By Roberto Alvarez
SfAA President’s Column
Your Board of Directors has been very active over the last few months. As most of you know, the board convenes twice a year, at the spring Annual Meeting and in the fall during the American Anthropological Association Meetings. Our work continues during the year through on-line discussions. As we approach Albuquerque and our 74th Annual Meeting the board has addressed a number of important issues. These include developing a strategic plan for the future and preparing for our 75th Anniversary. We are also addressing new recommendations for the bylaws, are searching for a new editor for Practicing Anthropology and approving a Program Chair for 2015. These are among the many tasks that the Board will address in Albuquerque.
Importantly we now have our election results. Elections represent more than the “changing of the guard” when new officers enter and those who have served exit. In addition to voting in our new officers, the membership overwhelming approved the SfAA Bylaw recommendations. One of the most important changes is that elections will now be held through electronic balloting. This will allow on-line voting and make elections much more efficient. Hopefully the ease of on-line voting will entice more of you to vote. In addition, we approved the name addition that enhances our title: The Society for Applied Anthropology: a Worldwide Organization for the Applied Social Sciences. This simple “name-tag” provides added momentum for enacting and further developing the SfAA International Initiative.
The Changing of the Guard
New officers are crucial to the governance and continuity of SfAA activity, but those individuals who are ending their terms continue to be crucial to the Society. On behalf of the society, I want to recognize those officers who are leaving the board. I do this with respect because these are individuals who have generously given their time and effort to the Society. Maryann McCabe has been an exceptionally engaged member who volunteered to serve on the board this last year. Although Maryann is exiting the board, like so many of our officers, she has volunteered to continue on a variety of tasks. Michael Paolisso also ends his board term, but fortunately, has volunteered to take on the Secretarial reins for this next year. (The membership will elect a new secretary in 2015). Michael’s commentary and work have been central to board decisions. Our outgoing secretary, Susan Charnley has not only taken our minutes but has been one of the balancing voices on the board. Her honest and open ideas have often kept us on target. Rebecca Crosthwait, our student representative, has brought a needed perspective and fresh ideas to board discussions. Clair Sterk has been consistently active in on-line discussions. Our former President Merrill Eisenberg, will also be exiting the board. Like other officers Merrill continues to be deeply involved in SfAA affairs. Her contagious energy, generosity and hard work have been exemplary and will be missed. One of the rewards of the presidency has been working with this group of dedicated people. Thank you all for your concern and effort. The SfAA is a stronger organization because of you.
The Election Slate
This year’s slate of candidates was exemplary. Kerry Feldman and Kathleen DeWalt, outgoing Nominations and Election Committee members, outdid themselves in securing new officers. Members told me, “I wanted all the candidates to win” and “I wanted to vote for them all.” The roster of candidates represented the diversity of interests, gender, and ethnicity that makes up the society. We welcome our new board members, James Loucky, Alicia Cruz, Maria Cruz-Torres and Jessica-Jean Cassler; our new Nominations and Elections officers, Cathleen Crain and James Stansbury, and our new incoming President Elect, Kathleen DeWalt.
The Society also owes a deep gratitude to those dedicated members who were not elected, Ann McElroy, Christian Zlolniski, Maryann McCabe, Christian Ho, Yewoubdar Beyene, Roland Moore and Ona Harris. Ours is a better organization because of members like you. Thank you all for running and for stepping up to the plate.
Growing Pains and the International Initiative
In addition to the physical “changing of the guard,” elections bring other types of change. New personalities, new ideas, new visions and new experiences challenge the status quo, as do the changes in our Bylaws. This was in fact one of the goals of this year’s slate: to incorporate diverse views and “fresh” ideas. Change, as applied anthropologists know so well, can be difficult, uncomfortable, and challenging. This is true of the communities with which we work and it is true of our own organization. In addition to re-thinking and injecting “diversity and youth” into our modus operandi, we are faced with a challenge to promote the society as an international entity. The Society’s new name: The Society for Applied Anthropology: a World Wide Organization for the Applied Social Sciences provokes us to think about our global role as an organization that is engaged institutionally with organizations throughout the world. This includes not solely the members who work in global settings and with international ideas, but an organization that is engaged in transborder networks, collaborating actively with our international colleagues and their institutions.
Our annual meetings, and publications demonstrate our work and mission. They exemplify our efforts and ethical resolve in promoting and engaging applied work throughout the world. Yet, we are facing numerous challenges that will not only affect how the Society functions and performs, but how we will survive the future. The world around us continues to change. We need to ask, “Is the Society changing with it?”
Albuquerque and the International Dimension
The upcoming meetings in Albuquerque promise to be one of the most successful conferences we have ever had. The number of organized sessions is approximately 250, more than we have had in previous years. Our registration has surpassed our expectations. The sessions, organized tours, the city itself and surrounding region offer unique and bountiful possibilities.
As in past programs, our 74th Annual Meeting provides a forum to present, engage and seek resolution to social-cultural problems at local, regional, national and global levels. Members from over 60 countries are presenting at these meetings. This international dimension has been a major catalyst at our past Annual Meetings: Seattle (2011) focused on “Expanding the Influence of Applied Anthropology . . . in this globalized world.” In Merida, Mexico (2010) the focus was “Vulnerabilities and Exclusion in Globalization.” When we last met in New Mexico (Santa Fe 2009), “Global Challenge, Local Action: Ethical Engagement and Practice” was the program theme. And in Tampa (2007) “Global Insecurities, Global Solutions and Applied Anthropology in the 21st Century” squarely placed our query on the future. The “global” has indeed been and will continue to be a central issue in the Society. This year’s theme, Destinations queries our past, our present and our impending future.
Being “Worldwide” requires our engagement beyond our past involvement. Although we entertain and have international members the SfAA needs to engage institutions and social fields outside of our national realm. The SfAA Annual Meetings are a testament to our members’ global interest but the Society has yet to fully engage ongoing organizational collaborations with institutions in international settings. A few years ago, former President Allan Burns and our colleague Peter Kunstadter instituted an SfAA International Initiative that was aimed at expanding the applied dialogue in institutions and with groups of applied scientists in countries outside of the United States. This included the creation of institutional memberships. President Burns was instrumental in promoting the first SfAA Institutional Membership with anthropologists in El Salvador. Similarly, Ralph Bolton is working with Peruvian Anthropologists who have organized sessions on Applied Anthropology in the Andes for our Albuquerque meetings. These efforts are part of a broader international initiative that targets connection and dialogue with our colleagues and sister institutions throughout the world.
In this vein, with a focus on recruiting Mexican institutions into a collaborative relationship with the SfAA, I have recently met with colleagues from the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California (UABC) and the Colegio de La Frontera Norte (COLEF). These meetings have produced a strong interest in the Society and discussion on themes of special relevance to Mexican social scientists. This evolved into a possible workshop/seminar on Applied Anthropology in Mexico focusing on transborder issues of concern to both SfAA and Mexican social scientists. It is important to share the wealth of experience and knowledge represented by our membership, and to learn from our Mexican colleagues. The board is beginning to explore how such workshop collaboration can provide a model for similar meetings in other countries.
My recent sojourns into Mexico and along the U.S. Mexico Border to meet with colleagues from the UABC, and COLEF have underscored the need for cooperative dialogue with international and bi-national institutions. Each time I cross into Mexico and re-enter the U.S., I am confronted by a variety of “global” processes and parameters that influence local behavior—my own included. This and the conversations emphasize the contrasting and often conflicting social-cultural issues that provoke comparison and inquiry. The SfAA has illustrated our members’ strength, knowledge and experience working with and resolving practical problems at national and global levels. The Society can be a vivid institutional force and catalyst for sharing, collaborating, learning and ultimately assisting organizations in sound applied science throughout the world. The problems of immigration, violence, education, natural disasters, human rights, climate change, international commerce and business are of specific interest to our Mexican colleagues. Although many of us work in these areas, they take on different meaning outside of our local venues. Comparison and dialogue can only enhance the work we all do.
The SfAA is uniquely suited to collaborate and promote the social fields necessary for creative dialogue. Our meetings exemplify our focus and ethical intent to confront and resolve social-cultural problems throughout the world, and importantly illustrate our organizational strength. Our international initiative provides a mechanism and charge from the membership to engage and interact with institutions of applied social scientists throughout the world.