, early career folks, international participants and the list goes on. Jointly they are carefully considering new programming, formats, accessibility and outreach issues and many other critical topics. This group has also been coordinating closely with the SfAA Global Working Group (Chaired by Dr. Judith Freidenberg) that is helping with growth in international participation from numerous, different parts of the world. Because of all of their work, I am confident that we will have a great 2021 annual meeting that will feature both familiar and new formats and ways of participating. Please stay posted for all of the forthcoming details!

With all of this in mind, I return to the idea that SfAA has always been about its people. I find it inspiring and uplifting to see all of the ways that people are actively investing in our community and working on its future. I believe that these great efforts and energy will pay off and we will be an even stronger and more sustainable organization as we come through this transition. Thank you so much for your ongoing support, commitment and belief in our future. 

I am very excited about what we can and will do together. 

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