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Anila Balkissoon


SPSSI's Legacy: Rising to the Occasion

Anila Balkissoon, SPSSI Executive Director

Months into living with a global pandemic, it need not be overstated that COVID-19 has affected each of us profoundly. As we continue our work, SPSSI remains committed to meeting members where they are in their individual challenges and experiences during this time. We strive to learn from our members every day on this front and endeavor to support your important work, with a restored responsibility from Council to confront the unique difficulties of these times. With these aims ahead, I find it fortunate that as an organization, SPSSI has a long history of rising to the occasion when times are very tough. Founded during the Great Depression in 1936, SPSSI was born out of a sense of obligation to improve society. I recognize our duty to follow in a legacy that calls for our work to always continue forward, at a crossroads where science meets conscience.   

We continue to work diligently to adjust and reimagine programming and practices through a lens that maintains utmost health and safety measures for all. We will redirect resources as needed during these precarious and uncertain times with an aim towards service for our members. I can report that while we have had to cancel in-person experiences, we have accomplished a great deal toward the continuance of programs our members already know and seek. Since January, we have awarded over sixty grants and honorary prizes to students and faculty across more than twenty programs, and the list is quickly growing. Recipients represent a wide range of students and faculty across career-level, background, and research interests.   

One of our long-term primary goals, aligned with our adopted strategic plan, is to be as inclusive as possible across SPSSI programs to allow members of our community from all walks of life to benefit from our services and resources. We have launched three new programs over the past year in an effort to extend our reach and impact. Two of these programs were made possible by a generous, anonymous donor: SPSSI’s Action Teaching Awards and Action Teaching Grants. A third new program will be discussed in this issue by our Internationalization Committee Chair, Dr. Phia Salter, and will aid in the research efforts of our scholars in the Global South. I encourage you all to consider applying to these programs where eligible, and to share with others that may benefit from their launch.    

I want to take this moment to offer my sincerest thanks to our wonderful Central Office staff members, Sarah Mancoll and Justin Belsley, and our numerous volunteer leaders that continue to work toward achieving SPSSI’s goals, during this challenging time. I appreciate the effort and care you put into our work each day. Thank you!

During our mid-summer virtual Council meeting, we visited the question, How Might we Achieve our Social Justice Mission in the Age of COVID-19?  The conversation generated much excitement about an expansion of virtual programming and an upcoming webinar series.

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