Council of Chapters: History, Organization, and Objectives
This year marks the ASA’s 175th birthday. To celebrate, the column “175”—written by members of the ASA’s 175th Anniversary Steering Committee and other ASA members—will chronicle the theme chosen for the celebration, status of preparations, activities to take place, and—best yet—how you can get involved.
Alex Hanlon is a research professor at the University of Pennsylvania. She earned her PhD in statistics from Temple University, her MS from the University of California at Irvine, and her BS in mathematics from Rochester Institute of Technology.
James J. Cochran is the Bank of Ruston, Barnes, Thompson, & Thurman Endowed Research Professor at Louisiana Tech University. He earned his PhD in statistics from the University of Cincinnati and is a Fellow of the ASA and co-founder of Statistics Without Borders.
Under Francis Walker’s leadership, the American Statistical Association was founded in Boston in 1839. By the end of the 19th century, it had acquired a national membership. In 1925, the ASA chartered the first geographically localized chapter of statisticians in Los Angeles. By 1933, the ASA had sanctioned 11 chapters in large cities across the nation. The chapters held regular meetings and were required to have a constitution consistent with the ASA objectives, while the ASA collected chapter dues and maintained membership directories. To strengthen the relationship between the ASA and these chapters, the ASA established a Committee on Chapters in 1939. However, this committee disbanded in 1944. Yet by 1953, the ASA’s membership had grown to 4,900.
To better serve this membership, district committees were formed in the 1950s to provide organizational coherence. By 1983, the ASA chapters were meeting in 40 states, and the ASA membership had grown to 14,700. In 1984, the Council of Chapters (COC) was established to resume the mission of the disbanded Committee on Chapters, whose efforts had been sustained by the geographic district committees replaced in 1974 by the ASA Council. By 1987, the COC supported 75 chapters, including several rejuvenated chapters. The council served in accord with the 1983 ASA constitution, which was ratified by the members, and its own charter. By 1989, the year of the ASA’s 150th anniversary celebration, ASA membership exceeded 15,000. The number of ASA chapters located throughout the United States and Canada remains stable at 74 and ASA membership now exceeds 18,000.
The ASA, now headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, runs under the leadership and staff of Executive Director Ron Wasserstein. ASA leadership is organized into sections, chapters, and committees (Figure 1).
Similar to the ASA itself, the broad objective of a chapter is to promote statistics and its applications. ASA chapter activities are designed to increase the unity and effectiveness of all individuals within a specific geographical region. Chapter activities include holding meetings, producing publications, participating in educational efforts, providing information about the application of statistics, making statistics of service to society, and making society aware of statistics as a science. Chapters are grouped by region and district to allow the ASA to effectively communicate with each on a local level. The primary interests and goals of the COC are to encourage the development of chapters; assist in promoting specific chapter activities at the local level; foster member involvement in the functions of the ASA; and act as a liaison to link individuals to chapters, chapters to chapters, and both individuals and chapters to the association.
The COC Governing Board (COCGB) manages the affairs of the COC and consists of the following 14 officers:
Representative to the ASA Board of Directors (3)
District Vice Chair (6)
With the exception of the communications officer, who is appointed by the chair-elect to serve during her/his upcoming term as president, all officers are elected. The terms of office for the elected district vice chairs are three years, while the remaining elected office terms are yearly. The COCGB meets semiannually—the winter meeting is used to discuss yearly council activities, while the August JSM meeting is used to review actions taken by the COCGB over the prior year and plan for future activities. Outside of these meetings, council business is generally conducted by email or telephone.
The COC encourages the development of new chapters and the health of existing chapters in several ways. Individuals seeking to establish a new chapter are given advice about how to navigate the process by the COCGB. Once a new chapter is approved, the COCGB and COC members advise the nascent chapter on how to attract members and plan suitable events. Officers of the new chapter are added to the distribution list for Chapter Chatter, the biannual electronic newsletter for ASA chapters. This newsletter highlights recent and upcoming chapter activities and ASA activities and initiatives that are of interest to chapters. If there is evidence that a chapter is becoming inactive, the COCGB investigates and often finds this is nothing more than a lack of reporting of activities. When a chapter has ceased to be active, the COCGB assesses the situation and takes measures designed specifically to reinvigorate the inactive chapter. Because each case is unique, measures taken are also unique, but the approach is always supportive.
In addition to Chapter Chatter, there are other tools available for chapter officers to reach both current and prospective members, as well as a broader audience, when it comes to events (e.g., continuing education courses, workshops, conferences, symposia, chapter meetings with a guest speaker, etc.). Attracting people outside the chapter can increase chapter profile, attract new members, and increase the chapter’s revenue.
Calendar of Events
ASA Facebook page
ASA Twitter account
Specific chapter activities also are supported by the COC in many ways. Through Chapter Chatter, information about chapter activity is shared with other chapters. Discussion of recent and upcoming chapter activity, as well as suggestions for potential activities, are discussed freely at the COC meeting held during the annual JSM. Every chapter is encouraged to send a representative to this meeting. The COC recognizes outstanding service of individual chapters through the Chapter Service Recognition Award; a chapter is eligible for one of its members to win this award every three years.
The COC also operates the Traveling Course Program and the Chapter Visitation Program. The COC traveling courses provide low-cost, local courses for ASA chapters members. The COC sponsors this activity by covering speaker travel expenses and honoraria. The chapter is responsible for advertising, local arrangements, course materials, and registration. The Traveling Course Committee chooses the local chapters and works with the speakers and chapters to select dates for each course. The courses often are awarded according to geographical proximity to minimize travel cost, with special consideration given to smaller chapters and chapters that have not had a traveling course recently. Previous offerings have included applied survival analysis; successful data mining in practice; statistical methods for reliability data; and Bayesian methods for data analysis, meta-analysis, and adaptive trials. The 2014 course offering is Applied Logistic Regression, and will be given by David W. Hosmer, Stan Leneshow, and Rod Sturdivant, authors of Applied Logistics Regression, 3rd ed.
The Chapter Visitation Program is probably one of the most visible means by which the ASA shows its support and concern for its chapters. The visitor is generally the ASA president, vice president, executive director, or a COC Governing Board member. The purpose of the visit is to communicate with the chapters about issues of concern to the chapter and association. The visit also is expected to stimulate and revitalize chapters by providing a prominent speaker. Examples of visitor offerings include providing a lecture that attracts potential new chapter members and current but inactive chapter members; providing a discussion format among chapter members for exchange of information on current ASA issues or policy and chapter concerns; and/or establishing goals and objectives for the chapter to attain in the immediate future to improve and maintain the chapter’s status within the association, as determined by the COC evaluation criteria.
The COC also serves as a means through which chapters in close geographical proximity can be encouraged to hold joint meetings and develop joint activities. For example, chapters will jointly host a traveling course or a visitor through the Chapter Visitation Program. This is a terrific way to share the effort involved in organizing an event and bring together colleagues who may not otherwise see each other.
Finally, the ASA COC website offers valuable resources for chapters: Chapter Officer Handbook, COC Responsibilities and Procedures, Chapter Vice Chair Orientation, and instructions for filing the IRS Form 990-N. The COC website also offers a tutorial for chapter officers on the use of online reporting for extracting current chapter rosters, including member emails, reports on new and lapsed chapter members, and ASA members in the area who do not belong to the local chapter.
The COC encourages each chapter to maintain an updated website. The ASA can assist chapters with their web presence by hosting their website or creating chapter “microsites.” Rick Peterson, continuing education and chapters and sections associate, assists chapters with their web presence on the ASA community. Visit the ASA community website for details or email Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.