FROM THE RSS President – October 2020

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

There is no sugar-coating it. This year for the RSS -- and I am sure for you as well -- has been unlike any other. We are now more than six months into a global pandemic that has taken the lives of 1,000,000 people, and over 200,000 in the United States alone. There is still no end in sight as we continue to self-isolate while worrying about our family, friends, neighbors and communities, as economies contract, job losses mount, and insecurity grows. In the last few weeks we’ve witnessed climate change-related fires, storms, and floods of almost unimaginable scale, while we continue to face the ongoing trauma of racism and brutality within our communities. And all this is occurring at the same moment that the system of democracy within the United States and elsewhere appears as profoundly uncertain and destabilized as it has been in generations. These are profoundly uncertain, and if we are to be honest, deeply unsettling times. I hope you are all taking care of yourselves, your communities, and each other.

That said, I continue to find a great deal of hope within our Society, and I am consistently struck by the wealth of talent, commitment, energy, and intelligence of our members. I am profoundly grateful for the work of all of you who serve in elected positions, on committees, and are active within Research Interest Groups. I am more convinced than ever of the importance of the insights and perspectives generated by our discipline. We continue to actively promote and champion the recent work of our members, which is as timely as it is impressive: In the last number of weeks several of our RIGs have also organized virtual conference sessions, with an upcoming set of sessions for rural sociology graduate students in late October, organized by graduate student representatives to Council, Jasmine Whiteside and Sonja Lindberg. The work of our committees continues to push the RSS forward to be a more diverse, equitable, inclusive, and ethical Society. All of this points to the enduring health and vitality of our organization, despite the many challenges we currently face.

Some of you have perhaps already been wondering about the 2021 RSS Annual Meeting. If so, you are not alone. We are operating within conditions of rapid change and significant uncertainty – not exactly optimal for conference planning. However, the RSS Council has been discussing multiple contingency plans for 2021, including online and hybrid conference formats, taking into account not only the longevity of the pandemic, but the impacts on travel, and both institutional and personal budgets. We anticipate gathering information from the membership later this fall to gauge what you all believe will be most feasible and desirable, with final decisions about how to proceed likely made around year’s end. We will continue to be in touch, solicit your feedback, and be as transparent about these decisions as we can.

Thank you for your continued involvement, commitment, and energy.

With very best regards,

Kai A. Schafft

President, Rural Sociological Society, 2020-21