November 2012 Issue • Volume 40 • Issue 8

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From the Executive Officer

Member Donations Make the ASA Small Grants Program a Significant Disciplinary Resource


“What we call little things are merely the causes of great things…”

Henri Frederic Amiel –
19th Century Swiss philosopher and poet


During the 10 years I have been the Executive Officer of ASA, I have had the privilege of seeing the members of the Association move the discipline of sociology forward through a variety of noteworthy achievements and activities. To point to only a few, we celebrated the ASA centennial by publishing major scholarly books that reflect upon on our discipline; a sociologist received the Library of Congress’ Kluge Prize for lifetime achievement in the social sciences and humanities (which fills the intellectual gap in the Nobel Prizes); and a sociologist was awarded the coveted National Science Board’s Alan T. Waterman Prize. The leadership of the Association has ensured the ability of sociology to remain close to where national science policy is deliberated and where scholarly societies collaborate and bring their members to influence its direction by purchasing a permanent headquarters for the Association in Washington, DC. The leadership also supported to move the ASA’s journal publishing program into the electronic environment to ensure the widespread international availability of high-quality sociological scholarship. And there is more….

sally hillsman

Sally T. Hillsman,
ASA Executive

But equally as important, I also have seen ASA members advance the discipline of sociology through far more modest acts that nonetheless have real significance for the discipline. I am thinking especially about our members support as individual contributors of the Association’s three competitive small grants programs—the Fund for the Advancement of the Discipline (FAD), the Community Action Research Initiative (CARI), and the Carla B. Howery Teaching Enhancement Fund (TEF). Each year, individuals in every membership category make charitable contributions to sustain the funding for these ASA grant programs when they renew their memberships. Members’ contributions are typically modest—in 2011 the average contribution to each of these funds was about $30—but when ASA aggregates these individual contributions, the small grant programs can help fill gaps in the landscape of funding opportunities for many sociologists. In addition, these grant programs provide ASA members with an opportunity to contribute to the discipline by donating to the ASA small grant program part of their annual charitable giving plans. 

All these small grants programs are competitive and open to sociologists. They each have Council-approved advisory panels that peer review the applications, make the funding decisions, and help guide the direction of the programs. In February of 2012, Council decided that for the purposes of fundraising, they were to be combined into a single “ASA Small Grants Program.” In this way, members can contribute to the ASA Small Grants Program as a whole, or choose to direct their contributions to a specific fund within the program.

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The Fund for the Advancement of the Discipline (FAD) provides up to $7,000 of “venture capital” for initiating innovative basic research and for stimulating new lines of inquiry or new networks of scientific collaboration. FAD grants support scholars whose work, while at such an early stage of development it would be difficult to acquire funding through traditional agencies, nonetheless shows potential to forge new paths for the discipline. Donations to FAD help ensure that the sociological “center” is challenged, pushing sociology into new areas of research and new approaches of inquiry. NSF provides matching funds.

The Community Action Research Initiative (CARI) is a small grant program that supports sociologists who are bringing social science knowledge, methods, and expertise to address community-identified issues and concerns. In the past, sociologists have addressed issues like minority health, gang violence, childhood poverty, local food deserts, homelessness, and “walkable” communities through evaluations and needs assessment projects. The sociologists conduct pro bono work with a community organization or local public interest group. CARI provides up to $3,000 for each project to cover direct costs associated with doing the research. For those individuals whose work and research functions relatively far from the direct needs of communities, making a donation to CARI offers a unique way to help bring the insights of sociology directly to the people and communities who need them. The ASA Spivack fund provides matching funds.

Carla B. Howery Teaching Enhancement Fund provides up to $2,000 of funding for projects that advance the scholarship of teaching and learning within sociology. The importance of this area of research was highlighted in Earnest Boyer’s call for recognition of the scholarship of teaching in 1990, and again in Arum and Roska’s 2012 conclusion that students learn more effectively when faculty have high expectations and offer rigorous courses. Yet despite this long-repeated refrain, few resources are available to faculty who want to conduct research on effective sociological teaching. The Carla B. Howery Teaching Enhancement Grant program is an exception, and donations to the program reflect the givers’ understanding that teaching matters and that the discipline benefits from systematic investigations of effective sociological pedagogy. Past grantees have examined pedagogy for teaching sociological perspectives on climate change, developed a teacher preparation program for MA students, and conducted a multi-institutional study of research experience capstone courses in sociology.

Please keep the ASA Small Grants Program in mind as you consider ways to express your thankfulness for sociological science, as you consider your end-of-year tax deductions or as part of your estate planning. Donations can be made during the membership renewal process, or by logging into the members-only area and clicking on the “Contribute” Link. Over time, and across the breadth of ASA membership, your contributions help make these small grant programs a catalyst for great things.

Sally T. Hillsman is the Executive Officer of ASA. She can be reached by email at


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