I am pleased to report that the ASA is thriving: we are financially strong and fully staffed, with ambitious plans for future growth and development in the service of our mission as the preeminent scholarly organization for the study of Africa. Some of our recent new initiatives include:
* Our first meeting on the continent – Dakar 2016! Jointly organized with the American Anthropological Association and hosted by CODESRIA and WARA/WARC, Dakar 2016 will bring together scholars, activists and others from around the world to discuss “Innovation, Transformation and Sustainable Futures in Africa.” Program Co-Chairs Mwenda Ntarangwi (Calvin College) and Ellen Foley (Clark University) have created a dazzling program featuring scholars from across the globe. We hope that the conference will serve as a model for future smaller joint meetings on the continent with AHA, APSA, ALA and other US-based scholarly organizations. Please visit dakar2016.org for more information.
* An advocacy policy to ensure that we are more actively representing the interests of our association and members: “The ASA engages in advocacy to raise general awareness about the field of African Studies, to ensure continued funding and support of African Studies within institutes of Higher Education, and to address ethical, academic freedom, and human rights issues relevant to the field.” We seek to fulfill our advocacy agenda by issuing policy statements and letters to officials, participation in coalitions such as the ACLS, National Humanities Alliance, and Council for International Education, and outreach to media. To date we have signed letters to Congress in support of maintaining Fulbright-Hays funding and challenging the new interpretations of FLAS graduate funding. We are also planning several workshops at the annual meeting in DC for members interested in learning more about how to advocate for African Studies.
* A development plan that highlights our top priorities for fund-raising such as the Presidential Fellows program, Emerging Scholars network, increased participation of Africa-based scholars in our annual meeting, activities and conferences in Africa, and strengthening our social media and digital resources for members.
* Efforts to improve the openness and transparency of ASA opportunities and decisions. These include open calls for Board-sponsored sessions, open nominations for people interested in running for the Board, and the publication of key Board decisions in the ASA News.
* Plans to expand our services and value to members beyond just the annual meeting and journals…look out for our expanded social media presence, updated membership directory, new journal features, and opportunities for members to showcase and share their accomplishments and activities.
* Constant innovations to make our annual meetings accessible, exciting, and inclusive: live-streaming panels from the continent (Dakar and Nairobi last year, with plans to add more sites), Author Meets Critic panels, expanded professional development opportunities for attendees (including the First Time Attendee breakfast, information sessions with the Fulbright program, informational sessions organized by journal editors and academic publishers, and Board-organized workshops), and bringing together junior scholars through the ASA Presidential Fellows Program and the Carnegie Scholars Program to attend and present at the Annual Meeting.
None of these accomplishments would have been possible without the steadfast leadership of our Executive Director, Suzanne Baazet, and the hard work of her amazing staff: Kathryn Salucka, Renee DeLancey, and Sonja Madison. Like all members, I appreciate their professionalism, responsiveness, and dedication to the work of the association.
I look forward to seeing all of you at 59th Annual Meeting of the ASA in Washington DC in just a few months. Program Co-Chairs Benjamin Lawrance (Rochester Institute of Technology) and William Moseley (Macalester College) have developed an engaging theme, “Imagining Africa at the Center: Bridging Scholarship, Policy and Representation in African Studies,” for which they received a record-breaking number of submissions. Meanwhile, the Local Arrangements Committee, under the able leadership of Co-Chairs Alem Hailu (Howard University), Eve Ferguson (Library of Congress) and Carl LeVan (American University), has exciting plans for us to explore, celebrate, and learn together in DC.
We invite you to keep up with these and other ASA initiatives and news by following us on Twitter (@ASANewsOnline) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/1957ASA/).
Dorothy L. Hodgson
President of the African Studies Association