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The Executive Officer’s Column

Click with ASA

I date myself by recalling the early years of Ms. magazine and its use of the term click. Long before a mouse was a computer accessory and click assumed its pedestrian meaning, click referred to that Eureka-like moment when the “light bulb” went on and a new insight altered your thinking about an issue. At the time, of course, the issue was the paradigm shift of the feminist perspective.

This week I experienced my own clicks as I worked at my computer and a message popped up to renew my ASA membership online (see page 1 of this issue of Footnotes).

First click: Opening the e-mail, now as ASA Executive Officer, reminded me that I have been a member of ASA for 35 years, through several career changes as a sociologist at many different institutional locations. During all those years, I always opened my ASA membership renewal notice and renewed without hesitation. From my graduate school days to the present, my ASA membership was a constant and solid affirmation of my core professional identity as a sociologist. In turn, that continuing relationship with the Association enriched my work and supported the field of sociology.

ASA’s membership has held steady in the past five years, a signal that others share my sense about this relationship with one’s core professional organization. There are signs of vitality and growth as well. The ASA Sections represent the “venture capital” of the discipline. Within the 43 sections, including a new Section on Animals and Society (see page 4), members find others who share their engagement in a special area of sociology. We ended the 2002 membership year with the highest section membership participation in the Association’s history: 19,855. This is about a six percent gain over 2001. About two-thirds of our members join sections and participate, on average, in more than two sections. I am particularly pleased with the increase in student members in the Association and with the special initiatives for students that sections undertake. Via sections, students will experience an active engagement in their profession – second click!

Third click: A recent communication from the Sociological Practice Section stimulated a conversation about the Association’s support for sociologists working outside the academy. That community, as we in Washington, DC, well know, is very diverse. It includes many academically based sociologists engaged in research and consulting in a wide variety of venues as well as sociologists working full time in government and in the profit and nonprofit sectors. ASA wants to support these colleagues’ professional needs and to learn from and share their accomplishments.

Fourth click: ASA has forged professional relationships with the Association that extend beyond individual members. We offer a Department Affiliate relationship between ASA and departments of sociology (and all types of joint departments). Departments, as loci of action, are central to the strength of the profession. Being an ASA Department Affiliate allows them to receive regularly publications that are important for the departments’ work (e.g., reference directories, teaching materials), research briefs on trends in the field, and our electronic broadcast, Chairlink. Our annual Chair Conference, now in its tenth year, brings department leaders together to share their insights (and challenges) as the discipline’s representatives on campus. For eight years, ASA has offered a similar conference for Directors of Graduate Study, who fill a critical leadership role in sociology in the development of the profession and our universities. ASA wants a strong relationship with departments and department leaders and seeks to facilitate their communications with one another.

Now we are extending the affiliation concept to departments of social studies in high schools. In August, Council authorized ASA to offer an affiliate program to engage high school sociology teachers in our Association and to strengthen the quality of sociology instruction in high schools. ASA’s Task Force on the Advanced Placement Course in Sociology is working very hard to develop a prototype and many resource materials for an exciting and rigorous introductory course (see the ASA homepage for the draft, and send us your comments). Collaboration between college faculty and high school teachers sounds like a winning click for our students who are the next generation of sociologists.

The new online renewal system has generated a positive response from many members. Give it a look—and a click—as soon as you can. Renewing online is quick and efficient for both you and the Executive Office staff. But as you click into ASA using your mouse, reflect on the relationship you are locking in as well. As a sociologist, I have made ASA my home all these years. I hope you share that bond.

Sally T. Hillsman