Transitions at LSA

Susan Olson:  From Executive Officer to Executive Officer Emerita

OlsonSusan Olson has been the Executive Officer of the Law and Society Association for five years and, as of 1 September, is making a transition to a new role:  Executive Officer Emerita. She will now embark on some well-deserved and much anticipated retirement travel. We are fortunate that she has agreed to provide continuity during the upcoming period of transition to a new Executive Officer by serving in a role as Executive Officer Emerita. We are sure to be calling on her good judgment and historical memory (although not excessively!) for advice and consulting in the months ahead. 

That said, this will be a big transition for Susan and for the LSA.  As we contemplate Susan’s contributions to LSA and as we imagine LSA’s future, we can say that LSA’s future is bright because of everything Susan did to make LSA stronger, and we can say that we are truly in awe of what she managed to accomplish in her five years at the helm.  

Susan has been an extraordinary Executive Officer, transforming the organization to handle the challenges of being an ever-larger association in the 21st century. LSA had been a small and informal organization for much of its history. Now, as a medium-sized academic association with more than 2000 people in attendance at its annual meeting, it needed an overhaul of its rules, procedures and ways of dealing with the ever-expanding number of committees and ever-growing set of members and meeting attendees. Susan presided over the transformation of LSA, so that LSA now has terrific institutional infrastructure in place to handle the challenges of the present and the future. 

The Board of Trustees appointed Susan to the position of LSA Executive Officer in 2012 at a pivotal moment in the history of the LSA. LSA was making the transition to a new home upon the retirement of Ron Pipkin, who had served as Executive Officer for 25 years. The transition was huge: Though Ron and long-serving staff member Lissa Ganter provided crucial support, no one from the University of Massachusetts office actually moved with the LSA to its new home at the University of Utah, so Susan had to start by building a new staff and recreating the organization in a new site. This was a daunting task, but Susan unflappably conquered this assignment with her amazing institution-building skills. 

Susan embraced with vigor and thoughtfulness the initial challenge of overseeing the move of the Executive Office to the University of Utah. As a long-time active member of the LSA as well as a highly-respected political scientist and University of Utah senior administrator, Susan drew on her extensive knowledge and deep experience to adapt the Law and Society Association to its new life. She organized the new office and hired, trained, and supervised superb new staff. She worked effectively with members and officers of the LSA on the work of the Association; indeed, the annual conferences during her tenure as Executive Officer were among the largest and most successful in LSA history. Susan superbly managed LSA financial resources; all of us appreciate her knack for clearly explaining the meaning and significance of complex financial documents. Susan also began and will continue to consult on the important process of reforming how LSA governs itself. The project on governance reform has included commissioning an external consultant’s report, launching and analyzing membership surveys, and facilitating changes to the bylaws, policies, and procedures designed to make the Board of Trustees more active and engaged and the LSA more responsive to its members.

Susan Olson has made lasting contributions to the LSA that will continue to benefit us all in the years ahead. It is perhaps the greatest testament to someone who has built an institution to say that we are confident that it will thrive within the structures she has created, with the rules whose institutionalization she has guided and with the staff organization and office procedures that she has put in place. Susan has presided over the transition of the organization to institutional adulthood and the ability of the now-adult to continue to thrive independently of those who nurtured her development is one of the signs of truly successful parenting.

Susan: Many thanks for guiding the development of the Law and Society Association through these pivotal years. We know that LSA will be stronger in the future for all of the work you have done to bring LSA to institutional maturity. And we all look forward to seeking your counsel and tapping your historical memory in the years ahead, mindful of your well-deserved retirement. The LSA and all of its members are in your debt. Congratulations on your retirement (but don’t go too far for too long, please!). We look forward to celebrating your accomplishments in a more collective way at next year’s LSA meeting in Toronto! 

- Valerie Hans, Past LSA President and Kim Scheppele, Current LSA President 


John Francis: LSA's new Interim Executive Officer


John Francis became interim executive director of the Law and Society Association (LSA) on September 1, 2017.  He agreed to do so while LSA is completing its search for a long-term executive officer.  Francis is currently Research Professor of Political Science at The University of Utah, where he has long been on the faculty. He served for a significant number of years as senior associate vice president for academic affairs with responsibilities that included undergraduate education, assessment, and international education. Francis received a BA in political science from Stanford University and a PhD in political science from the University of Michigan with coursework in economics. His research interests lie for the most part in comparative public policy, federalism, and occasionally British electoral politics. In recent years, Francis has published on regulatory questions relating to the black market in human organs, HIV/AIDS testing, human trafficking, public health surveillance, informed consent, and privacy as well as the British Conservative Party. His recent books include: David Cameron and Conservative Renewal: The limits of modernisation (coedited with Gillian Peele; Manchester, 2016) and Privacy: What Everyone Needs to Know (coauthored with Leslie P. Francis; Oxford, 2017). Much of his work is informed by an interdisciplinary perspective shaped by many years of publishing with his spouse, L.P. Francis, who is professor of law and philosophy at The University of Utah. His other activities include going to the opera whenever possible, most often at San Francisco and Glyndebourne, seeing at least twenty films at the annual Sundance Film Festival and many others during the year, and running “Bay to Breakers” every spring in San Francisco.

Long-time colleague Susan Olson adds:

John Francis has more than 20 years of experience in academic administration at the university and departmental levels. At the same time he has maintained an active research agenda on comparative public policy and European politics and mentored many students. John became actively involved in LSA in 2012 and has attended every meeting since. He represents the potential appeal of LSA to many scholars who have not previously defined themselves as sociolegal scholars.  He is active in the Law and Health CRN.  John’s friends know him for his great sense of humor, quick grasp of new situations, and generous hospitality.