Raising the Bar

Fulfilling its new, twofold mission—to foster excellence in the academic study of religion and enhance the public understanding of religion—requires the AAR to adapt responsively and creatively to the changing needs of members and the field. The AAR is only as strong as its constituents, which means member engagement and development must always be top priorities that are visible to AAR members year-round. The fourth goal of the long-range plan challenges the AAR to examine and optimize its operations and structure so that it can support scholars of religion for many years to come.



Goal IV

Strengthen the organization’s agility and transparency

Strategy A:  Strengthen relationships with members through targeted and dynamic communications
Strategy B:  Anticipate, understand, and respond to members’ professional and career aspirations
Strategy C:  Increase member involvement throughout the organization
Strategy D:  Diversify revenue resources to maintain financial stability
Strategy E:  Optimize and align information technology with operations



Highlighted Initiatives


evaluation of membership structure

The AAR has begun an in-depth assessment of membership categories, dues, and benefits. The 2018 member survey provided helpful information about reasons people join, renew, or let memberships lapse; benefits they value and what they would add; and how the AAR can improve its services. Changes to the current structure will better reflect the situation of contingent faculty and students so that those most in need of AAR resources will be able to obtain them.  



Leadership transparency

The AAR's volunteer leaders help hold the organization accountable, bring attention to important issues, and advocate for their colleagues and the study of religion. Yet many members may not realize the opportunities available to them, how the nomination and selection processes work, or what will be required to be an effective leader. Increasing transparency in these areas will help more members make valuable contributions to the AAR and its leadership groups.



professional conduct standards

As the convener of thousands of people every year at national and regional events, the AAR is obligated to provide safe spaces for networking and development that are free from discrimination, harassment, and other inappropriate behaviors. By revising existing policies and procedures and establishing new ones to address unmet needs, the AAR is working to ensure the organization's values and members' safety and comfort are never infringed.


This new plan clarifies and strengthens multiple areas. It will provide a systemic focus on the public understanding of religion and our efforts to reach a larger audience. It will better connect with various stakeholders, utilize technology more effectively, and address our obligations as a humanities organization.
— Thomas Tweed, 2015 AAR President


Spotlight on Volunteer Leadership

the critical work of aar task forces 

In many ways, the strategies of Goal IV—and the long-range plan overall—serve as another chapter in a long history of adapting to an evolving membership and field. From issuing statements to changing its name, the AAR has repeatedly demonstrated its commitment to becoming a stronger and more agile organization.

The AAR's many task forces, which tackle complex issues and make recommendations based on their findings, have been indispensable to improving the AAR. The following provides a small sampling of past and current work accomplished by task forces:

  • In 2008, the Governance Task Force began a thorough assessment of the AAR's organizational structure and practices, resulting in a complete revision of the bylaws.
  • More recently, the Board of Directors adopted a statement from the Professional Conduct Task Force that articulates the AAR's values and its expectations of members. Policies to handle infractions are being developed to concretize the task force's recommendations.
  • Currently in operation, the Publishing Task Force is examining the changing landscape of publishing, especially its digital forms, and how those changes should affect tenure and promotion and make space for younger scholars.

Over the years, task forces have addressed issues such as sustainability, responsible research practices, job placement, religion in K-12 public schools, and many others. 


Long-Range Goals: