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President’s Column

   Daniel Perlman, President 

Whence and Whither SPSSI II: Your Input Wanted!

The 1940s cartoon character Bugs Bunny loved the greeting: “What’s up Doc?”  Today — as has been true in the past— SPSSI’s answer is “a lot.”  A few of the recent highlights are as follows:

• SPSSI will hold its 2008 Biennial Convention in Chicago, Friday through Sunday, June 27-29. Both the Program (Kim Case and Ram Mahalingam) and the Site Committees (Megan Kozak and Pam Reid) have laid the foundation for an excellent meeting with distinguished keynote speakers, symposia, posters, facilitated discussions, a mentor/mentee breakfast, lunches, SPSSI’s business meeting, receptions and a Chicago River cruise.  All in all, the conference should be a wonderful opportunity for intellectual stimulation, discussion of social issues, socializing, and seeing parts of Chicago.  In Lewinian terms there may be a few approach-approach conflicts but they are the best type to have!

• On Thursday, June 26, and Friday morning, June 27, preceding the SPSSI Convention there will be a festschrift for Past SPSSI President Kay Deaux.  Open to all, it will focus on Gender, Identity, and Immigration. For food lovers, SPSSI’s convention will overlap with the Taste of Chicago, the world’s largest food (and entertainment) fest that will be centered in Grant Park near the SPSSI Convention site. 

• Sheri Levy, Associate Professor of Psychology at SUNY Stony Brook, has been selected as editor-elect of the Journal of Social Issues.  She brings editorial experience with thematic journal publishing and ongoing involvement in SPSSI (e.g., Co-Chair of the 2006 SPSSI Convention program, member of Council 2007-2010) to her role.  She will begin working with new proposals June 1, 2008. 

• The newly-elected SPSSI officers include Gene Borgida as the 2008-09 President-elect plus Michelle Fine, Markus Kemmelmeier, Amy Markus-Newhall, and Stacey Williams as incoming Council members (2008-2011).  Thanks to all SPSSI members who participated as candidates and/or voters in the recent SPSSI election.  The next cohort of SPSSI officers brings experience, commitment and energies to astutely move SPSSI into the second decade of the 21st century. 

• Jutta Tobias has been chosen as the next Marshall Fellow.  Before joining SPSSI later this summer, Jutta will be completing her PhD at Washington State University.  Jutta has extensive international experience (born in Germany, received her BA and Masters degrees in England, was engaged for 8 years doing international consulting, worked for social change in Bosnia and Rwanda) and did an internship with APA’s Public Interest Government Relations Office where she worked on SPSSI related public policy issues including violence and abuse; the needs of gay, lesbian and bisexual military service members; mental health and aging; veteran’s affairs; health care reform; and hate crime prevention.

• SPSSI’s UN Committee has co-sponsored informational panels on “The Impact of Immigration on Health and Families” and on "The Impact of Climate Change on Health.”
As of April 1st, Garrett Ducker joined SPSSI’s Central Office as an administrative assistant.  Garrett increases the SPSSI staff from two to three.

In my last column, I focused on SPSSI’s strategic planning effort.  I discussed reasons why SPSSI embarked on this process and the initial steps we have taken including a small meeting of SPSSI governance members in Charlotte North Carolina in June 2007.  From that meeting, we identified five organizational development and four impact goals that SPSSI might want to pursue.  In the late fall, we synthesized these into seven objectives, namely to:

  1. Expand and “diversify” SPSSI’s membership
  2. Strengthen SPSSI’s fiscal position by diversifying revenue streams
  3. Upgrade the organizational infrastructure
  4. Increase SPSSI’s responsiveness to and influence on policy issues
  5. Diversify SPSSI’s leadership
  6. Provide a strong community (a “couch”) for professionals who are interested in social issues
  7. Promote the generation of new knowledge on critical social issues, as well as the utilization and uptake of social science research  

In December, SPSSI Council divided itself into seven teams, with different teams considering different objectives.  Each team addressed common questions pertaining to past activities that have helped SPSSI achieve this goal, things SPSSI is doing now to achieve the goal, factors (positive or negative) to consider in pursuing the goal, and promising strategies for achieving the goal.  The groups’ answers served as the starting point for a daylong strategic planning retreat at the mid-winter SPSSI Council meeting.  

Resulting from the strategic planning day at the mid-winter Council meeting, we have a document of key elements and questions for a strategic plan.  We have been considering the fundamental question of why SPSSI exists and have listed the main things SPSSI does (e.g., hold conferences, publish books and journals, give awards and grants, etc.).  We have been finding considerable consensus regarding the Society’s values and principles.  Most SPSSI members, for example, are socially conscious empiricists, who believe that science should guide policy and practice.  SPSSI members are committed to social justice.  Compared to many other advocacy groups, SPSSI members believe in the importance of science as a basis for policy and action.  

Consistent with these values, SPSSI fosters research, fosters the dissemination of research, and serves as a society for individuals concerned with the utilization of social science knowledge for addressing social issues.  We know what we do to achieve our objectives. One place where SPSSI’s governance members don’t totally agree is around the question of advocacy: (a) How many organizational resources should be dedicated to advocacy? (b) At what level should most of SPSSI advocacy efforts be carried out? (c) How should that advocacy be carried out?  

At this point, a working group consisting of Susan Opotow, SPSSI’s President-elect, Sally Shumaker, SPSSI’s Secretary-Treasurer, Susan Dudley, SPSSI’s Executive Director, Doug Easterling, consultant, and myself are meeting May 21st to develop a draft of SPSSI’s strategic plan.  This plan will then be shared with SPSSI Council members, revised and then posted on the SPSSI web site.  At the SPSSI convention, there will be a town hall luncheon meeting to discuss the strategic plan (Saturday, June 28, 12:45-2:15 pm).  We hope all members at the convention will participate in this session.  We are also making the meeting open to members who can’t join us in Chicago via a web-based audio connection (contact David Livert, for instructions).  After there has been feedback from members, SPSSI Council will finalize the plan.  It will become a broad framework for SPSSI’s evolution during the next five or so years. Future Councils along with SPSSI staff will develop more specific strategies for achieving goals and make adjustments as time progresses.  

Now and when a draft plan is posted, I invite all SPSSI members to voice their views on SPSSI’s future directions.  Announcements will be made when the strategic plan is posted on SPSSI’s web site.  It is wonderful that at the Convention we will be able to connect SPSSI members both on site and from afar for open discussion.  It is through the involvement of all members that SPSSI will best set and achieve goals for the future.  Other SPSSI Council members and/or I welcome your input (my contacts are 336-617-0134, d_perlma@uncg.udu, skype: dan.perlman42). Let us hear from you!

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