American Sociological Association

About the ASA Retirement Network

The Beginning

The idea for ASA-ORN began with a conversation between Rosalyn Benjamin Darling and Natalie Sokoloff that led to a session at the Eastern Sociological Society meetings in 2009. The success of "ESSORN" led members Roz Darling and Peter Stein to propose the creation of a national ORN, and an exploratory gathering was held at the 2013 ASA annual meeting. After that meeting, four retired sociologists living in Chapel Hill, NC (Roz, Peter, Jon Darling, and Tuck Green) submitted a proposal to ASA to formalize the group.

ASA Council Approves the New ASA-ORN Network

At its Winter 2014 meeting, ASA Council approved a member-generated proposal to establish a program focused on the needs and interests of sociologists at or near the retirement stage of their careers. The creation of the ASA Opportunities in Retirement Network (ASA-ORN) provides a national-level outlet for an initiative that began at the Eastern Sociological Society meetings in 2009. Retirement groups have also been established in the Pacific Sociological Society and the Midwest Sociological Society. An exploratory meeting for ASA-ORN was held at the 2013 ASA Annual Meeting, with nearly 40 ASA members attending, in addition to ASA staff Karen Gray Edwards (Director of Publications and Membership) and Margaret Weigers Vitullo (Director of Academic and Professional Affairs).

Council approval included the following benefits:

  1. A listserv (see article below).
  2. A paper presentation session at the annual meeting, beginning in 2015.
  3. A professional development workshop at the annual meeting, beginning in 2015.
  4. A business meeting with an invited "lifetime of learning" lecture, beginning in 2015.
  5. A semi-annual electronic newsletter.
  6. A regular feature in Footnotes on retirement issues.

The need for this group is evident in the fact that, as of 2013, 680 ASA members were in the retired/emeritus category—the highest number in that category in five years—and that number will likely continue to grow in the years to come. Authored by Jon Darling, Rosalyn Benjamin Darling, Charles Green, and Peter Stein, the proposal for the new group listed seven goals


  1. To promote retention of ASA members as they transition from full-time work to retirement.
  2. To promote interaction and a sense of community among retired members.
  3. To promote interaction between retired members and other members at all career stages.
  4. To lessen the sense of isolation felt by some retired members.
  5. To provide the means for sharing information about opportunities in teaching, research, and other activities that would benefit from the expertise of retired sociologists.
  6. To provide the means for sharing information about other issues of concern to retirees, such as financial security, health care, and relocation possibilities.
  7. To serve as a resource for the regional ORNs that already exist or are being established at the Eastern, Midwest, Pacific, Southern, and other sociological societies.

ASA-ORN will also be exploring ways to help retirees network with colleagues around research interests and lifestyle questions beyond the Annual Meetings, through newsletters, regular articles in Footnotes, and use of various forms of social media. According to the proposal, “in addition to providing support, interaction among retirees would enable the dissemination of opportunities for new professional endeavors, such as visiting or part-time teaching appointments, volunteer consulting, activism, or collaborative research.” To facilitate this type of interaction, the ASA-ORN Listserv was established after the 2013 Annual Meeting for emeritus/retired and other members of the ASA who are interested in this initiative.

The potential contributions of ASA-ORN to the discipline are numerous. As the proposal for the group stated, retired sociologists “are also uniquely positioned to assist ASA in its outreach… [they] have a wealth of experience to share and could serve as mentors to others… Moreover, they are likely to have the time to serve in advisory or consulting positions, to engage in research to benefit the profession, and to serve as advocates for sociology and the social sciences in meetings with government officials and others.”


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