President's Message

November 1, 2019

Fall Greetings!Sherylyn Briller

The season is changing and we are moving ever closer towards our 2020 annual meeting in Albuquerque. We will celebrate our 80th annual meeting and it looks like we are going to have a very exciting program! Panel and individual abstracts are streaming in now. The program theme of Cultural Citizenship and Diversity in Complex Societies is most timely. From topical sessions, critical conversations, local day events and on – we will have many opportunities to discuss how to use applied social sciences to productively engage with current issues relating to cultural diversity, history and contested citizenship. 

In preparing for the meeting, we are pleased to see people using our new website smoothly. It is designed to have a cleaner look with easier navigation. Many thanks to the SfAA staff who worked very hard on the redesign and to our student representative A Rey Villanueva who also offered valuable technical expertise in support of this project. A website is always a dynamic entity so let us know what can make it most user-friendly and accessible for you. 

We are also glad to see people take advantage of the early bird registration rates that are in place until October 15th. It is essential for us to receive the meeting abstracts with enough time to assemble a great program. This process involves extensive coordination between the SfAA staff, TIG leaders, annual meeting program committee, to name just some. To thoughtfully develop coordinated sets of sessions, we need to give adequate run up to all of these folks!

As we celebrate our 80th annual meeting, we should continue to do all of the things that make the SfAA a conference that people look forward to coming to each year. These include deep conversations about a variety of high stakes and complex topics, thinking about how to use applied social science to make change in the world, maintaining a thriving and supportive community of people who do this work, and making sure mentorship and leadership opportunities exist at every career stage. 

In addition to staying close to SfAA’s established values and mission, we must also innovate and change with the times. In my last few columns, I’ve been talking about SfAA embarking on strategic planning at this critical juncture. Let me provide an update of where we are now. 

Strategic planning is a visionary process that will help us think more about who we are, where we are going now and how we will get there on our path to our 100th birthday. As we focus on “making a difference in the world” and the SfAA’s larger impact, the strategic plan will be a touchstone for us to make sound decisions and allocate resources wisely. It is healthy for an organization to take a deep dive into thinking about when its actions align well with its values and mission and when needed, do some mid-course correction. As a specialist in the anthropology of aging, one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is to appreciate how lives (both those of people and organizations) develop and are composed of different chapters, experiences and critical junctures. Thus, strategic planning presents a tremendous opportunity for us to consider and shape our future as we seek to ensure we have a broad, inclusive and highly relevant applied social science organization. 

With all of the above in mind, I am pleased to announce that two of our Board members who are finishing up their current terms have agreed to oversee the next phase of the strategic planning process. This practitioner-academic combination team of Heather Reisinger and Sunil Khanna brings a wealth of life, work and strategic planning experience, knowledge of the SfAA organization and its governance, and a commitment to increase inclusivity and expand our organization’s utility and outreach to a wide range of professional anthropologists. Their backgrounds in government, research, university and nonprofit work settings will be highly valuable here. You will be hearing more about their plans to get important formative feedback from the SfAA membership as we embark on this next phase.

To get off to a successful start, we are also planning to implement several initiatives in Albuquerque that came out of the summer Board pre-strategic planning phase. These early actions include:

Making a “thought wall”- collecting members’ ideas via live and online formats about what they want SfAA to be now and in the future

Supporting new leaders – holding an “SfAA 101: How the Organization Runs” introductory workshop for those ready now or contemplating taking on leadership roles going forward

Celebrating our 80th birthday- stay tuned for some cool features that will especially involve spotlighting students and practitioners at SfAA’s 80th annual meeting. Yes, there will be cake!

We aim to have a sustainable and thriving SfAA as we journey towards our 100th year. This commitment involves periodically revisiting our values and mission, fine-tuning our programming to best meet members’ needs, and focusing on having a diverse, inclusive SfAA that well-represents our various constituencies and is ready to use anthropology and applied social sciences to have meaningful impact in the world. Let’s continue the conversation in Albuquerque!

Sherylyn Briller, SfAA President

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