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The Council of the American Sociological Association (ASA) recently moved to foster the ability of sociologists to retain, renew, or begin their engagement with their national professional association during times of change in their professional careers, specifically times of unemployment as careers evolve and retirement from principal employment.
This commitment to fostering continued or new engagement with the ASA during the life cycle of sociologists’ careers supports the vitality of the Association. ASA’s organizational capacity to advance sociological knowledge, promote the discipline, and positively inform public policy with scientific knowledge arises from the membership. Correspondingly, as a membership association, ASA’s goal is to serve members by providing multiple forums for communicating new scholarship and for professional development, as well as for expanding professional networks that increase social capital (Granovetter 1973), positively impact affect (Smith-Lovin 2007), and guard against depression (Joonmo, Lin and George 2008).
Council’s recent effort to foster new and continued membership, especially during sociologists’ career transitions, is essential to the wellbeing of the Association and its members and enriches the discipline.
In the 2011 ASA election, 58 percent of members approved a new dues structure for the Association. Most changes will go into effect for the 2013 membership year, but Council implemented one of the important changes a year early: a new membership category for unemployed sociologists that reduces the total cost of membership (including a journal subscription) to $50. By early February 2012, 154 sociologists have joined the Association or renewed their membership in this “unemployed” category, more than one-third of whom have never before been a member of the ASA. Each of these sociologists—both new and renewing—has a vital contribution to make to the Association, and in turn, the Association has much to offer them during a transitional period in their professional lives. The early success of the new unemployed membership category in encouraging first-time and continuing ASA membership is good news.
Maintaining the participation of retired sociologists in ASA is equally important for the health of the discipline and the Association. The new dues structure includes important changes for sociologists who are retiring from their primary places of employment. The former ASA “emeritus” membership category was limited to sociologists who had long-standing membership (in each of the prior 10 years) in the Association and did not include special access to journals. The new “emeritus/retired” category is open to any retired sociologist andincludes online access to all ASA journals. Council also implemented these changes a year early in 2012.
The emeritus/retired category changes reflect the changing demographics of our society and profession, as well as the reality that retiring from one’s primary workplace does not necessarily mean retirement from the profession. Bob Segalman, a second generation ASA member who got his PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, recently renewed his membership (for the first time since 2000) in the “retired” category. He did so in order to stay in contact with other sociologists and to continue drawing on emerging sociological research to support his ongoing work as the founder of Speech-to-Speech (STS). STS makes it possible for individuals with speech impairments to use the phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from any telephone in the United States at no cost to the user. In honor of his success in creating Speech-to-Speech, the University of Wisconsin awarded him a second (honorary) Doctorate of Science.
Segalman is one of over 500 retired sociologists who have joined ASA or renewed their membership for 2012. To date, the proportion of members in the emeritus/retired category in 2012 has increased to 5.6 percent from 4.5 percent for all of 2011.
Council welcomes this increase, and encourages the various nominations committees to include emeritus and retired members on committees and editorial boards of the Association.
Sally T. Hillsman is the Executive Officer of ASA.
She can be reached by email at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.