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RSA ... Message from the President Update on 2021 Goals, Vision, Progress

Dear Members and Friends of the Rhetoric Society of America:

Welcome to 2021.  Along with sending best wishes for a year of promise, I write to update you on the continuing efforts and vision of the Society in the new year. We are fast approaching our 2021 Summer Institute, which promises to be an exciting opportunity for personal growth and professional development. We have hired a new Executive Director, and Leslie Dinauer is settling into her role very quickly. We have completed a number of robust virtual workshops under the RSA Remote banner and are currently planning for more in the coming months. Most importantly, I want to update you on the Society’s commitment to foster an organization that is inclusive and equitable for all of our members (see RSA Board of Directors’ Statement Condemning Anti-Black Violence).

Since this past summer, the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access Committee and Board Members have worked toward this end in multiple ways.  For example, the Awards Committee has diversified our award descriptions, processes, and selection committees; a new Committee on Committees has been formed, tasked with populating our standing committees with diverse members; and RSA Remote has offered successful programming, including topics on contemporary issues, such as: “The Struggle Over Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter,” “Recruiting and Retaining Graduate Students of Color in Rhetoric,” and “Queer Rhetorics in the COVID-19 Era.” Our goal as a Society is to ensure that all of our programming is attentive to issues of access, equity, and a commitment to universal design.

In addition to contributing to this programming, the Committee on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access has also been hard at work identifying and recommending ways that the Society can attend to its commitments structurally.  Soon you will receive a call for a new Transformative Justice Officer to serve in the administration of the Society. The purpose of this position is to assist us in articulating, achieving, and ensuring that we enact the commitments expressed last year.

Moving forward, I see our collective efforts in 2021 focused on three, inter-related issues:  values, value, and evaluation.  The Board and Officers will develop a public values statement for the Society that reaffirms our commitments and that inform our policies and our work.  We also will investigate what value and benefits we can best deliver to our members in this new world of pandemic conditions and resulting budget constraints.  In terms of evaluation:  The Society is in its fourth year of a five-year Strategic Plan; we will assess the progress we made on our goals of increasing inclusivity, fostering leadership and mentorship opportunities, and developing public-facing communications, as we begin the process of anticipating new goals for the Society.

All of this work is dependent on the uncompensated good will, time, and effort of our Board Members, Committee Members, and Administrative Officers, including our Outreach Officer, Digital Communications Officers, Director of Events and Sponsorships, Membership Officer, and Public Humanities Officer.  I thank them all for their collective work—as ever—but especially during the challenging months of 2020.

We also thank all of you for your continued commitment to the Rhetoric Society of America, and we look forward to serving you for many years to come.

With every best hope for a wonderful 2021,

Michelle Ballif

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