Road to 100: SfAA Strategic Planning

Heather Schacht Reisinger, Co-Chair
Road to 100 Committee


In college, I had an experience that continues to shape the way I see committee membership. I was taking an ethnography class and decided to conduct my ethnography of the experience of Black students at the small, liberal Midwestern college I attended. The President of the Black Student Union (BSU) invited me to attend all meetings where she was represented the BSU. One of those meetings was the equivalent to what we might call the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) committee today. 

The DEI was a small committee with a few faculty and high-level college administrators, as well as the President and Vice President of BSU as members. The committee was all white with the exception of the BSU leaders. I had been attending for about half of the semester when the BSU President and Vice President had a conflict with the scheduled meeting, but suggested I attend anyway. During that meeting, one of the faculty who I held in high regard because of her commitment to DEI issues turned to me and asked, “What do Shamira and Anthony really think about this issue? What have they shared with you?” I sat in stunned silence because all that was running through my head was, “Why don’t you ask them?” I later shared the story with Shamira and she was not surprised. I said, “But it was Patty. I would have never expected that from her.” Shamira responded to me, “She feels more comfortable asking you.”

When we have diverse membership in our boards and committees, people frame their questions differently, perhaps respond to questions with more intentionality, and most importantly the full body of membership hears different perspectives, if we are willing to listen.

Sunil Khanna and I were tasked with developing a long-range and strategic planning committee, which we called “Road to 100.” The first step was forming the committee with great care and intentionality.

The committee is comprised of a diverse body of members that goes beyond representing the makeup of today’s SfAA membership, but challenges our membership to reflect the diversity of society. The membership also includes practitioners, both masters and doctorly trained; anthropologist whose academic home is outside an anthropology department; and members new to SfAA. Early on, the goal is for the committee to be innovative and bring new thinking to the Society. The members include, Nadine Bendycki, Alejandra Colom, Melissa Cope, Nikia Grayson, Kendall House, Lauren Johnson, Sunil Khanna, Heather Schacht Reisinger, A. Rey Villanueva, and Jennifer Wies.

In 2040, the Society for Applied Anthropology will turn 100. This is the driving focus of the Road to 100 Committee. The charge: What does The Society want to look like when it reaches its centennial birthday? Yet, in this focus, the questions are broad and have the potential to be far-reaching. The top three issues the Board charged the committee to think about were:

1)    New and innovative funding streams as SfAA seeks a stable and sustained financial foundation;

2)    Understanding the needs of our members work realms and career stages; and

3)    Exploring ways to stay connected as a community, including leveraging technology.

In a time fraught with the COVID-19 pandemic, financial hardship, and racial reckoning, these are critical questions that we must ask with intentionality and honesty.

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