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The Executive Officer’s Column

Give a Gift that Lasts

As we approach the holidays and the end of 2001, I find that it is also a time to reflect on the important years ahead for sociology and for ASA. By now you should have all received your membership renewal notices, selected your ASA journals, and chosen your ASA sections. Some of you may have decided to add new journals to broaden your reading at affordable rates. Others of you may have identified new sections that are stepping out ahead in their programming and innovation (e.g., the Section on Community and Urban Sociology introducing the first-ever section journal, City and Community, in 2002). Many of you we hope are also in the process of responding to the ASA Call for Papers (with a deadline of January 10th) for the Annual Meeting in August 2002.

These activities that are a traditional part of our end of year cycle are all important for sociology, for ASA, and for what we do. Yet, there is another level of planning that comes to mind with the holiday spirit of giving and thinking ahead. What can we do quite tangibly to make a difference for the discipline and for those who succeed us? There are the large gifts, donations, and bequests that are always welcome and would be put to good use. There are also smaller, yet equally vital steps to help build an identity with the discipline and profession.

One easy, but significant step is to take time during the holiday season to give a gift of student membership. If every non-student member would give a gift to one student, we would mightily expand ASA’s work and reach across generations. While faculty members at all levels work on professional development of their students in countless ways, membership in ASA provides opportunities for students to learn about and attach to sociology beyond that possible through class, course, or curriculum. To put it in the technological parlance of contemporary life, if you are stumped to find the right gift to finish your holiday shopping, avoid the malls and even the dot coms and come home to your discipline—a dot org with a commitment to sociology’s future. Graduate and undergraduate students alike can benefit enormously from what they will receive and learn through membership but also in the ways they will come to know and appreciate the field. By virtue of the new dues restructuring, a special subscription rate of $20 has been set for students for all journals (except Sociological Methodology), instead of $35 for bi-monthly journals and $30 for quarterlies. We see these reduced rates as an incentive for students to read and think broadly. The opportunity to participate at low rates in ASA sections is also an exceptional opportunity to learn from and network with sociology experts in specialty areas. We also think that access to JSTOR at $40 for members can put students in touch with the archival database of five ASA journals (currently American Sociological Review, Contemporary Sociology, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Social Psychology Quarterly, and Sociology of Education). And, starting in 2002, all members will have free access to the ASA’s Online Paper Center of papers presented at the Annual Meeting from the prior year.

Sociological literature speaks clearly about the role of professional socialization in students’ lives. Engaging in a national disciplinary association opens a world of professional opportunities to students—to meet junior and senior colleagues with similar intellectual passions, to present new work and receive feedback at the Annual Meeting, and to start new networks that will be sustained for years. The ASA Student Forum, in which all ASA student members are automatically a part, seeks to connect students with students all year long, provide advice and information particularly tailored for students, and sponsor special Annual Meeting sessions and events for students each year. The ASA Honors Program offers training and an ethnographic trip through the Annual Meeting for undergraduate students (see page 4).

The first step is often the hardest for students; that is, knowing about ASA and joining. This is why we are encouraging members to provide gifts to their students. For a minimum of $35 ($15 dues and the minimum of one required journal at $20), your dollars can make a difference all year long. Once that student enters ASA, our goal is to do the rest by providing the types of experience and exposure to students that can make a difference in their professional lives.

In addition to individual gifts, we also encourage departments to send an important message when they take advantage of ASA’s membership “bundling” offer. If a department signs up a cohort of students (a minimum of at least five) and pays $5 of the membership fee, ASA will also pay $5 of each student’s membership, making the remaining $25 for the student a very affordable way to become actively engaged in sociology and the sociological community. We make the process user friendly for departments, and are eager to answer questions and help in any way we can. Please contact Yvonne Inniss, Membership and Customer Service for details (; ext. 335).

In addition to participating in the bundling program, all departments may wish to give a gift of membership to outstanding students who have just written a stellar paper, have served on a department committee, have been an effective research or teaching assistant, or just merit a “thank you.” If you wish to have your gift be a “surprise,” you may fill out a membership form on behalf of the student, and ASA will send notification of your gift. Again contact Ms. Inniss to make these arrangements.

The events of September 11 only intensify our need for community and our society’s need for the wisdom of sociology. As the Association extends its best wishes to each of you for a healthy and peaceful new year, we urge you to think of sociology, our future, and give a gift that lasts.—Felice J. Levine