Member Needs Guide Strategic Direction of Association

Member Needs Guide Strategic Direction of Association

Jan Davis Barham, Chair, 2012 ACPA Membership Survey Analysis Team
Associate Dean of Students & Director of Tate Student Center
University of Georgia

ACPA-College Student Educators International has always placed strong value on member needs and involvement. Indeed, member feedback was the basis for the Association’s new strategic plan. The following article represents a synopsis of what our members said during the recent member survey, and how the Association plans to use that feedback within the context of building a vibrant, member driven Association.

In spring 2012, the ACPA Membership Development Committee surveyed members to better understand (1) Future Membership Intent; (2) Benefits of Membership; (3) Member Satisfaction; (4) Perceptions of the Association; (5) Member Needs; and (6) Association Involvement. The web-based CampusLabs (formerly StudentVoice) survey was sent to the ACPA membership; of those, 32% responded. The majority of respondents self-identified as female, Caucasian, and from four-year institutions (public and private).

We learned some important things from our members. Below are key findings followed by an alignment between those findings and ACPA’s new strategic plan.

Key Findings

Future Membership Intent

Respondents overwhelmingly intend to renew their membership. Members were very pleased with the Association; 96% of participants were likely or very likely to renew their membership. Two of the biggest factors impacting membership renewal were home institution’s commitment to membership and engagement in a Standing Committee or Commission.

Benefits of Membership

Respondents indicated that there were multiple benefits to being a member of ACPA-College Student Educators International. Participants gave high praise to ACPA publications such as the Journal of College Student Development, Developments, and About Campus. The discount offered for the Annual Convention was also deemed as favorable. Areas of highest satisfaction included the services and activities ACPA provides, publications, research and scholarship, and the Annual Convention.

Perceptions of the Association

In general, survey participants had positive perceptions of the Association. Participants indicated that ACPA fulfills, supports, and lives its espoused values. The highly positive perceptions were consistently reflected among new professionals, mid-level professionals, Senior Student Affairs Officers, and faculty respondents. There were no striking differences among the various demographic groups. Further, both members who attended ACPA Convention in the past three years as well as those who did not attend convention were very positive in their perceptions of the Association. In particular, the largest percent of survey respondents believed that ACPA lives its value of promoting and upholding diversity, social justice, multicultural competence, and human dignity.

Member Needs

From a list of 15 priorities, participants identified areas of highest importance individually. Identified needs varied from professional development to career/job placement. Respondents indicated that some of their needs included increased exposure to scholarship and learning new concepts. It is important to note that the areas of greatest need were consistent among the demographic groups examined (entry-level professionals, mid-level professionals, Senior Student Affairs Officers, and faculty).

Association Involvement

ACPA has always encouraged and valued member involvement. Of the many opportunities for involvement, respondents indicated that Commission and Standing Committee leadership roles were of high value. Participants involved in the Association indicated the greatest level of overall satisfaction with the Association. Overall, respondents indicated their involvement either exceeded or fully exceeded their expectations.

Framing ACPA’s New Strategic Plan Around Member Needs

Member needs were used to finalize the Association’s new strategic plan and to establish goals within each of the strategic directions. The following section aligns the Association’s strategic commitment with data from the 2012 Membership Survey.

Strategic Direction: Career Development

ACPA will enhance opportunities for its members to be intentional in their career progression and make informed career transitions to best lead their constituents and the profession.

Context: ACPA believes that we have a responsibility to society to prepare leaders that enhance the quality of life in the communities in which they work. Our association values the diverse pathways and experiences that individuals follow to their desired leadership role. We support the continuous self-evaluation and personal improvement that fosters the skill development ACPA members need to be successful in their current and future roles. We are committed to promoting career advancement as something that is not limited to just looking for the next job, but also developing programs and services that support and mentor the leaders that follow us in our work.

Examples of Key Findings

  • Career/Placement Services was identified within the data as an area of growth. Suggestions for improvement were provided and ranked in order of importance. One such request was for ACPA to provide more functionally diverse support in placement services.
  • Mid-level and senior professionals expressed an interest in assistance in the area of career advancement

Professional Development

Offer exemplary, innovative, comprehensive professional development, based on the professional competencies as well as emerging issues and trends in higher education, to provide enhanced student service and foster student learning and development.

Context: ACPA is committed to the holistic growth of its members. Toward that end, we capitalize on the knowledge and skills of our members to create a variety of professional development opportunities maximizing diverse delivery methods helping our members develop professionally to better serve students and foster learning and development.

Examples of Key Findings

  • Members rated the importance of 15 priorities based on their professional needs in the next three years. Areas such as learning new practices, exposure to literature, research/scholarship, and contemporary thought in student affairs are examples of higher ranked priorities. Additionally, areas such as assessment, leadership and student learning were highlighted as areas for potential professional development.
  • Networking was an area specifically mentioned as a benefit of the association. The desire to develop professionally came in various forms but the concept was discussed primarily in regard to staying current on trends, practices, and research.

Leadership in Higher Education

ACPA will lead discourse and action in higher education related to the learning and development of college students, our members, and their institutions.

Context: As a comprehensive professional association advancing student learning and development, ACPA is positioned to offer powerful and influential leadership to those whose goals involve promoting student success, both within and beyond student affairs, and higher education. We have a broad membership base, which includes recognized thought leaders, renowned researchers and scholars, and nationally-recognized (and increasingly internationally-recognized) administrative leaders. Additionally, the foundation of this leadership—research and scholarship—is a well-established strength of our organization.

Examples of Key Findings

  • Survey participants indicated a need for the Association to engage in dialogue regarding advocacy, legal issues and internationalization in higher education. This was emphasized at various points throughout the data.
  • The research and scholarship produced by ACPA are viewed as strengths for the Association. The publications produced are viewed as an excellent source of information and an excellent tool for practitioners.

Social Justice

ACPA will lead in advancing social justice, equity, and inclusion across higher education.

Context: Issues of equity and inclusion in our field continue to be a dominant part of the discourse, both within and outside the United States. ACPA has a strong history of advancing social justice in student affairs and higher education. We will build on our foundation as the leading voice in promoting knowledge and practice around issues of individual and group identities and promoting social justice on college and university campuses, recognizing that national, regional, and cultural contexts inform the understandings of this issue. ACPA will help professionals and campuses expand on practices that promote inclusion and ease of opportunity for access to higher education.

Examples of Key Findings

  • Members believe that ACPA lives its value of diversity, social justice, multicultural competence, and human dignity – over 98% of respondents said ACPA “significantly” or “moderately” supported this area.
  • Participants indicated that being a member of ACPA allows access to a vast network of student affairs and higher education professional(s) and scholars. One respondent said “being a member affords individuals the opportunity to connect with others around the world who share either passion for student development, social justice, and developing campus communities that seek to provide an engaged student experience.”
  • Respondents were asked 15 questions related to ACPA’s role in advocacy. Respondents gave especially high marks to the extent to which ACPA fulfills/supports/lives the Association values identified by diversity, social justice, multicultural competence, and human dignity. High ratings were given by all demographic groups.

Research & Scholarship

ACPA will lead in the generation and timely provision of cutting edge research and practice-related professional development resources.

Context: Building on a foundation of research excellence in student learning and development, ACPA is uniquely positioned to lead the field in the scholarship of theory and practice. We seek further to increase the quality and reputation of flagship publications (Journal of College Student Developments, About Campus) while supporting a broad-based array of traditional and innovative formats to make scholarship and practitioner-scholarship accessible to the profession. ACPA will lead the field in emerging forms of scholarship and dissemination using synchronous and asynchronous modes, digital and social media for training and education.

Examples of Key Findings

  • Participants appear to be highly invested in learning and continued growth. Respondents were particularly interested in professional growth in scholarship, learning, and application of learning.
  • Research and scholarship were rated highly among respondents in both importance for the next three years as well as current satisfaction with services and activities.

Association Performance & Excellence

Invest in the Association’s resources, business processes, and workforce to ensure growth and performance improvement.

Context: Organizational excellence is based on key business and people development processes and regular performance measurement. To deliver the best possible results and value to ACPA members and stakeholders, and at the same time ensure organizational strength and sustainability, we will continuously focus on the improvement of overall organizational effectiveness and capabilities.

Examples of Key Findings

  • Participants provided feedback regarding the Association’s leadership and staff attention to customer service and representing member interests and needs. Areas for suggested enhancement included communication and customer service.
  • Participants also indicated a wish for more financially feasible professional development opportunities to include the Annual Convention.


This article is intended to provide a brief overview of findings from the recent 2012 Membership Survey and how data were utilized to direct the organization’s new strategic plan. ACPA is an organization that values member feedback. Findings presented in this article, as well as the full data report, have been instrumental in operationalizing the new strategic plan and serve as a pathway to continued membership involvement yielding an association grounded in the values and belief of its constituents.

Please e-mail inquiries to Jan Davis Barham.

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