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Dare I admit that my first Annual Meeting was 1965? ASA was not as large and the meetings not as complex as they are now, but to a graduate student it was daunting. Still is, in fact. But now I know how to navigate it. I thought as we look forward to the 108th (the Association’s, not mine!) Annual Meeting in New York City, I’d take the liberty of offering a few hints for consideration so that your first ASA meeting is a successful professional and personal experience. All of us in the Association hope this will be the beginning of a long-time relationship with the ASA—your professional association—and with our annual gathering of sociologists from the United States, North America, and the rest of the world. While we are the American Sociological Association, we have many international members who regularly join us to share the newest research, meet colleagues, and explore new professional relationships.
Everything is open to everyone with very few exceptions (and those are marked and usually only committee meetings in which candidates for office are being nominated). The Association is open and welcoming; explore section business meetings and receptions even if you are not a section member. People are also approachable; that is why we have name badges. Do not hesitate to introduce yourself to someone famous, or whose book you just read, or who gave a great presentation at the meeting; they welcome it. These are the ways you use the Annual Meeting to meet people not in your daily environment and get to know the intellectual and business side of the Association.
View the overall program as an a la carte menu; feast well but be selective. Use the front portion of the Final Annual Meeting Program as your guide. You will see that it is a summary of the whole program divided into categories by type of event. You can pick from the President of the Association’s Plenary, Presidential sessions, and Thematic sessions to get a cross-section of what ASA President Cecilia Ridgeway wants the meeting theme to convey. But there is much more. Check out the workshops, which provide professional development opportunities, including teaching, career, research, policy, and departmental topics.
Make sure you download the ASA Annual Meeting App, which will be available in July. This is where lots of information from the Annual Meeting Program and new or updated information will be available, including places to eat and other useful tips for navigating the Big Apple.
Sections are the heart of the association—its intellectual life, its opportunities for networking, and a route to participate in and serve the ASA community. There is a page near the front of the Annual Meeting Final program that summarizes all the special area sections, what meeting day has their primary substantive sessions, receptions, and business meetings. Pick a few and attend. At a business meeting, tell a section officer that you would like to volunteer to help with section activities. You’ll soon find yourself on a committee or running for office. Before you know it, you will have a rich network of colleagues and friends with common sociological interests that you will likely see every year at the Annual Meeting. (You might also find yourself running for ASA Council.)
These are easy places to meet people and to eat—for free (not a minor matter in expensive New York City). There is the Welcoming Reception the night before the full program starts; an Honorary Reception after the Award Ceremony and Presidential Address; a Student Reception; a Reception for International Scholars (which includes everyone interested in supporting sociology as a global discipline and connecting with sociologists worldwide, as well as people actually doing international research; and DAN (Department Alumni Night). There is also a breakfast for Community College Faculty and many section receptions. Enjoy and network in these informal environments.
Check out the list in the front of the program. Thirty to forty informal and formal groups of ASA members and meeting attendees gather during the ASA Annual Meeting to engage with one another. Check out the list to see if there is something of interest.
If you are a Department Chair or a Director of Graduate Study register next year for the ASA Chairs Conference or Directors of Graduate Studies Conference, which are held annually the day before each Annual Meeting starts. There are also intensive educational Courses given the day before where you can spend four to six hours with an expert instructor on a particular topic or technique.
Submit a paper. It is not difficult and it doesn’t have to be a paper ready for publication just yet. (If it were, you’d be submitting it to a journal not a meeting!)
Join a section or two, or more. Deepen your current interests and explore new intellectual horizons.
Contact me (Hillsman@asanet.org) or any of the ASA staff if you need help. Enjoy the intellectual feast, collegiality, and bustle of the 108th Annual Meeting and enjoy New York! See you in Manhattan.
Sally T. Hillsman is the Executive Officer of ASA. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.