President’s Column

Paolisso.jpgMichael Paolisso

January 2022

At the beginning of each year, like many others I find myself hopeful, re-energized and renewed in my commitment to work better and focus more on what is important. (I did, however, stop making new year resolutions some years ago!) I am by nature an optimistic person, perhaps to a fault. Nonetheless, I do think there are real signs and signals that 2022 promises to be an improvement over 2021. Importantly, around the world there is hope and progress to suggest that the coronavirus may become less disruptive and more manageable, and our lives might normalize somewhat. Closer to home, my wife, Anita, and I are moving at the end of January across the country from Maryland to Washington state. Big and exciting changes and challenges ahead for us. I mention this personal note because although much of my attention and time right now are dedicated to this cross-country move, I find myself thinking, in between packing boxes, about how excited I am for what 2022 might bring to the SfAA. Why so optimistic for the SfAA now?

The challenges of the last two years for the SfAA have brought about important organizational changes and the development of new skills and expertise in our leadership and management staff. I want to share a few that strike me as critical to our future.  

First, we successfully hosted a virtual annual meeting in 2021, and I cannot thank the SfAA Meeting Working Group enough for all the work they did to fit the qualities and characteristics of our in-person annual meeting into an online format. The fit was not perfect, but we did recreate online many of the positive experiences our members seek from our in-person meetings, and the digital format and platform allowed us to reach new audiences in different ways. We now have the capacity to host online events throughout the year. This online capacity creates flexibility for our members and allows greater access to the SfAA. Most importantly, it enables SfAA to expand and diversify our engagement locally and globally. 

The lessons learned and capacity generated by hosting an online annual meeting is directly applicable to current efforts to host a hybrid annual meeting in Salt Lake City on March 22-26, 2022. The meeting working group, which includes office staff, and the meeting program committee, led by James McDonald and Elaine Bennett, have worked hard to combine what we do onsite at our annual meetings with online participation. Throughout, we are focused on the safety of our members, and we are constantly monitoring coronavirus infection rates and evolving state and federal health responses and guidelines. There is no one hybrid model that fits all. A heartfelt thanks to my creative, thoughtful and hardworking  SfAA colleagues  as they develop a hybrid meeting model that meets multiple needs and objectives. This model will be invaluable for future annual meetings. Perhaps the biggest take away for me from the past two years of planning annual meetings during times of great uncertainty is that we have developed the capacity to be flexible and adaptive, and created new working relationships among SfAA leadership, members and the staff of our management company, PMA. 

Second, in December the SfAA Board approved a budget for 2022 that in anticipated revenues and expenditures is more similar to annual budgets prior to the coronavirus pandemic. During the past two years, the SfAA “tightened its financial belt” and our members stepped up and donated time and money to help offset revenue decreases associated with our annual meetings. PMA went into a very aggressive cost-cutting mode, which significantly reduced expenses. SfAA Officers, Board Members, and the Meeting Working Group stepped up to help out. Combined, these efforts over the past two years have helped stabilize our financial situation. To be clear, the SfAA Board will remain very vigilant and attentive to the organization’s financial situation, for 2022 and beyond. If the past two years have taught us anything, it is to expect the unexpected and be resilient and adaptive. As we look ahead in 2022, there are financial opportunities to redesign our membership dues structures in ways to promote growth and greater inclusivity, expand our hybrid meeting options, develop more online meetings, and partner more with other organizations with overlapping missions. I encourage members to learn more about the changing financial situation at the SfAA. An easy and effective way to learn more is to attend, in person or online, the SfAA Business Meeting at our 2022 annual meeting on March, 24th from 11:00 to 1:15pm, mountain time zone.

Third, during the latter half of 2021, SfAA Officers, Board Members and Editors began discussing the future of our publications (Human Organization, Practicing Anthropology and SfAA News). Many changes are occurring in the world of publishing in general and for smaller organizations like the SfAA. The issues are important and complex, and include, for example: balancing open access with financial needs; increasing access and distribution; sustaining quantity and quality of content; streamlining the online manuscript review process; developing strategies for marketing and communication; providing more onsite and technological support to editors. Our editors deserve special recognition for their extraordinary commitment and efforts, for important work done and what they will do in 2022. My heartfelt thanks to Nancy Romero-Daza and David Himmelgreen (Human Organization), Lisa Jane Hardy (Practicing Anthropology), and Orit Tamir and Jeanne Simonelli (SfAA News). I also want to acknowledge Chad Morris who chairs the SfAA Publications Committee. It has been my great pleasure this past year to work with Chad. I am grateful for his experience and vision in the area of publications, and I have already learned much from him. Chad is leading the effort to expand the publications committee and create an advisory group. Chad, our editors, and committee members will all be working hard throughout 2022 to reimagine our SfAA publications so that they better serve membership while continuing our global expansion.

The above three areas of focus for 2022 are an example of why I am optimistic and hopeful that 2022 will be a productive and forward-looking year for the SfAA. There are other activities and efforts also underway, such as the work of the Racial Justice Task Force and SfAA Pro, an effort to engage more students in the workings of the SfAA. These and other activities will be discussed in next issues of the SfAA News. Until then, I wish you all a safe and healthy 2022. I thank you for your commitment and support of the SfAA. Our greatest resource is our members and their knowledge, skills and commitment to the applied social sciences.  Let’s make 2022 a year to re-imagine and reshape the SfAA.

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