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The mission of the Society of Senior Ford Fellows shall be to leverage its collective achievements as publicly facing scholars in the arts, education, engineering, humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences in order to influence academic, national, and global conversations and action toward the attainment of social justice, equity, and the advancement of intellectual rigor and democratic values in the United States and global society.

Click here to read our bylaws.

Current Officers

Executive Committee 2024, January 1, 2024 to Dec. 31, 2024

President: Koritha Mitchell

President Elect: Kristy Duran

Past President: Yvette Huet 

Vice President: Keivan Stassun

Secretary: Crystal Lucky

Treasurer: Susan Antón


    Organizational History

    The Society of Senior Ford Fellows (SSFF) can trace its ancestry to at least the early 2000s. 

    At multiple gatherings, groups of senior scholars discussed forming some entity that would facilitate their support of each other to benefit all fellows, their communities, the nation, and the world. In April 2006, the Ford Foundation hosted a meeting at which fellows discussed many issues, with one of the action items being the formation of a Senior Scholars Planning Group. Follow-ups to that meeting created opportunities for ongoing discussions about the unique value of the Ford Fellowships Program and the role that Senior Fellows could play in strengthening the program and empowering larger communities. Those interested in being part of the conversation were invited to gather in Washington, D.C., during the annual conference for early-career researchers. This was October of 2006.

    Drs. Otto Santa Ana and P. Gabrielle Foreman were among those helping to facilitate a conversation about a group whose existence could change the landscape. After all, so the belief went, there must be Ford fellows around the United States and beyond who no longer participate in the conference but who still feel committed to the community. Because the annual conference was invitation-only and strictly limited in size, the only fellows guaranteed to attend were those who had recently been awarded financial support. Staying connected to this new group would not be limited in the same way.

    From that point onward, there was always discussion about creating a collective that would not be limited by the structure of the annual Ford conference, but there was little momentum until Drs. Susan Antón and Keivan Stassun initiated the formation of the Senior Ford Fellows Steering Committee. That group served as a liaison between the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), which began administering the Ford Foundation Fellowships Program around 1979, and the to-be-formed independent organization of senior fellows. 

    With logistical and other support from NAS, the Steering Committee’s subcommittee for programming organized the first meeting of “senior” Ford fellows, those who had earned tenure and/or were 7+ years beyond earning the PhD. That convening took place in 2012, with heavy lifting from Drs. Oveta Fuller and Michelle Neyman Morris, the day before the annual Ford conference for new awardees. It also coincided with the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Ford Foundation Fellowships Program.

    The goal was to bring Senior Ford fellows together on a biennial basis, usually tagging on to the conference supporting early-career fellows, given that some senior fellows would be in attendance in a mentoring capacity. After those interactions, they could join with other senior fellows for another level of networking and communing. That 2012 conference was followed by similar gatherings in 2014, 2016, and 2018. Over the years, sessions empowered senior fellows to consider paths to administrative leadership, prepare for fellowships like the Guggenheim, and learn what endowed professorships entail. Senior fellows were also trained by the OpEd Project to reach public audiences with their research. 

    The 2018 convening was also used to gain feedback on proposed bylaws for a more formal organization. This process was overseen by a non-hierarchical presidential line that provided immediate stability: President Keivan Stassun, President-Elect Susan Antón, and Past-President Rafia Zafar. Because the leadership used a membership structure, without making membership fees mandatory, senior fellows voted on adopting the bylaws and voted to elect a broader slate of board members for the more formalized organization; their terms commenced on January 1, 2019, and they benefited immeasurably from the support, input, and careful guidance of Ray Gamble, Director of the Fellowships Office at NAS.

    Inaugural Board in place for calendar year 2019: 

    • Keivan Stassun, President
    • Susan Antón, President-Elect
    • Rafia Zafar, Past-President
    • Ernesto Chavez, Vice President
    • Mónica Russel y Rodríguez, Secretary
    • Jonathan Lorenzo Yorba, Treasurer
    • Angela A. Gonzales, Three-Year Member-at-Large
    • Koritha Mitchell, Three-Year Member-at-Large
    • P. Gabrielle Foreman, Two-Year Member-at-Large
    • Otto Santa Ana, Two-Year Member-at-Large
    • Alex Chaparro, One-Year Member-at-Large
    • Yvette M. Huet, One-Year Member-at-Large

    This newly elected board looked forward to the 2020 senior conference, but the COVID-19 pandemic prevented it. Officers consistently worked on projects other than the convenings, however, so Dr. Jonathan Lorenzo Yorba shepherded The Society of Senior Ford Fellows (SSFF) through the process to gain IRS recognition as a 501(c)3 organization. The approval came in March 2020.

    While navigating pandemic life, senior fellows who had prioritized The Society also continued to support early-career fellows. As a result, many of them participated in the 2021 annual Conference of Ford Fellows, which was 100% online. Among other things, this video was created to give younger fellows a sense of what we all hoped to return to when we could gather in person:

    The Society’s programming committee, led by Drs. J. Carlos Garza and Elena Lahr-Vivaz, worked toward a 2022 in-person convening while navigating the uncertainty created by COVID-19. Shortly before the 2022 biennial meeting of Senior Fellows would have taken place, the Ford Foundation announced that it would discontinue its support of its Fellowships Program, making the 2023 award class its last guaranteed cohort. This abrupt news made conference planning an even heavier lift, especially with the pandemic still raging, and it made President Angela Gonzales’s term especially tumultuous.

    The board marched on, devoting energy to thinking through The Society’s future, given that the infrastructure for early-career fellows was now coming to an end. The Society’s leaders refused to let 2023 pass without an in-person convening of senior fellows. President Angela Gonzales and Arizona State University hosted that meeting (March 23 to 25, 2023), which featured a panel discussion with three Ford Fellows who had achieved the position of university/college president, including the first Latina in that role. Without abandoning the organization’s original mission, this meeting focused less on professional development for fellows 7+ years beyond the PhD and more on thinking in community about The Society’s future. The group that gathered in person (and online for the concluding business meeting) offered feedback on which the board was eager to take action. 

    Dr. Keivan Stassun offered to host the board at Vanderbilt University for a professionally facilitated retreat. Leaders used this May 2023 retreat to maximize their awareness of 1) the post-Fellowships Program reality in which the SSFF must exist and 2) the feedback of its membership, as represented at the in-person working meeting at Arizona State University. 

    The retreat confirmed the strength of the original mission, so the leadership continues to find ways to execute the founding group’s vision with the dynamism required by these uncertain times—made more so by ongoing attacks on everything that motivated this organization’s creation, especially attacks on affirmative action and on anything that resembles equity and justice.

    The Society of Senior Ford Fellows is a nonprofit public benefit and charitable organization 501(c)3. EIN 85-1102780.