In this issue
By Bill Haley
The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) meetings, along with the APA meetings, are always a high point of the year for me. GSA is a chance to see old friends and colleagues, to make new connections, and to meet the latest generation of junior colleagues who are entering the field of psychology of aging. GSA is also an important time for Div. 20. We always hold an executive committee meeting at GSA. For many of us, this is our first executive committee meeting after we have assumed a new office in the division and a chance to take a fresh look at the division and kick off new initiatives.
This past year the executive committee meeting at GSA had a very serious tone. We face some major challenges. Div. 20, like most APA divisions, is experiencing a real struggle in retaining and recruiting members for a variety of reasons such as lack of understanding of the benefits of the division, lack of recruitment efforts on our part, and the increased proliferation of specialty areas within our disciplines. Whatever the reason, the decline in membership has some serious ramifications for our division. Many of our senior members become exempt from paying dues after many years of membership. Cutbacks in university and grant funding, and concerns about APA's priorities, have made some psychologists hesitant to join or renew membership in APA. We have begun a number of initiatives to recruit and retain members (including offering free memberships for one year to new members), but over the past two years Div. 20 has experienced a 25 percent reduction in dues received from APA, our major source of revenue. Along with a reduction in revenue, we have experienced a substantial increase in the cost of printing and mailing our newsletter. This cost has gone up nearly 50 percent over the past two years, and the costs associated with the newsletter were equal to about 80 percent of our revenue during the fiscal year ending in June 2013. The division experienced about an $8,000 deficit during the last fiscal year, the second deficit in the past three years.
Because of this budget deficit and of course our desire to keep pace with concerns about the environment and the trends towards “green,” the executive committee voted unanimously to begin using an electronic version of the newsletter to replace the paper version. None of us wanted to take this step, but we couldn't see an alternative that could put our budget back in the black.
We decided to send out one final paper copy of the newsletter, an abbreviated version (this is it—save it, one day it will be a collector's item). Our newsletter editor, Grace Caskie, has written a piece in this issue of the newsletter describing the changes involved in transitioning to an electronic newsletter. Grace deserves special thanks for her efforts in moving the newsletter to a new format. She has contributed so much to the division by editing the newsletter, and the new format will present some special challenges. There will also be some good things to come out of this. With an electronic newsletter, we can do a better job of providing links to additional web pages and materials that will be useful for the membership. I hope that Div. 20 members will be patient as we work out the kinks in transitioning to a new format.
Beyond our challenges with the newsletter and budget, we faced another difficult situation this year as we assembled our slate of nominees for the Div. 20 elections. We approached many deserving candidates to run for Div. 20 president, and we experienced a complete inability to find candidates willing to run for this office. Our approach, as in previous years, was to approach Div. 20 Fellows who had not previously served as president of the division. Our hard-working Elections Committee Chair Becky Allen was turned down by several dozen candidates.
With the deadline to finalize our slate of nominees fast approaching, the division's leadership decided to take a pragmatic approach and ask a former Div. 20 president to run for the office unopposed. Harvey Sterns, who has made many contributions to the division through the years, including previous service as our president, has agreed to run. I wanted to explain this situation so that members wouldn't think that we were trying to bypass our usual election procedures. I am very pleased at the prospect of Harvey Sterns returning to lead the division again. Harvey is very enthusiastic, experienced, and will do an outstanding job. He also has a long-standing commitment to our division. But the unwillingness of many highly accomplished psychologists to run for this office is troubling. I know that many factors go into the decision to run for office in an organization, but I swear, this is not such a bad job. A healthy Div. 20 depends on having senior scholars who are willing to serve the organization. I hope that we will be more successful next year.
Now that I have addressed some topics reflecting problems in the division, let me switch to some good news. As you will see in the rest of the newsletter, we have planned an outstanding APA convention program for 2014. Joann Montepare and Chris Rosnick have done a spectacular job. Beyond our regular Div. 20 programming, we have been very active in APA's new approach emphasizing interdivisional programming. Div. 20 members are very well represented on these sessions. Sara Czaja (our president-elect) and Wally Boot (our incoming program chair for 2015) recently attended the 2014 Division Leadership Conference and also reported some exciting possibilities for interdivisional programming for the 2015 meeting. We are taking on some exciting efforts to foster mentorship, and we continue to work closely with APA's Office on Aging and Committee on Aging. We have received outstanding applications for Fellow status, and those are proceeding. March 15 is the deadline for the division's many awards, and this is always a great opportunity to see the accomplishments of many in our division.
I hope that everyone will make plans to attend the APA meetings this August in Washington, D.C. It's a great opportunity to learn, to collaborate, and to connect. Best wishes, and I'll look forward to seeing many of you in August.