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To enhance your sense of understanding and connection to ISTSS, I am focusing this column on the topic of our organizational structure. When I became president last fall, I thought I understood what I needed to know—the various committees and task forces, the people, headquarters management. After all, I had been a member since 1991. I chaired the meeting in 1996. My boss had been president, as had other close colleagues. I knew many board members and had been a board member myself since November 1999. I was in familiar territory. Or so I thought.

Working with our executive director, Rick Koepke, in the weeks leading up to the 2003 annual meeting last fall, I quickly learned how much I didn’t know. I found it difficult to conceptualize what we do and understand how the various organizational components relate to one another. Looking at a tree diagram that segregated committees, task forces, liaisons and other entities didn’t help. With the meeting date getting closer and a sense of panic building (because I thought I needed to understand the organization if I were to be its president), I started sketching my own diagrams, trying to create functional clusters. During this process, Rick suggested that I create an organizational chart based on the primary audience of the activities of each component. Finally things started to make more sense.

The chart below depicts our four primary audiences: leadership, professionals, the lay public, and other professional organizations. The Leadership cluster is concerned with governance, so this branch includes committees such as Finance, Nomi-nations, Fundraising and Awards. The Professional cluster, our largest, is concerned with marketing (i.e., recruiting and retaining members) as well as the delivery of services, such as the annual meeting, the Journal of Traumatic Stress, and StressPoints. It also includes the Special Interest Groups and Student Section. The cluster focused on the Lay Public includes the Public Education Committee and the PTSD Alliance. And last, the cluster focused on Other Organizations includes committees such as International Structure and Affiliations and Organizational Liaisons.

In the past, the heads of the committees and task forces reported to a designated member of the Executive Committee whose assignment was based on a variety of factors, including interest, expertise and convenience. Now, using the structural and functional organizational chart to guide us, we have developed a process in which a member of the Executive Committee is assigned to an entire cluster or related section of a cluster: the president-elect to Leadership, the secretary to Professionals, the treasurer to aspects of Leadership and Professionals that involve finances (Finance Committee, marketing), the past president to the Lay Public, and the vice president to Other Organizations. The aim of this assignment system is to facilitate oversight. We’re assuming that there’s an economy of scale in being responsible for groups that have the same audience and typically have similar issues and complementary goals.

The process of developing this new organizational and reporting structure has not only helped me understand ISTSS better, but it has given me a deeper appreciation of the richness of our organization. We have a lot to offer, and I want to make sure you take advantage of what’s available. You have a lot to offer too. I encourage your participation in various ISTSS activities.

If you would like to serve on an ISTSS committee or task force, go to the drop-down menu under “ISTSS Leadership” and contact the chair of the group in which you are interested. Or you might consider joining a Special Interest Group and connect to people who share your interests (visit http://www.istss.org/sigs/index.htm). Also, the Journal of Traumatic Stress always needs reviewers. Making connections through these avenues can lead to other opportunities, to our mutual benefit.

ISTSS Structural and Functional Organization