From One Dupont Circle: Partner

This column is the final in a series about ACPA’s L.A.M.P. (Lead. Amplify. Mobilize. Partner.) strategy for working together as community and as an association.

I want to ask a serious question to each of us in the field of student affairs/life/services/support. How do we best partner and with whom do we partner to advance the field of student learning and development?  We can no longer succeed in isolation.  We must aggressively and effectively partner with our peers in the larger context of higher education in order for students to succeed–persist and complete their college degrees.

Today, retention and persistence to completion are the absolute drivers of the economic health, survival and sustainability of college and university campuses.  Funding models that have traditionally served us are eroding.  The relevancy and value of student affairs work to retention and completion is well-documented in research and one of the best kept secrets on campuses.

Now is the time to ensure that our partners in academic affairs, enrollment, advising, admissions, institutional research and policy makers and legislators know that we are ready and willing to partner to ensure that students succeed.  Now is the time to reach out to them and offer our support, our best research and practices.

As an association, it is our job to listen to the key influencers and help our field navigate changes as they occur, even better to predict them and start early.

A recent article in Educause Review (September/October 2015) entitled “Data, Technology & The Great Unbundling of Higher Education” says it well: “Like the retailer and restaurant markets, the middle of the higher education market is being hollowed out from both the top and the bottom.”  This process is called disintermediation and was predicted as early as two decades ago, investigated at length by leading scholars and featured in the retirement speech of James J. Duderstadt, President Emeritus University Professor of Science and Engineering The University of Michigan.

Duderstadt said

Even more fundamentally, as we enter the new millennium, there is an increasing sense that the social contract between the university and American society may need to be reconsidered and perhaps even renegotiated once again. The ultimate challenge for the university in the 21st Century may be to assist our nation’s evolution into what one might call a society of learning, in which opportunities for learning become ubiquitous and universal, permeating all aspects of our society and empowering through knowledge and education all of our citizens, might be the most appropriate vision for the future of the public university.

There is really no way to say that higher education did not know that disintermediation was on its way and there is no way to deny that it has arrived.

Who prevails in situations where large parts of traditional distribution systems like higher education are eliminated? People who know how to effectively partner and retool themselves rapidly for the reality at hand.

I was at Apple Computer & the TORO Company when they “disintermediated” and eliminated thousands of long-tenured outlets in order to preserve financial margins.  Rather than lose my companies, I partnered.  Jobs were preserved for our employees and we were able to prosper.

It is fair to say that I have a bias for partnerships and I have brought that inclination to ACPA because part of my job is to identify strategies for a sustainable future in a disintermediating world.

Over the last 16 months, we have increased our intentional partnership activities dramatically with our peer organizations, on campuses, on Capitol Hill, with vendors and throughout the globe.

All of us have to reach outside of the people and places that have formed our close-knit communities of influence and interaction and this means we have to be really effective in partnering–the cooperative, coordinated and collaborative relationships that exist between two or more independent persons or groups to (1) increase administrative efficiency and/or (2) programmatic impact through shared, transferred or combined services, resources or programs.

What can these partnerships look like on campuses and between our association and peer groups?  One of my favorite guides for defining effective partnerships was developed by The Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta.  They define cooperation, coordination and collaboration and suggest ways we can measure whether we are partnering well.

  • Cooperation – Mutually beneficial administrative and program relationships that may include sharing information, students, professionals, space and other resources. Also includes relationships in which organizations agree to work on projects together.
  • Coordination – Deeper relationships built upon compatible goals (outcomes), joint planning, division of roles and resources and consistent communication channels in which accomplishments are mutually acknowledged. Partners recognize the value in the relationship and develop a supportive partnership infrastructure.
  • Collaboration – The deepest of organizational relationships, where documented expectations and a structure to achieve goals beyond those any individual partner could achieve are in place. Organizations have established long term, ongoing operation of coordinated or cooperative activities and have demonstrated continuity and long-standing trusting relationships.

Successful professional personal and organizational partnerships include, but are not limited to, the following characteristics:

  • Organization or professional has established working partnerships with other organizations or professionals in the campus community that have been in place for more than one year;
  • Organizational or professional partnerships involve significant activities, which may include working to establish common goals, pooling resources, joint planning, implementing and evaluating services, and evaluating services and procedures;
  • Organizational or professional partnerships are guided and executed by an up-to-date Memorandum of Agreements or similar documents.

Think about the partnerships for student success–persistence, retention and completion–in which you are engaged on your campus.  Would the people reviewing your work agree?  Can you measure these partnerships using any of the standards provided?

I think about this challenge a lot.  The world outside of student affairs is measuring student success in very concrete ways.  Are we?  Can we?  Those of us who manage associations have to think in this way as well.  What are the barriers to student success and how do our partnerships contribute or not? Take a moment tomorrow to thank your partners on campus who help you help students.  And, start to identify the partnerships that you need to develop.

I am very proud of ACPA’s partnerships that have formed over the last sixteen months and our long-tenured partners, some of whom have aligned with us for more than 40 years.  I want to name many of them here to illustrate the depth and breadth of relationships that support our mission as ACPA.  And, I want to thank them and thank you for partnering with us to create the best places for students to develop, learn and succeed in the world.





ABCC Association of Black Cultural Centers

Diverse (CHEE) in publication of Best Places


Association of Higher Education Parent/Family Program Professionals (AHEPPP)

Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE)

Campus Labs

Campus Pride


Diversity Collegium Global Diversity & Inclusion Benchmark Project

Erik Qualman & What Happens on Campus Stays on YouTube, co-produced with our Task Force on Digital Technology


Foliot Furniture

Forrest T. Jones and Company

Higher Education Forum-The Economist

Johns Hopkins, publisher of Journal of College Student Development (JCSD)

Kevin O’Connell & The Niche Movement

KSQ Architects

Lead365, host for the upcoming Global Student Summit in Montreal

M. Stoner, Higher Ed Live & Student Affairs Live and our own Tony Doody & Heather Shea-Gasser

Minority Male Community College Collaborative National Consortium on College Men of Color

Morgan State University

myPROfolio from our friends at Moodle

NASPA/ACPA Taskforce for Professional Competencies*

Naylor Broadcasting & WorkerBee TV, hosts of ACPA Video On Demand

National Council on Student Development (NCSD)

NODA-Association for Orientation, Transition, Retention in Higher Education

Expanding the Circle 2015 Summer Institute

On Campus Marketing

The Parity Portfolio, The Matterhorn Group, Morgan Stanley

Partnership for Healthier America (PHA) & 26 ACPA Member Colleges/Universities who formed the inaugural cohort honored by First Lady Michelle Obama in DC

Peter Lake, host for the upcoming Title IX Beyond Compliance CEU pre-con in Montreal

Pivot Planet (our new mentoring/content expert matching platform in development)

Public Identity

Public Policy Consortium


The Salesforce Foundation & Fonteva (our new AMS/CRM platform due to release this fall) replacing MemberMax

Saint Louis Community College Corporate College, host of MMI

Saint Louis University host for our series on Racism in the Academy


Stetson University College of Law

Stylus, publisher of many ACPA researchers and scholars*


University of Vermont-Legal Issues in Higher Education Conference

We End Violence producers of Agent of Change Sexual Assault & Violence Prevention Software

Wiley, publisher of About Campus

William Spelman Executive Search

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