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Anila Balkissoon

Executive Director

 

SPSSI Council, our governing board, continues to meet twice annually.  At the February 2019 Midwinter Meeting, SPSSI leaders and staff gathered for two days in Washington, DC to continue strategic implementation discussion and to work on other pressing matters.  There were several positive developments, including the formal adoption of our strategic goals and implementation plan, which will guide activity over the next three to five years.  Council has made a commitment to review and revisit this strategy annually to ensure decision-making aligns with these principal goals, to adjust our aims accordingly, and to maximize long-term impact.  Under the leadership of our President Elizabeth Cole, we facilitated breakout discussions on areas of focus identified in the strategy.  Several ideas were developed and furnished to relevant committees Chairs for further consideration and action.  Newly appointed task forces are under development to evaluate various programs, ensure successful delivery to our members, and ultimately, improve resource allocation.   

A clear highlight of the strategic plan is SPSSI’s commitment to infusing diversity and inclusive practices throughout our activities.   During the midwinter gathering, small groups brainstormed this goal across the following areas: publications, policy efforts, conferences, early career scholar and student programs, internationalization, communications, awards and grant programs, and membership engagement more broadly.  The effort was positively coupled with new and continuing initiatives aligned with this goal, proposed and formally supported by Council at the meeting.  During our initial planning survey, we heard resoundingly from our membership that the annual conference is one our most valued offerings, and several Council proposals respond in kind.  For the second year, we will host a diversity preconference event at our annual conference.  This year our Graduate Student Committee is teaming up with our Diversity Committee to offer a program entitled, “Paradigm Shift: Recalibrating Diversity and Inclusivity.”  We have made a greater commitment to students of diverse backgrounds with increased funding for the Diversity Travel grant program, which has gained interest year over year.  For the second year running, we are providing travel funding to our Early Career Scholars program, a burgeoning constituent group with critical presence at the event.  In addition to these, we continue to host competitive programs that fund international attendees and provide undergraduate student waivers to support inclusive attendance.  Outside of the upcoming conference, an initiative that gained support from our Council is the development of a new teaching program brought forth by our Teaching and Mentoring Committee.  SPSSI’s Two-Year College Teaching & Mentoring Excellence Award will be launched this summer and will recognize the contributions of community and junior college faculty who further the aims of SPSSI’s mission to advance the understanding of social issues.  Please stay tuned for this unique opportunity and be prepared to share it widely with your talented colleagues.     

Council also engaged in discussion surrounding policy efforts, expounding upon another primary goal in our strategic plan.  In addition to supporting a new policy preconference program entitled “Make Your Voice Heard, Increase the Impact of Your Research: Learn the Craft of Op-ed Writing” SPSSI’s Policy Committee will host an interactive station at the registration desk at the summer conference, to gather members’ thoughts on policy priority setting.  This member-driven engagement will be an important way to make your voices heard, and will be vital for future planning. 

SPSSI Council will meet next in advance of the summer conference in San Diego, CA.  We will continue to work through key goals of our plan, with special attention on publications.  As always, my door is open to member comments and suggestions.   

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