ASM Futures Project

Futures Project Group Roster
Origins of the Project



The ASM Futures Project is a multistage planning process that is designed to be data-driven, inclusive and deliberative. The purpose of the project is to update the Society’s strategic plan and examine governance structures and processes - taking a look at the future direction of ASM, the governance, alignment of resources, activities supported by these resources, and the new capacities that the organization will need to develop. The process requires a different type of planning than what has been done in the past and broad input from a diversity of stakeholders.

The main questions to be addressed are:

  • What areas should ASM focus on in order to remain the preeminent scientific society in microbiology in the future; and
  • How could ASM be structured and conduct business in order to better achieve our strategic goals?

This project will create a new strategic plan for the Society that will go to the Council Policy Committee (CPC) for approval and recommendations for changes in the Society's Bylaws and Constitution that will go to the members for approval.

There are a number of opportunities for members and other stakeholders to provide input throughout the process. We welcome questions and feedback at any time through email

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The project has a series of milestones for data gathering; collaborative work between ASM officers, members, staff and outside experts; and progress reports. Through this process, all members will have an opportunity to provide input on the plan. The timeline is outlined through the General Meeting. Depending on the input received during the General Meeting, additional milestones will be outlined through the end of 2015.


Plan for Planning: October 2013 - May 2014
In October 2013, the Officers met with and hired Cygnet Strategy, LLC, a consulting company who many in the leadership team have worked with over the previous two years to facilitate strategic planning for the Society They have assisted in projects such as the Meetings Board Strategic Plan, the Communications Committee Strategic Plan, the Co-Location Task Force and the Officers' Planning to Define the Role of the New ED/CEO..

In May 2014, a core group of elected officers met at the General Meeting in Boston to kick-off the ASM Futures Project. Dr. Joseph Campos, ASM Secretary, gave a presentation to Council describing the project and the next steps.

Data Collection: July - early October, 2014
The consultants collected data to inform the process including:

  • A review of all program strategic plans
  • 45 telephone interviews with a sampling of stakeholders including national, branch, and division leaders, fellows, international members, early and mid career scientists, CPC members and staff
  • Two guided group discussions with members from India and from China, which were held during ICAAC
  • The interviews conducted for planning by both the Communications and Meetings Departments were reviewed for information appropriate for the organization's wide planning effort
  • A facilitated session with the Officers and members of CPC related to the role of the new ED/CEO was held in September
  • A member survey sent to a random sample of 3,848 members of whom 491 responded

This data gathering revealed several themes, including the importance of advancing the science of microbiology and engaging with diverse stakeholders from around the world.

Initial Planning: Late October - December, 2014
On October 25th, the Council Policy Committee (CPC) held a strategic discussion with the consultants to define some of the major challenges facing ASM. Immediately after the CPC meeting a two-day retreat was held with the Futures Project Group (see roster below).They met to examine the strategic direction of ASM. The questions they focused on were:

  • Are the six strategic issues defined by the CPC in April 2013 still the right ones? Is anything critical missing?
  • What goals are needed to address these areas?
  • What are the objectives needed to fulfill the goals?
  • What are the implications of this strategic direction for governance?

Discussions during this retreat highlighted the need for a streamlined mission statement and goals that better addressed the issues raised during the data-gathering phase. It also confirmed the concerns raised in the strategic issues regarding the cumbersome nature of governance (see the Origins section for additional details).

Survey on Governance and Program Assessment: January 2015
In order to begin to examine the ways to make governance more responsive, inclusive, and transparent, a survey was sent to current Council members to gain a better understanding of their perceptions. The survey had a response rate of 63%. The survey results indicated that Councilors feel that there is a need for greater transparency, broader diversity of participation and increased nimbleness in the Society's governance.

A program assessment meeting was held January 29-30 to compare major ASM initiatives against the developing strategic directions with the intent to inform the planning process of any gaps in the portfolio and the degree to which current initiatives are aligned with the proposed new directions.

Planning and Governance Meeting: February, 2015
On February 7th - 8th, the Futures Project Group met for the second time. During the course of the meeting the group came to general consensus on a revised mission statement and four strategic goals for the Society. This strategic plan will be presented to the CPC in April. They also began an exploration of governance issues.

Developing Recommendations: March - April, 2015
On March 9th - 10th, a tactical meeting was held to outline potential strategies that can support the developing strategic plan.

On March 26th - 27th, the Futures Project Group will meet to develop recommendations for governance changes.

At the April 18th CPC meeting, the Futures Project Group will update the CPC on progress and will request approval of the strategic plan.

Input on Recommendations: 2015 General Meeting
There will be multiple opportunities for members to learn more about the strategic plan and to provide input into the recommendations on changes to governance during the 2015 General Meeting. The ASM Booth will feature information on the Project, the consultants will conduct focus groups with the attendees at GM, the Future's Project Group will conduct town halls with members and there will be a session with Council to gather input.

After June 2015
The next steps will be determined based on the feedback received from members and Councilors. The Futures Group may need to gather additional information or revise their recommendations leading up to a vote by the Council on the governance changes.

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The Futures Project Group represents a diverse cross section of ASM's members, staff and stakeholders. They are charged with creating recommendations for the strategic plan and governance changes.

ASM Members
Joseph M. Campos (Chair), Children's National Medical Center, Washington, DC
ASM Secretary
Div. C "Clinical Microbiology"

Magdia de Jesus, Wadsworth Center, Albany, New York
President – First Postdoc Chapter
Membership Benefits Task Force
Howard Hughes Life Sciences Research Foundation Fellow

Victor DiRita, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Chair, Membership Board
Editor, Journal of Bacteria
Div. B "Microbial Pathogenesis"

Timothy Donohue, University of Wisconsin-Madison
ASM President
Div. H "Genetics & Molecular Biology"

Lynn Enquist, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey
ASM President-Elect
Div. S "DNA Viruses"

Caroline S. Harwood, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
Chair, ASM Press Committee
Div. K "Microbial Physiology & Metabolism"

David C. Hooper, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
Chair, Meetings Board
Past President
Div. A "Antimicrobial Chemotherapy"

Christina A. Kellogg, United States Geological Survey, St. Petersburg Coastal & Marine Science Center, Florida
CPC At-Large, Branches
Div. N "Microbial Ecology"

Judy Lovchik, Indiana State Department of Health, Indianapolis
CPC, At-Large, Branches
Div. C "Clinical Microbiology"

Fawzi Mahomoodally, University of Mauritius
Young Ambassador to the Mauritius
Young Leaders Circle
Div. Y "Public Health"

Jeffery Miller, University of California, Los Angeles
ASM Past President

Aaron Mitchell, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania
Editor in Chief, Eukaryotic Cell
Div. F "Medical Mycology"

Susan Sharp, Kaiser Permanente, Portland, Oregon
ASM, President-Elect Elect
Div. C "Clinical Microbiology"

Steven Specter, University of South Florida Medical Center, Tampa
Chair, International Board
Div. V "Clinical & Diagnostic Immunology"

James M. Tiedje, Michigan State University, East Lansing
ASM Treasurer
Div. N "Microbial Ecology"

Ron Xavier, AgResearch, Hopkirk Research Institute, New Zealand
Young Ambassador to New Zealand
Young Leaders Circle
Div. P "Food Microbiology"

Marylynn Yates, University of California, Riverside
CPC, At-Large Divisions
Div. Q "Env. & General Applied Microbiology

Mimi Yen, Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences, Tufts University
President, Boston Student Chapter
Young Leaders Circle
Div. M "Bacteriophage"

Outside Stakeholders
Jon Kaye
Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Palo Alto, CA
Div. N "Microbial Ecology"

Michele Stevens

3M Healthcare, Saint Paul, Minnesota

ASM Staff
Amy Chang
Director, Education
Div. W "Microbiology Education"

Charlotte Daniels
Manager, Leadership Services

Chris DeCesaris
Director, Finance

Connie Herndon
Director, Strategic Alliances

Cassandra Mette
Administrative Assistant

Nancy A. Sansalone
Interim Executive Director

Kim Shankle
Director, HR and Administration

Erika Shugart
Director, Communications and Marketing Strategy

Cate Bower and Marybeth Fidler, Cygnet Strategy LLC

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The ASM Futures Project has its origins in April 2013, when the CPC approved a mission statement and six strategic issues and goals. This mission, issues and goals were presented to the Council in May 2013 and President Jeff Miller shared information about them to the membership during the State of the Society at the 2013 General Meeting.

The following six strategic issues and goals were the starting point for the ASM Futures Project.

Governance and program structure is cumbersome
Goal: The Board of Directors needs to be fluid, nimble and adaptable to the quickly changing landscape. Program activities should also be more collaborative and better integrated.

ASM image & content are not reflecting new era science
Goal: ASM needs to change its image in order to capture the new science in the eyes of the younger scientists.

Public ignorance of Microbiology
Goal: The Society needs to continue to educate the public as well as convince Congress to invest more of the nation's limited discretionary funding in research and to invest in a manner that maximizes return.

The future of ASM as a membership organization is dependent upon the involvement of the members
Goal: Work to convey the value proposition of the ASM to members and the public. Consistently determine and satisfy members' needs and objectives for education, training, networking, recognition, credentials, and career advancement.

Increased expenses may not be offset by increased revenues
Goal: Prudent financial planning in this economic environment is required for ASM to prepare for a new normal, "increased expenses/decreased revenues" scenario.

Relationships with other societies are not strategically managed
Goal: Investigate mergers and acquisitions in order to broaden the breadth of science represented by the Society and to market to the public at large. Develop the necessary guidelines to handle these transactions and protect the interests of the Society.

We welcome questions and feedback at any time through email:

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Sansalone Named ASM Interim Executive Director

WASHINGTON, DC – December 3, 2014 - Nancy A. Sansalone, MPA has been named Interim Executive Director of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) effective January 1, 2015.  She steps in for Michael Goldberg, who is retiring at the end of 2014 after 30 years of stellar leadership. She has been asked by the ASM Officers to lead the staff, to steward the operations and finances and to prepare the organization for change while the Society conducts an international search for a permanent Executive Director/CEO. The search is expected to begin in January 2015.

Sansalone joined ASM in 2010 as the Deputy Executive Director. In this role, she provides leadership and management expertise to the board leadership and staff to ensure the fulfillment of the Society’s mission and strategic plan and provides leadership direction for the Society’s operational, programmatic and business activities. 

Sansalone has spent her entire career in association management and higher education administration. Prior to joining ASM, she served as the CFO and Chief Operating Officer at the Special Libraries Association (SLA) and Vice President and CFO of the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE). Previously, Sansalone worked for 10 years with the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS), serving as Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer for the Council’s Board of Directors.

She also has served as a volunteer leader on numerous non-profit boards such as the National Association for Women in Education where she served as the elected President, the Washington Higher Education Secretariat Metropolitan Employer Trust as an Advisory Board member, Capital Association for Women in Education as President, National Conference for College Women Student leaders as Chair, National Center for Higher Education Meeting Professionals as Chair, American Society for Association Executives as a member of the Finance and Administration Advisory Board and as a member of the ERIC Clearing House on Higher Education Coordinating Board. She also has held administrative posts at both Harvard University working with international programs at the Kennedy School of Government and Northeastern University in the Cooperative Education Division.

Sansalone is a graduate of Northeastern University with a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and a Bachelors of Science Degree in Political Science and Public Administration. She completed work at Harvard University in their advanced graduate study in management program.

She lives in Arlington, Virginia with her spouse Jim and their four dogs.


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Salivary Mucins Play Active Role to Fight Cavities

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 11, 2014 -- Salivary mucins, key components of mucus, actively protect the teeth from the cariogenic bacterium, Streptococcus mutans, according to research published ahead of print in Applied and Environmental Microbiology. The research suggests that bolstering native defenses might be a better way to fight dental caries than relying on exogenous materials, such as sealants and fluoride treatment, says first author Erica Shapiro Frenkel, of Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

S. mutans attaches to teeth using sticky polymers that it produces, eventually forming a biofilm, a protected surface-associated bacterial community that is encased in secreted materials, says Frenkel. As S. mutans grows in the biofilm, it produces organic acids as metabolic byproducts that dissolve tooth enamel, which is the direct cause of cavities. “We focused on the effect of the salivary mucin, MUC5B on S. mutans attachment and biofilm formation because these are two key steps necessary for cavities to form,” says Frenkel.

“We found that salivary mucins don’t alter S. mutans’ growth or lead to bacterial killing over 24 hours,” says Frenkel. “Instead, they limit biofilm formation by keeping S.mutans suspended in the liquid medium. This is particularly significant for S. mutans because it only causes cavities when it is attached, or in a biofilm on the tooth’s surface.” She adds that the oral microbiome is better preserved when naturally occurring species aren’t killed. “The ideal situation is to simply attenuate bacterial virulence,” she says.

The study grew out of previous work in the investigators’ laboratory showing that other types of mucins, such as porcine gastric mucins, had protective effects against common lung pathogens, says Frenkel. With this in mind, they suspected that salivary mucins would play a protective role, but they were not sure what that would be.

“Defects in mucin production have been linked to common diseases such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, and ulcerative colitis,” says Frenkel. “There is increasing evidence that mucins aren’t just part of the mucus for structure or physical protection, but that they play an active role in protecting the host from pathogens and maintaining a healthy microbial environment. We wanted to apply these emerging ideas to a disease model that is a widespread, global public health problem—cavities. We chose to study the interaction of MUC5B with Streptococcus mutans because it is the primary cavity-causing bacteria in the oral cavity.”

The research makes a fundamental contribution to scientific understanding of host-microbe interactions, says principal investigator Katharina Ribbeck, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge MA. “It is generating a paradigm shift from the textbook view of mucus as a simple catchall filter for particles, towards the understanding that mucus is a sophisticated bioactive material with powerful abilities to manipulate microbial behavior.”

Zoos Exonerated in Baby Elephant Deaths; Data Support New Branch of Herpesvirus Family

WASHINGTON, DC – October 8, 2014 - Elephants are among the most intelligent non-humans, arguably on par with chimps, but both African and Asian elephants—separate species—are endangered. In 1995, 16-month old Kumari, the first Asian elephant born at the National Zoo in Washington, DC, died of a then-mysterious illness. In 1999, Gary Hayward of Johns Hopkins University and collaborators published their results identifying a novel herpesvirus, EEHV1 as the cause of Kumari’s sudden death. They now show that severe cases like this one are caused by viruses that normally infect the species, rather than by viruses that have jumped from African elephants, which was their original hypothesis. Hayward’s latest research appears ahead of print in two concurrently published papers in the Journal of Virology.

At the time of Kumari’s death, anti-zoo activists seized on the situation to call for abandoning all efforts to breed Asian elephants in zoos, as they claimed that zoos were spreading the deadly herpesvirus, says Hayward. Contrary to that, in the current research, “We showed that whereas some identical herpesvirus strains infected both healthy and diseased animals concurrently at particular facilities, the majority were different strains, and there has not been a single proven case of the same strain occurring at any two different facilities,” says Hayward. “Therefore, the viruses have not spread between zoos, and the sources of the viruses were most likely wild-born elephant herdmates. In fact, we also found the same disease in several Asian range countries, including in orphans and wild calves, and showed that the EEHV1 strains in India displayed the same genetic diversity as those in Western zoos.”

The papers also provide substantial data to support the hypothesis that the EEHV collectively represent a new, fourth major branch of the herpesvirus family, the proposed deltaherpesvirus subfamily (Deltaherpesvirinae), says Philip Pellett of Wayne State University, Detroit, who wrote an invited Commentary which accompanied Hayward’s papers. “Given that the three other branches were recognized over 30 years ago, establishment of a new subfamily would a big deal.”

Pellett adds that “Further scientific significance arises from the discovery of 12 new herpesviruses and identification of some new wrinkles in our understanding of herpesvirus diversity and evolution.”

In these studies, the investigators performed extensive DNA fingerprinting of the genetic signatures of all the known EEHV cases, as well as samples of EEHV virus that were obtained from wild Asian and African elephants, says Hayward. In the process, they identified seven different species of EEHVs and multiple different chimeric subtypes and strains of each.

“Because these viruses cannot be grown in cell culture, we had to develop sensitive and specific PCR techniques to be able to identify and compare the sequences of multiple segments of many different types of EEHV genomes directly from pathological blood and tissue DNA samples,” says Hayward. “Later, by also examining benign lung nodules from culled wild African elephants, we determined that EEHV2, EEHV3, EEHV6, and EEHV7 are natural endogenous viruses of African elephants, whereas EEHV1A, EEHV1B, EEHV4, and EEHV5 are apparently natural and nearly ubiquitous infections of Asian elephants that are occasionally shed in trunk washes and saliva of most healthy asymptomatic adult animals.”

Hayward notes that only one example of a lethal cross-species infection with EEHV3 into an Asian elephant calf has been observed, and that the viruses causing disease normally do so only in their natural hosts.

Close monitoring of Asian elephant calves in zoos has so far enabled life-saving treatment for at least nine infected Asian calves, says Hayward, suggesting that such monitoring may ultimately enable determining why some animals become susceptible to severe disease after their primary EEHV1 infections, while most do not. “About 20% of all Asian elephant calves are susceptible to hemorrhagic disease, whereas symptomatic disease is extremely rare in African elephant calves under the same zoo conditions,” says Hayward.

In another paper in the same issue of Journal of Virology, Hayward et al. demonstrate that the many highly diverged species and subtypes of EEHVs are ancient viruses that evolved separately from all other known subfamilies of mammalian herpesviruses within the ancestor of modern elephants, beginning about 100 million years ago.

Philip Pellett, of Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, praises both of Hayward’s studies in this issue of the Journal of Virology: “The information gained in the new EEHV papers will be important for developing diagnostic tools for these viruses, and for developing therapeutic approaches to diseases caused by EEHV.”

Elephant populations have been plummeting. African elephants declined roughly from 10 million to half a million during the 20th century, due largely to habitat destruction, and intense poaching has since further decimated their numbers. Asian elephants, once in the millions, now number less than 50,000. They are threatened mostly by habitat fragmentation.

The full papers will appear in the December issue of the Journal of Virology.