The Executive Officers Column
On the Importance of Being Engaged in ASA
I am pleased to report that the state of the discipline of
sociology is excellent and that the vitality of the Association
as a membership organization and as the national voice of the
discipline can be seen in all aspects of our activities. You, the
members of ASA, are the vital force behind these achievements,
as made evident by your roles in departments and universities,
research and practice, the public sphere, and your engagement
in the Association.
The excellent state of the discipline and Association
Bachelors degrees in sociology have steadily increased over
the last 20 years and the awarding of doctoral degrees has recovered well from the
declines of the 1980s and early 1990s. Grant awards to sociology for scientific research
have increased steadily and scholarly productivity is high. In the Associations centennial
year, the National Science Board recognized for the first time a sociologist, Dalton
Conley, as winner of the coveted Alan T. Waterman Award. ASA membership has continued
to grow and will soon reach historically high levels. Section memberships have
mushroomed as members have increased their activity in the Association. Submissions
to ASA journals are up and their quality is high, and the website logged almost two million
page hits in April alone.
The sociological energy at Annual Meetings
Annual Meetings in the last several years have had record attendance. Most important,
session organizers for the 2006 Program Committee of President Cynthia Fuchs Epstein
received a record number of paper submissions
for the Montréal meeting. It will
undoubtedly be another outstanding meeting
of ASA members and sociologists from
North America and across the globe.
You are needed
As always, however, there are clouds
which we have reported often in Footnotes
and in this column. As I write, the Chair
of the Senate Science and Space Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce, Science and
Transportation Committee (which has jurisdiction over the National Science Foundation
[NSF] authorization), Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), suggested it might be time
to remove the social, behavioral, and economic sciences from NSF. The hearing was, in
the eyes of social science observers, not a pretty sight. The sociology discipline thrives,
however, and in the professional and public spheres, members of the Association and
staff will confront this challenge together as we have confronted others.
The centrality of the Association
The Association represents a primary source of engagement in and support of the
sociological profession. Its community provides each of us intellectual stimulation and
validation, a source of professional identity, and a structure and system for achieving individual
career and communal goals. ASAs functions are thus complementary to or an
extension of our sociological workplaces. Within each of these domains leaders emerge
who help us all achieve agreed-upon goals, both personal and organizational.
The importance of your participation
Nearly 1,000 ASA members hold volunteer leader positions within the governance
and journal publication infrastructure of the Association. These include, among others,
Council, editorial boards, award selection committees, annual meeting program committees,
as well as ASA section councils and committees. This is a high number of volunteers
and they are the ones who make the Association work. Some positions require only
a few hours of work each year, while others require many. But none of this work is just
free labor for the Association; rather it is engagement in the mission of the sociological
community, and it makes a great deal of difference to the profession, the discipline, and
It makes a real-world impact
Members volunteer to make decisions about who will become an ASA Minority
Fellow from the many applications the program receives. Members decide who will
receive Student Travel Grants to the annual meetings, and to the International Sociological
Association. Volunteers review and read dozens of dissertations nominated for the
Associations dissertation award, read the many books nominated for the annual book
award, and decide all the major professional honors awarded by the ASA. Members
volunteer huge amounts of time to review submissions to the ASA journals, determining
the journals scholarly content. Members volunteer to develop the Associations teaching
materials and work on committees that produce important reports for the discipline.
These professional rewards and intellectual materials matter to a great many sociologists,
to the strength of the discipline, and to the standing of your Association.
ASA sections are at the heart of the on-going intellectual exchange within the Association.
Members provide contact with the sections many peer networks. Motivated
volunteers keep these communities active and productive year round and more are
needed to fulfill the many opportunities for engagement in ASAs 44 sections. The sections
are a major venue for developing our associations student leaders.
Putting your name forward
The ASA is an association of, by, and for its members, so it is imperative that members
be involved. Everyone suffers from a severe shortage of time, but your peers
appreciate, recognize, and applaud those who give of their time to lead within the ASA.
Members who serve on nominations bodies encourage other members to put themselves
forward as someone willing to serve by running for office, and they encourage sections
to bring new names forward. This outreach helps nominating committees get new membership. This is essential to successfully overcoming any organizations
tendency to rely on those who have already had the opportunity
to show their commitment.
The Association is you, not they
Why did they do that? It is important that members from diverse
professional settings and backgrounds and diverse social backgrounds
step forward to express their interest in running for office, serving on
committees, and being active in sections. They needs to be you. The
2006 Annual Meeting in Montréal provides this opportunity. Let the
Executive Office know now that you are available and willing, because
the nominating committees will meet in Montréal. Please also go to
section business meetings in Montréal and volunteer. Your Association
will be richer and more effective for your participation. Thank you to
all who are serving or have served, and to those who have yet to serve,
the time is right and your talents are needed.
Sally T. Hillsman, Executive Officer