President's Message

Sherylyn BrillerSherylyn Briller
SfAA President’s Column
May, 2020

We are thinking about our members in this challenging period. Hoping that you are doing as well as possible. Much has changed since I last wrote this column. Applied social science matters more than ever. It is inspiring to see the deep commitment of SfAA members to both the work and our professional organization. SfAA leadership has been working hard on dealing with budgetary consequences, since the annual meeting is a very significant part of our yearly budget. We are identifying a range of ways to secure our future, including launching a capital campaign. Right up front, we want to deeply thank those who donated to help the Society in our time of need. And thanks in advance to those who are contemplating donating to help us keep going strong. The Society’s members are generous in many ways –with money, time, mentorship, etc. We appreciate all of the different ways people continue to step up for our professional organization. 

Sustaining SfAA is vital because our members, from students to practitioners to retirees, are doing critical work and we want to be there for them. As an example in this issue, see “Engaging Applied Social Scientists to Connect Worldwide: A Call for Rapid Response Initiative for Action in Pandemic Times”. While we are focused on present needs, our strategic planning initiative SfAA: Road to 100 is also getting underway. A diverse and talented committee is now assembled. They are approaching the task with gusto and with creativity. Along with our members, they will combine experience with fresh thinking. I am confident that they will generate many innovative ideas for our future. For me, these thoughts inspire feelings of excitement and optimism as we hope for better times ahead.

Why SfAA Matters

SfAA provides a hub for applied social scientists and the partners they work with to connect, collaborate and work on complex social issues together. When I sent greetings last time, we were looking forward to our annual meeting in Albuquerque with an exciting program focusing on cultural citizenship and diversity in complex societies. These issues matter greatly and are intertwined with the pandemic. Indeed many issues that applied anthropologists work on (e.g., disasters, poverty, gender based violence, health disparities, etc.) are receiving more attention now. Similarly, topics that I work on relating to aging, disability, and the end-of-life are in the spotlight. We must use these opportunities to advance critical conversations and take even more action. In thinking about our society’s start in the WWII era, members were also applying social science for problem-solving in very difficult times. Then as now, SfAA members could share with colleagues, socialize together, and push vital work forward. I am very proud that we continue to do all of these important things and much more. 

Since SfAA’s beginning, we have gathered each Spring for our annual meeting. People look forward to discussing their work, learning about what others are doing, and being together. Much joint planning, resource sharing and networking occurs. We refresh and recharge with friends and colleagues and meet those who will become new ones! For all of these reasons, we know that the annual meeting is extremely important and it was a tremendous loss for all of us to cancel it this year. While we were very disappointed, it was the right decision to do so for the health of our members and the community at large. One positive aspect from this terrible situation is that we are thinking in some new, creative ways about what is most important and what is possible at the annual meeting. I am very happy to announce that the SfAA President-Elect Michael Paolisso is leading the charge for envisioning future annual meetings, their format and programming. As you will recall, Michael was the Program Chair for the highly successful annual meeting in Portland, Oregon. He is a person who is both passionate about and deeply knowledgeable when it comes to the annual meeting. We are also very excited to see how the Norfolk Program Chair Mark Edberg and the Program Committee will pilot some creative new ideas next Spring! 

Securing Our Future

This year’s events caused us to center our attention on financial and organizational sustainability. Being good stewards of the SfAA’s financial resources and being transparent with members about our economic situation are very important. Frankly speaking, we will need to utilize our reserves as a result of the meeting cancellation. We will need to build these up again, operate efficiently, and identify new and additional sources of revenue. Maintaining and growing our membership are key priorities. We are taking on these challenges and believe we will make a stronger organization for the future by doing so. What has been heartening is the members who have already showed support by giving contributions, volunteering, sharing their talents and ideas and the list goes on. We are grateful that the Founders Endowment Committee led by Past President Susan Andreatta, will lead the capital campaign. She is the recipient of the 2020 Sol Tax Award which is given to a person who has provided long term and distinguished service to the Society. Truly modeling commitment to the SfAA, we are so glad that she is willing to lead this vital fundraising campaign. 

SfAA Road to 100

We want the SfAA to celebrate its 100th year in 2040. To do so, we must stay close to SfAA’s established values and mission and we must also innovate and change with the times. When I wrote the last column, I had no idea that we would find ourselves in this situation just months later. We have the opportunity now to create a more sustainable and thriving SfAA as we journey on towards our centennial. What this crisis showed us is that we are still doing important applied social science work that is needed more than ever in the world. We are deeply valued and cherished by our members. We have many organizational strengths and many friends. We are reaching out to new people around the globe who want to connect with our professional organization. We have a next generation of new leaders who are ready to take on leadership roles and help us think through navigating in these uncharted times.

Based on all of these strengths, we feel determined, purposeful and extremely busy as we move forward. All together, we aim to strongly support applied social science, carry on our traditions and build an exciting SfAA of the future.

©Society for Applied Anthropology 

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