A Final Letter from ACPA President, Vernon A. Wall.

Dear ACPA Family:

It has been a pleasure to serve as your president this past year. Near the end of the second act of the Broadway musical “The Color Purple”, Celie looks into the audience and sings about strength through struggle: Emotionally she belts: “I’m still here”. With that I say to you:


I am happy to report that we are financially healthy with membership over 6,000 and attendance at our ACPA21 virtual experience surpassing 5,000.

Since March, all higher education associations have been impacted by the multiple pandemics that have ravished the world and our country. We are not alone. While we have seen much creativity and resilience in our members during this time of constant pivoting and re-imagining campus life, many of us have experienced extreme loss. Family members, colleagues, friends, students and community members.

With all that was going on in our world and our country, we were still able to be about the business of the association. We are actually in Phase 2 of our association’s strategic direction which highlights 5 priorities: Attending to our current and future membership, Generation and Sharing of Transformative Educational Experiences, Maintaining and Increasing Our Strength in Research & Scholarship, Association Leadership & Presence and finally: Celebrating 100 years of ACPA in 2024 in Chicago! A huge shoutout to Dr. Lelani Kupo and Dr. Dean Kennedy who did a phenomenal job in framing our conversations while weaving racial justice and decolonization throughout.

Our entities. I can even begin to share my appreciation for their continued great work. There’s no doubt in my mind that we are who we are as an association because of their commitment. They stepped up to provide resources and support as our campuses and country experienced – yet again – a wave of violence against black, brown and trans people and as native and indigenous communities were constantly erased from all narratives. As I write now, anti- Asian American violence in our country is being talked about as if it is suddenly a new phenomenon. Let’s be clear, this is not new – it’s just being filmed. The stories are sadly centuries old. We also continue to ignore the fact that social economic class is often times not included in conversations on oppression and social justice. The “I’ve been left behind” narrative is one that we cannot afford to ignore any longer. Our work is more important than ever. This brings me to our “Strategic Imperative for Racial Justice and Decolonization”. During conversations about the roll out of this bold document in 2016 and 2017, there was some resistance. Some folks wondered about this direction. Was it too narrow? Well, all I can say is Dr. Stephen John Quaye and the amazing scholars and practitioners who worked to develop this document must have had a crystal ball. Fast forward to today. This document is a visionary roadmap to developing just communities. And we are not done yet! We will continue to provide resources for the higher education community on how to operationalize the strategic imperative on your campuses and in your communities.

I’d also like to recognize my fellow higher education association leaders. What’s great about higher education as an “industry”, is that we know the value of collaboration. My fantastic friends and colleagues at NASPA – Board Chair Dr. Angela Batista and President Dr. Kevin Kruger have connected with me several times over the past year to have conversations on how we can both continue to support our profession and our members. These conversations culminated in a program that we offered at both of our virtual experiences: “Leading an association through multiple pandemics”.

This past year has been a struggle for student affairs professionals. Much has been asked of us. I also believe that we yet again solidified our value. We continue to be the stewards of the college and university experience. Your work has been remarkable and we will enter 2021 and beyond – together.
For our association, this involves continuing to support our members on their campuses though affordable and diverse professional development opportunities; this involves being unapologetically committed to racial justice, social justice, equity and decolonization; this involves providing resources for senior campus leaders on navigating our campus community dynamics and, finally, this involves continuing to partner with other higher education associations to forecast and vision as we navigate higher education in post-pandemic times.

As I close, I want to honor the people who got me here. Not only through this year as president, but throughout my life and career:

  • the ACPA leadership and International Office Staff: we spent a lot of time together and managed to do some great and meaningful work together. I am honored to have served alongside you.
  • the ACPA entities that mentored me over the years: several Convention Planning Teams, the Commissions for Professional Preparation, Housing and Residential Life, Student Involvement and the Coalitions for Multicultural Awareness and Sexuality & Gender Identities.
  • the places where I have called my professional home over the years: UNC Charlotte, UNC Chapel Hill, the University of Georgia, Semester at Sea, Iowa State University and the ACPA International Office. So may wonderful students and dynamic colleagues.
  • my SJTI and LeaderShape family, who continue to provide the spaces for me to continue doing my own self work, show up authentically, and do better in the world. Plus, they are really good people to hang out with.
  • my parents (Ward & Earnestine Wall), my sister Tineta, my brother Ward, Jr., my sister in law Demi (a proud member of the Lumbee nation) and my nephews Ryan, Zachary, Trey and Jayden who are the true essence of family.

If you have heard me speak before you know that I always end with saying that the greatest philosopher that has ever lived was Della Wall Ingram – she was my grandmother. And, even though she’s no longer physically with me I’m sure she’s spiritually here right now. She used to always say to us one simple thing – May the work I’ve done speak for me.

ACPA – continue to do good work.

Vernon A. Wall
ACPA President, 2020 – 2021