ASHA President Tommie Robinson's Letter on Division Restructuring

Dear Special Interest Division Affiliates:

At the October 2010 Board of Directors meeting, the following individuals led a discussion about the proposal to restructure ASHA's Special Interest Divisions:

  • Patricia Prelock, Vice President for Standards and Ethics in Speech-Language Pathology
  • George Purvis, Chair of the Audiology Advisory Council
  • Michelle Ferketic, Director of ASHA's Special Interest Division Program and Chair of the Task Force on Special Interest Divisions Structure, Programs, and Operations.

A full and detailed summary of the Board's decisions was provided to the entire Task Force. Members of the Task Force reviewed and discussed the summary document in late October. A single resolution combining all the recommendations and actions was developed in November and voted on and approved by the ASHA Board of Directors just prior to the ASHA 2010 Convention.

The complete proposal [PDF] voted on by the Board, as well as a summary of the Task Force Recommendations and a Question & Answer page, are now posted on ASHA's website. I thought it might be helpful to provide you with some background about the process and summarize the key factors that are driving our decision to restructure the division program.


By way of background, it is important to understand that this process started from the ground up as a clear request by a significant number of Division members that change was needed. The growth of the Special Interest Divisions since it began 20 years ago has created opportunities and challenges that have resulted in the Divisions no longer functioning in a way that is financially viable, sustainable, or fully effective in delivering benefits to affiliates or in reaching their potential to add value to the Association as a whole. As a result, for more than two years, a task force, with input from Division affiliates, Division leaders (e.g., the Board of Division Coordinators), other ASHA members (including a member-wide peer review), the Board of Directors, and staff, have worked on a solution to the challenges of making the Division program financially stable, equitable, able to meet members' needs, provide better support and help achieve the goals of the Association, and take full advantage of the significant expertise and engagement of members who belong to the Special Interest Divisions.

Why Make the Change?

The growth of the Division program, the challenges that face the professions, and the needs of members as we look to the next 20 years, requires ASHA to truly integrate Special Interest Divisions and capitalize on the extraordinary talents and expertise of Division affiliates. We believe that the new structure, which includes a name change from Special Interest Divisions (SIDs) to Special Interest Groups (SIGs), will:

  • facilitate greater community engagement
  • emphasize collaboration and integration
  • align the activities and programs of the SIGs with ASHA's strategic plan (the Strategic Pathway to Excellence)

The Division restructure will enable ASHA to use the expertise of SIG members as the primary resource for:

  • identifying and providing expertise to committees and boards
  • suggesting and providing content for ASHA programming and continuing education activities
  • helping to identify content experts for ASHA-sponsored conferences and other educational programming
  • fostering future leaders in our discipline
  • providing input on policy development, practice documents, and advocacy matters

The Benefits of the Change

Making the transition from Special Interest Division to Special Interest Group will require a change in processes and an investment of ASHA resources. ASHA's Board of Directors has approved a decision to make a significant investment in 2011, in excess of $600,000, to fully integrate the new SIGs into ASHA. There will be no increase in dues or fees to fund this program in 2011. ASHA will fund this investment from cash reserves (including, in part, division net assets) and by shifting resources from other areas. This investment will enable ASHA to hire additional staff dedicated to support the new program and develop new technologies that will enhance SIG operations in support of their affiliates and the entire Association. The Board believes this investment will enable the new SIG program to provide many benefits to current affiliates of the Divisions. The result will be a strengthened Association better able to meet the needs of all affiliates and other ASHA members, now and in the future. The immediate benefits include:

  • expanded access to all Perspectives for all affiliates,
  • increase in the maximum length of each Perspectives from 20,000–22,000 words per issue,
  • increase in the number of issues of each Perspectives to a maximum of four per SIG,
  • continued opportunity for SIG affiliates to earn ASHA CEUs through self study of Perspectives at $5.00/self study,
  • expanded opportunities for others to earn ASHA CEUs through self study of Perspectives at fees commensurate with similar ASHA self study activities,
  • the opportunity for each SIG to host a Web event,
  • continuation of the Short Course discounts for SIG affiliates,
  • affiliate-only discounts at ASHA convention and conferences,
  • dedicated staff at the National Office to work with SIGs to identify ways for the SIGs to be maximally integrated with other ASHA programs.  The intent is to recognize the importance of the SIG affiliates as subject matter experts in relevant aspects of the Association's work. Staff will also work in collaboration with members of the SIG coordinating committees to develop and execute work plans that align with the Association's strategic plan.
  • Enhanced, state-of-the-art online networking within and between SIGs.

I know that in the past, there was a perception that Divisions had ending net assets. However, when you account for all of the costs of supporting the current structure—including those that were not charged back to the Division program—the Division program is currently running a deficit in excess of $300,000 per year. The new SIG program will create a more equitable structure. National Office staff will provide support to all groups, and the budget process for SIGs will be consistent with the budget process used for all ASHA committees and boards.

All Change Causes Anxiety

The Board of Directors recognizes and understands that a change of this magnitude cannot be accomplished without some tension between those who believe that the status quo is the best approach and those that see the need for a different approach. I can assure you that the new SIG structure was developed with significant input from members. For example, continuing to make membership in SIGs a member choice with an additional fee and not a part of the regular membership fee was a direct result of member feedback from the widespread peer review. The new SIG structure represents a consensus view of the Task Force, The Board of Division Coordinators, the Board of Directors, and the vast majority of members who provided us with feedback.

The transition from Special Interest Divisions to Special Interest Groups will begin to take place during 2011, and we expect to have the program fully implemented in 2012. The Board of Directors will be closely monitoring the transition process. As we implement the new program, we will be looking for ways to improve operations, reduce costs, add even more value to members, and increase opportunities for member engagement well beyond what has been possible in the current structure.

I encourage you to review the full report and the questions and answers provided. If you have comments or questions for the Board as we begin the implementation process, please submit an InTouch with the Board form. We read every comment and will provide a reply to any questions that come forward. In addition, I can assure you, the implementation team and the entire Board will be listening to you along the way. We welcome your feedback as we work together to continue to make the Division program and our Association even more valuable to our members.


Tommie L. Robinson, Jr.
2010 ASHA President

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