President's Message - Fall, 2020

Sherylyn BrillerSherylyn Briller
Purdue University
SfAA President 

I saw a rainbow recently. It was unexpected, beautiful and reminded me that this is a powerful, hopeful symbol of transition. At SfAA, we are thinking about change and our next phase all of the time. We hope that our members are doing as ok as possible in this pandemic era -and we want to be there to support you. In a chaotic world, it is important for professional organizations like SfAA to boost the work of applied social scientists now more than ever. We are working to ensure that this support and professional enrichment goes on all year long. We are putting in new programming, technology and formats to enable our members to easily and regularly connect. In these ways, we will all be able to communicate about and work together on addressing the many pressing issues in our world today.

As you know, we missed being together for SfAA’s 2020 annual meeting and we are taking important steps to ensure that we can have a 2021 Spring conference. Knowing how much our members value this opportunity to connect, we committed early on to finding a way to have our annual meeting without needing to cancel it. Our Meetings Working Group and Program Committee have worked tirelessly on this effort for months. They researched many different aspects of holding a hybrid meeting, developing a contingency plan for a completely virtual conference if needed, and making a great meeting experience that is affordable and accessible. 

For hybrid and virtual meetings, good tech support and choosing the right platform are very important. The strengths, limitations, tech capacity and cost were all thoroughly explored for a series of platforms. We needed to get a sense of what each software offers and then make the right choice for our organization. This decision involves thinking about technical issues and logistics- but most importantly it involves thinking about our organization’s culture and what makes our great meeting experience what it is.  To vet our choice, some members who live in various parts of the world, work in various sectors, are at various career stages, and use various accessibility features (and the list goes on) weighed in about what they think will work well for the SfAA. We will continue to solicit your ideas as we make progress here.

We just held several well-attended Town Hall meetings to let people know more about the Spring 2021 meeting. We answered many questions about how to participate, session formats, networking options and other topics. Importantly, we let people know that having a longer meeting (starting a week before March 23-27 and going a week after) will provide people with many options for what can be accessed before, during and after these dates – providing extra value for the meeting. Participants were very excited and offered many enthusiastic comments as well as useful suggestions to incorporate.

The good news is you can still register and participate! In these uncertain times, we know that it takes more effort to mobilize and get stuff done. With this in mind, we are still accepting session ideas, posters, workshops and so forth. You do not need to decide about onsite vs. online participation right now. Here’s the link to find out more and register:

Seeing this new dream start to come alive is exciting. I want to thank many people including Mark Edberg (Norfolk Program Chair), Michael Paolisso (Meetings Group Chair), Susan Andreatta (Ad Hoc Fundraising Committee Chair), the SfAA staff and all of the many people who are volunteering so much time and expertise. For all of the people who donated to the SfAA Programming and Technology Fund and other funds to make sure that we make this transition well, THANK YOU! Spoiler alert – you will find out how much money we raised if you read on to Susan Andreatta’s piece in the News. Again it is not too late to give if you can do so – and we very much need and appreciate it:

While these continue to be some of the most challenging times for our organization, it is rewarding and invigorating to see so many people committed to the SfAA’s future. We will apply everything we are learning about new meeting formats, virtual technology, adaptation and ourselves to building an even better SfAA. We look forward to making our next chapter all togeth

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