Saturday, May 13, 2017
May 13-14, 2017: The Scholars Strategy Network and Me: Leadership Summit
[Last week, I had the chance to attend a national meeting of the Scholars Strategy Network, a vital public scholarly organization of which I’ve been a Member for almost four years. So this week I wanted to share a few sides to my work with SSN, leading up to this weekend post on that national meeting and SSN’s expanding role in Trump’s America!]
On three questions about the Scholars Strategy Network that the leadership summit helped clarify for me.
1) Who: Literally every person I met or heard from at the summit was impressive and inspiring, but I’ll focus here on three who reflect the event and organization’s breadth and depth: Lee Badgett, a Professor of Economics at UMass Amherst whose book The Public Professor: How to Use Your Research to Change the World (2016) shot to the top of my reading list after meeting her; Heide Castañeda, an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of South Florida who is helping get a Tampa SSN chapter off and running (it’ll be our first in Florida!); and Natasha Perez, Chief of Staff for Massachusetts State Senate President Stan Rosenberg. I could really have highlighted any three attendees and speakers here, but Lee, Heide, and Natasha each offered unique and vital perspectives at the summit and together reflect our organizational efforts and strengths on many levels.
2) Why: At the start of the summit, SSN Executive Director Avi Green shared three 2017 objectives for the organization: to communicate the impacts of current national and state policy shifts; to strengthen our state/regional chapters and expand their efforts; and to defend democracy. Those three goals certainly reflect the different (if always interconnected) kinds of political, regional, and scholarly work that SSN features and advances. But honestly, my answer to why SSN does the work it does, and why that work matters, would be even simpler and more overarching still: because scholarly voices are needed in our conversations and communities, at every level and in every way; and because such voices are stronger and more effective, and such work more possible and happier, when they’re part of a community. I felt all of that at the summit very fully.
3) What’s Next: For me, the most immediate next step will be taking on more of a leadership role in the Boston SSN chapter. Professors Erin O’Brien and Rachael Cobb have done phenomenal work leading the chapter for many years now, and I’m very excited to join those efforts and help the chapter move forward in many ways (and if you’re a Massachusetts or New England scholar reading this, please let me know if you’d like to be part of those efforts!). But of course, all of us at SSN, like all of us in America, are wondering about what’s next for the nation—during the summit alone, the House passed the abomination that is the AHCA and Trump signed the unconstitutional horror that is his “religious liberty” Executive Order. I can’t pretend to know what’s next on that broadest level—and the summit featured its share of understandable pessimism among the more inspiring and activist perspectives—but I know I feel better prepared to respond to and help shape it as a part of SSN.
Next series starts Monday,
PS. What do you think? Thoughts on SSN, or other organizations or efforts you’d highlight?