Dr. Melissa Fry, associate professor of sociology and director of the Applied Research in Education Center (AREC) has been elected president of the Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology (AACS).
The AACS promotes applying social scientific knowledge and methods to develop constructive solutions in the real world. It provides members with educational, programmatic, mentoring, networking, and policy resources in a supportive professional community.
Fry has been involved with the organization since arriving at IU Southeast, following in the footsteps of her illustrious predecessors from the sociology department, Dr. John H. Newman and Dr. G. Sam Sloss, who also played leading roles in the organization.
Her tenure coincides with an uptick in interest in applying academic knowledge to address community needs. The degree of community engagement or engaged research that a university demonstrates is now the gold standard of that institution’s success.
“There has been engaged research throughout the history of American sociology, starting with Jane Addams and W.E.B. DuBois,” Fry said. “For its part, the AACS also predates our current interest in engaged knowledge–in fact it has long been a place to gather for those who believe the purpose of sociology is to solve local issues, understand communities, make changes where needed, but also to make sure that those changes are deliberate, smart, and well informed by prior research about how organizations and social systems work.”
The membership is made up of academics and non-academic practitioners, and Fry hopes to bring the two groups into closer and more productive contact.
“I am very interested in doing more to serve sociologists who work outside of academia,” Fry said. “Those who work out in the world, in communities, governments and nonprofits, need a professional sociology home.”
IU Southeast sociology students will continue to benefit from Fry’s involvement in the organization. She has taken small groups to AACS conferences in the past, where they participated in problem-solving exercises tailored to students.
“It’s a very welcoming environment,” Fry said. “Much of the focus at this conference is about nurturing student interest and development into career pathways that use sociology, whether academic or outside of academia. “