A Letter from the President–Vernon A. Wall

Greetings from Washington, DC!

Since I began my presidency in March of 2020, I have developed a daily morning ritual.  I grab a cup of hot tea (I don’t drink coffee) or a large glass of water (my doctor says I don’t drink enough water – ugh) and I spend about 45 minutes reading the Daily Briefing email from the Chronicle of Higher Education.   Throughout the months of March, April and May I found myself thinking of college/university presidents and other higher education leaders.   To say that this is a challenging time in higher education only begins to describe what it’s like to manage multiple pandemics as they provide leadership for the campus community.  I also found myself thinking about my friends and colleagues who have backgrounds in student affairs who are now serving as college presidents and CEOs of higher education organizations.  What’s on their minds?  How are they navigating this time in history?  Hence, the “President2President” ACPA2Go video series was born.  I am in the process of interviewing some amazing colleagues who have agreed to share some time with me (and you) through a video podcast of sorts.  Here are a few things that I am learning so far:

      • Presidents who have student affairs backgrounds have unique skills that allow them to lead their institutions through this difficult time. Crisis management, adjusting to budget cuts, student protests, understanding uncertainty, student mental health, strategic engagement, developing protocols . . . just to name a few.  As one person put it:  “It’s like being on all campus duty all over again.”
      • Presidents who have student affairs backgrounds have a greater understanding and appreciation for academic and student affairs partnerships. They are quick to see the synergy that can be achieved in an integrated campus community experience.
      • Presidents who have student affairs backgrounds are thinking beyond COVID-19. They are noticing the intersections of enrollment, curriculum delivery, equity, access as well as several pandemics that have impacted higher education.  They believe that it is important to see the connections and to not narrowly focus strategies for recovery.
      • Presidents who have student affairs backgrounds understand that justice, inclusion and equity should never be afterthoughts. They believe that they must lead by example and continue to learn and grow through the process.
      • Presidents with student affairs backgrounds believe that the professional development that they received through associations (like ACPA) has allowed them to be successful in their roles. Several spoke of their convention experiences, past mentors and their early employment in student affairs that they remember fondly.

It has been an absolute joy to chat with these remarkable leaders.  I hope that you will take some time to view the interviews when they are available in early 2021.  Our campuses and the higher education community is in good hands with these amazing colleagues.

Vernon A. Wall
President, 2020 – 2021