President's Message

February 1, 2020

Sherylyn BrillerSherylyn Briller
SfAA President’s Column
January, 2020

As we enter a new decade, I am reflecting on how SfAA can keep doing what we do well and try new things too. In our strategic planning this year, we will focus on what our current and future members are looking for in a professional organization. We will ask: Why do people join and rejoin our Society? What is useful and important about this professional membership at specific career moments and over time? How can we help people find what they need from the earliest training stages, as careers develop, and in making community impact over time? We want to listen to our members and be responsive, especially in these changing times. SfAA remains all about its members and as our website says, “The unifying factor is a commitment to making an impact on the quality of life in the world.”

These thoughts are in my mind as we approach our 80th annual meeting in Albuquerque in March. I am looking forward to this Spring meeting and hoping it will feature pleasant temperatures, plenty of sunshine and good weather for exploring a gorgeous landscape and key nearby sites. Starting on Local Day and all through the week, we will be talking together about how people are working as anthropologists in many different local and global settings. I am sure that we will learn about many different important and practical aspects of their diverse work. 

I’ve mentioned before that we are preparing for a major strategic planning initiative involving the whole membership next. As a result of initial brainstorming last year, we are going to try out some new things at this annual meeting. For the most part, things will be familiar and what members have enthusiastically told us that they like to do at the SfAA meeting. That includes a great program of sessions (special thanks to our Topical Interest Group (TIG) leaders for creative programming in a wide variety of topical areas) and an excellent slate of educational and skill-building workshops. It also includes many opportunities to socialize and network, and chances to learn about how people are creating multiple pathways for anthropological careers (check out also the special Winter 2020 issue of Practicing Anthropology on this topic). 

Trying new things means creating a somewhat different experience and seeing how it goes. If we like how things turn out, we can keep going in that direction. Otherwise we can adjust more until we are comfortable with any new features or traditions that we make. While a theme of my column is that many things in SfAA consistently work well, we can also benefit from trying new things and discovering where those innovations may lead us.  

Here’s a little more detail about some things that we will try out in Albuquerque:

Celebrating our 80th Birthday at the Annual Awards Ceremony

We will try out a celebratory, crisp and invigorating format for this program with a goal of: 

“80 Minutes of Awards at the 80th Annual Meeting”. Then we party! Our awardees this year are an amazing combination of anthropological practitioners, scholars, researchers and teachers. You will hear about their wide-ranging and influential work and different ways of applying anthropology in the world. It promises to be inspiring. In synch with strategic planning, I spoke to Elizabeth Briody (Malinowski Award winner) and she told me that her keynote talk will focus on organizations as a site of research, research potential and anthropological practice. What a fortunate choice of topic for this year!

Supporting Career Development and New Leaders

We will pilot a few “orientation videos” about coming to the meeting that we can blast across social media ahead of the conference. These will help students and other newcomers learn about what they can do while attending. We will have a leadership table at the Training Program Exhibit that will be a place where people can drop by and ask questions about taking on leadership roles in the organization now or in the future. 

Special New Spaces

We will try out a new dedicated student lounge area on Thursday and Friday that will be a space for students to take a break, relax and meet each other during the annual meeting. Special thanks to our Student Board Representative Rey Villanueva for championing this idea and making it a reality for students. We will also try out having a quiet room which is meant to reduce stress, provide calm, and/or be a place where people can find out about resources for supportive services if needed (special thanks to the SfAA Gender Based Violence TIG for providing guidance and leadership in this important planning area). 

Making A Thought Wall

We will have a prominent place set up in Albuquerque for members to record their creative ideas via live and online formats for what they want SfAA to be now and in the future. These ideas will be incorporated into the strategic planning discussion. 

These are a few new things that we will try out. I am excited and curious to see what happens by adding these new elements. Hopefully we will enhance and improve our members’ meeting experience.  In short, we must always think about what our members are looking for consistently year after year and what they may also want to change with the times. 

While I highlighted some things above that may be new and different this year, I must now emphasize why things consistently go well with the SfAA meeting. The answer is simple: all of what the SfAA staff do before, during and after the meeting to make it so. Whether that is helping folks navigate the website and register, making sure accessibility arrangements are well-planned, keeping the members informed as the program develops, negotiating for the best deal and prices possible to keep costs low, working with the program chairs and others who rotate through planning positions every year. All together, they provide consistent, collective knowledge and learned experience from successfully running the meetings every year. With this in mind we as members are very appreciative for all that the SfAA staff does all of the time.

We are looking forward to seeing many of you in Albuquerque. Much thanks to Lois Stanford, Program Chair, the whole Program Committee and many others who have helped to organize a great meeting. Our theme of Cultural Citizenship and Diversity in Complex Societies could not be more important or timely. The conversation promises to be rich, multi-way and in the tradition of the Society for Applied Anthropology – lead to many ideas for how we can go forward as applied social scientists to create a better world.

©Society for Applied Anthropology 

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