FROM ONE DUPONT CIRCLE
Acting Executive Director
Hello, ACPA members!
I trust that this greeting finds you well and enjoying the successes of completing another academic year, while also finding the energy, rest, and renewal to begin again. I always find the start of a new semester or quarter to be an invigorating time for setting new goals, meeting new people, and welcoming new members into a community of care. The ACPA International Office has also recently experienced an exciting several months as we have welcomed our newest team members, Kennedy Gates (baby of ACPA Deputy Executive Director Tricia Fechter Gates) and Lukas Abello (baby of ACPA Expeditor Schawn Abello) since we were last together at the ACPA 2018 Convention in Houston! We join the entire ACPA membership in our excitement and support for Tricia’s and Schawn’s additions to their families.
I am honored to also have the opportunity to share with you some additional Association news from the ACPA International Office. In June, I signed the lease renewal for our office space in the National Center for Higher Education at One Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C., which allows us to stay closely aligned, both physically and collaboratively, with other members of the Washington Higher Education Secretariat organization. These partnerships have never been more important as the United States’ higher education community and our campuses face increasing challenges and disruptions at the federal level. Our advocacy efforts have included outreach to the U.S. Congress, the departments of Education and Labor, and even the U.S. Supreme Court. I urge you to stay connected to our advocacy efforts on issues of federal governance and legislation on our website at myacpa.org/ACPA-speaks-up. Although we now have full-time staff working entirely remotely in Indiana, Virginia, and Washington states, One Dupont Circle has been the ACPA staff’s “home base” since 1992 and we are thrilled with the continued opportunity to remain a part of this vibrant workspace through 2028, at least.
With our physical space now committed for the next ten years, we turn our attention to who we will be as an Association in the next century. If you are not already aware, ACPA will celebrate our 95th year as an Association in 2019, and we will come together in Boston next March 3-6 to celebrate at the ACPA 2019 convention. Think about that for a second…95 years of history and leadership in higher education and student affairs. And who we are today as an organization is still largely shaped by the spirit and passion of the nine founders who were employed as “appointment secretaries” related to their roles in helping students find positions after graduation. It should be no surprise that ACPA’s first president, May L. Cheney from the University of California at Berkeley, was a change-maker in the creation of the field we now know as student affairs. If only we could go back to the $2 membership dues that they paid in 1924!
I return to our history for the purpose of seeking inspiration for our future. One needs not look very hard to find evidence throughout the last century of higher education’s and student affairs’ history to see the effects ACPA has had on our campuses and in the lives of professionals. We were providing workshops and resources on effective strategies in supporting student growth and development long before we could articulate best practices; we were networking and organizing ourselves around our social identities before our institutions understood the importance of inclusion and diversity; we have produced the most powerful and prolific research and scholarship in our field, particularly through the Journal of College Student Development since 1959; and we have long given voice and vote in the Association to all members, without regard to your age, position level, or years in the profession. Our identity today is intimately linked with our history of leadership in these areas, and it is these strengths that will continue to propel us into our next 100 years as an Association.
The ACPA Governing Board and International Office have our attention on the future, and we are doing this work not only grounded in the spirit of our history, mission, values, but also in transparency about our current financial wellness. In truth, we have seen some decline in membership and convention attendance over the last ten years. AND we know that a lot has happened over the last ten years: the global economy experienced a tremendous recession (2008-2009), and higher education was not immune. Campus budgets have become tighter, and professional development funds have often been among the first line items to be cut. We changed our governance structure. We voted not to join as a sponsor of The Placement Exchange. The proposed consolidation with NASPA was approved by a majority of voters in both associations, but failed due to not meeting the required threshold in 2011. ACPA and NIRSA co-located conventions in 2013. ACPA reinvented the convention experience in 2014. There have been two transitions in Executive Director leadership of the ACPA International Office. The financial bright spots in that decade have come when the Association hosted conventions in destinations with tourism appeal, such as Orlando (2007), Las Vegas (2013), and Montreal (2016).
Feedback from attendees at our most recent ACPA Convention (2018) in Houston demonstrated that this professional and personal development experience was among the highest quality as compared to prior ACPA Conventions as well as other student affairs or higher education conferences. At the same time, this convention was smaller for a number of reasons, including but not limited to discriminatory legislation in the state of Texas against transgender persons and the travel ban by the state of California. These were conditions that we were aware would effect registration for the 2018 Convention, so the Governing Board approved a fiscal year 2018 budget that reduced the reliance on the annual convention for revenue to support operational costs. With smaller attendance, the Houston convention team were able to provide laser-focus on quality of programs and experiences, including the introduction of race-based caucus sessions, which were attended by more than 600 participants.
When we were together in Houston, the ACPA Governing Board began the exciting work of picturing our future in honoring our 95 years of history, but also acknowledging the challenges higher education has faced in our most recent decade. We continued this important work at the recent Leadership Meeting in Boston in June 2018. While we are not yet at the point of developing a new strategic plan for the Association, these discussions are beginning to shape our future identity about who we are, where we are going, and how we will get there. It is clear that we will continue to center the important work of helping college and university campuses address racial injustices and decolonization, while identifying how to once again be the leaders in higher education on this and many other critical issues of our time. We understand that our members expect us to be broad in our scope to support the diverse needs of our profession. We are still more than 5,000 strong as an association, and we have many exciting things to look to in our future as we envision “ACPA at 100” leading up to the 2024 Convention. You can expect us to soon begin working on a new strategic plan that involves modernizing our mission, vision, and core values, while still holding fast to our roots and history as an association.
We will share future opportunities for you to engage and provide feedback in this important work in the near future. Until then, I hope you will stay connected to us through involvement in the initiatives and innovations happening in the Commissions, Coalitions and Networks, Communities of Practice, and our State, Regional, and International Chapters. Also, program proposals for the ACPA 2019 Convention in Boston (where we will celebrate our 95th anniversary) are due on Friday, September 7th, so be sure to start working on how you will contribute to an even higher quality program next year! Hotel and Convention registration is open already, and you will want to take advantage of the early registration rates by registering as soon as possible. Thank you for being a member of ACPA and thank you for everything you do in support of college student learning and success. I am hopeful for our world’s future because of the work you do every single day.
All my best,