American Sociological Association

ASA Footnotes

A publication of the American Sociological AssociationASA News & Events
September-November 2020
Volume 
48
Issue 
5

Thank You to Everyone Who Made ASA’s 2020 Virtual Engagement Event a Success

Christine Williams, Immediate Past President

In April, the ASA Council cancelled the 115th meeting of the American Sociological Association. They had no choice. It was the right and the only thing to do in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.  

The Annual Meeting was last cancelled in 1945, when a different horseman of the apocalypse prevented the gathering of American sociologists. But unlike then, ASA 2020 was able to meet virtually. That we managed to put together an online event in fewer than four months is truly amazing.  

By the last day of the Virtual Engagement Event, 5,250 people had registered, a number that is comparable to attendance in recent years. Without the distractions of San Francisco, many of us attended various sessions, over 600 of them. Sessions were popular even on the last day of the event—unprecedented in my experience. I hope that participants found intellectual engagement and inspiration at these sessions. I certainly did. Video of the plenary sessions have been posted to the ASA Annual Meeting Video Archive web page. Additional presidential sessions will be added as they become available 

None of this happened automatically, of course. Just like the platform economy, which relies on unseen and often unappreciated labor, this virtual event was made possible by the dedicated efforts of many people.  

Nancy Kidd and Michelle Randall, and the staff at ASA, worked overtime to manage the virtual event while looking out for the best interests of the Association. It has been a pleasure working with them over the past two years. Members of ASA Council have been a source of wisdom, support, and hope to me during these challenging times. I am especially grateful for the wise feminist counsel of Vice President Joya Misra, who convinced me that we should move ahead with a virtual event. And I want to thank everyone who sent me encouraging emails over the past few months, which sustained me and buoyed me through these difficult times.

The tireless Program Committee did their job twice, first organizing a spectacular program, and then reorganizing it as a virtual event. I was told at the beginning of my term that programming the conference would be the best part of being President, and that was no lie, thanks to this wonderful group of scholars and educators: Joya Misra (Vice President, University of Massachusetts-Amherst), David Takeuchi (Past Secretary, Boston College), Nancy Lopez (Secretary, University of New Mexico), Hae Yeon Choo (University of Toronto-Mississauga), Joshua Gamson (University of San Francisco), Adia Harvey Wingfield (Washington University in St. Louis), Allison Pugh (University of Virginia), Vinnie Roscigno (Ohio State University), Katherine Rowell (Sinclair Community College), Kristen Schilt (University of Chicago), Don Tomaskovic-Devey (University of Massachusetts-Amherst

My local planning chairperson, Katrina Kimport, working with Kimberly Richman and Josh Gamson, put together a fabulous line-up of sessions and events to spotlight the sociological significance of the San Francisco Bay Area. I am extremely grateful for their efforts and disappointed that we could not enjoy the results together.

Finally, I want to thank the ASA members who generously and graciously worked to make this online event possible. I am grateful to the section officers, session organizers, presenters, discussants, moderators, and attendees who came together to make ASA 2020 an unforgettable experience. 

ASA 2020 will go down in the record books as our first virtual conference. I am disappointed that we did not get to meet in San Francisco, but I am also hopeful for the future of our Association. In the midst of this tragic year, we found ways to connect with and support each other. We had a relatively accessible and green conference. Thanks to ASA 2020, we will be better prepared for the next horseman who threatens our gathering.

2021 ASA Annual Meeting

The 116th ASA Annual Meeting is scheduled to take place in Chicago, IL, on August 7-10. Aldon D. Morris, 2021 ASA President, and the 2021 Program Committee are in the process of developing a wide-ranging program with the theme “Emancipatory Sociology: Rising to the Du Boisian Challenge.” For more information about the 2021 Annual Meeting, visit www.asanet.org/annual-meeting-2021. Online submissions will open November 9, 2020.