From a base of four founding members in 1909, the AAR has grown to more than 8,000 members today. In 2017, sixty-five percent of AAR members were professionals working in colleges, universities, graduate schools, seminaries, and a wide variety of related fields. Close to thirty percent were graduate students preparing to join the ranks of the professoriate, higher education administration, the non-profit world, or NGOs, and around six percent were retired, many having reached Lifetime Member status after forty years of continuous membership.
In recent years, nearly forty percent of AAR members have been women, and racial and ethnic minorities represent twenty five percent of the AAR membership. For a more in-depth look at self-reported data from AAR members, including the demographic breakdown of Annual Meeting presenters and panels, view the 2017 AAR Demographic Report.
Data Collection efforts
Improving data collection and reporting is an ongoing priority of the AAR, not only because it speaks to transparency but also because developing effective services for members requires knowing the challenges they face and what opportunities may be available to them. Demographic information is vital to the work of the AAR's four Status Committees, which advocate for historically marginalized persons in the profession, such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer persons; people with disabilities; racial and ethnic minorities; and women.
In recent years, the AAR has been encouraging members to volunteer data through join/renew forms, Annual Meeting registration, and surveys. The long-range plan calls for a greater focus on data collection through better communication, technology, and user interfaces. The 2017 AAR Demographic Report represents the first step in this process, with additional data sets to follow in the coming years.
Grants & Awards
Every year, the AAR awards tens of thousands of dollars to members in the form of grants, including those designed to support research, both on individual and collaborative levels; those that strengthen AAR regions; and travel grants to help scholars connect with colleagues at the Annual Meeting.
In addition to grant funding, the AAR annually awards thousands of dollars to recognize exceptional contributions to the field, such as the Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion, the Excellence in Teaching Award, and the Religion and the Arts Award. Grant winners and AAR award winners are recognized each year in AAR Annual Meeting publications and through special topics forums.
Expanding professional development resources and opportunities is a central focus of Goal I in the long-range plan. The AAR currently offers members access to job listings, interview spaces for hiring institutions and job candidates, and informational articles and guides.
The AAR's numerous leadership groups are staffed by member volunteers. Every year, more than 1,000 members give their time to further the AAR's work and serve their colleagues. Women occupy the majority of leadership roles, and as shown in the 2017 AAR Demographic Report, volunteer groups typically have a higher degree of diversity than is present in the general membership. Increasing the visibility of these positions and participation in the annual call for nominations form part of Goal IV of the long-range plan.
The AAR's volunteer leadership groups include its Board of Directors, Committees of the Board (Audit, Executive, Finance, Nominations, and Program), and many Working Groups, such as awards juries, task forces, and standing committees.
Every spring, the AAR issues a call for nominations to fill open positions on committees, juries, and task forces, with service beginning in January of the following year. Members are strongly encouraged to participate in the annual call by nominating themselves or someone else.