Presidential Address

Presidential Address

ACPA President Jeanne Steffes
2006 Annual Convention, Indianapolis, IN

Hello colleagues and friends.  I am very humbled to be able to serve you and our students again during the coming year as the ACPA President. It has been an honor and a privilege to have volunteered with so many of you on campus, and on several committees during the past 20 plus years.  For those of you I have not had the opportunity to work for, I look forward to working hard to make you proud of your connection to the student affairs profession and to maximize the value of your ACPA membership.

Some of you might ask yourself what reasons brought me back to the ACPA Presidency, there were actually four reasons that compelled me to serve again. 1), I knew the job and the time commitments having served last year, 2) I had the campus support needed to be successful, 3) Jill Carnaghi and Mike Segawa were going to be the 2007 Joint Meeting Chairs, and 4) Greg Roberts leads up the ACPA International office.   If you have not gotten the opportunity to work with these outstanding college student educators that I just mentioned, I invite you to seek out a chance to work with them- they are exceptional!

Before we look at the 2006-2007 Presidential Goals I first want to briefly highlight some of the things that have been accomplished since I last took the dais a year ago in Nashville.

1.    Passage of the ACPA Ethics Statement- Special thanks to Dr. Jane Fried, Julie Bell-Elkins and the committee for their tireless work on this document. The updated version will soon be on the ACPA website and we will be putting together a practitioner’s version- about 2-3 pages.  Committee please stand and be recognized!  I am also pleased to announce that Mr. Dean Kennedy and Ms. Penny Pasque have agreed to Co-Chair this important committee for the next two years. Thank you!

2.  Multicultural Competence Workshop – The Multicultural Competence Workshop format is completed. We are waiting for the final touches on a partnership that will bring Drs. Raechele Pope, Amy Reynolds, and John Mueller’s work together to critically think about and operationalize multicultural competencies in our daily roles as campus educators.

3. Learning Reconsidered 2 – LR2 , the joint project shepherded by ACPA, NASPA, and with partners ACUHO-I, ACUI, NACADA, NACA, and NIRSA that looks at all of our higher education resources to transform the academy has just been released. The book is now for sale on the ACPA website and you will also be able to download it from the ACPA website soon.

And now to future…

One of the themes that I will be referring to during my second tenure as President is captured by the phrase:  We Rise to Play a Greater Role. This title came from an article by Terry Calhoun and Anthony D. Cortese, they talked about sustainability in higher education of which I will get to in a minute.

When I think of how student affairs is being called upon by the academy, by the legislature, by parents, by employers, and by our students to not only help retain and graduate students, but to help shape their experiences in ethical, noteworthy, and notable ways. Think of the energies of our staffs in learning communities, leadership development, multiculturalism, civic engagement, and experiential learning. More than ever we are called upon to help students make meaningful decisions and reflect upon and explore their aspirations and inspirations.  I strongly believe that we are being called upon more and more and it is up to each one of us as college student educators to understand how and in what ways We Rise to Play a Greater Role!

Part of that greater role is carefully and reflectively thinking about others and the vulnerability of the other and what we do to enhance, engage and sustain the other- including our students, our communities and our limited resources. During the next year I will be looking at ways that ACPA can inform its members and the higher education community about sustainability.

What is sustainability?  Calhoun and Cortese ( suggest that “sustainability is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.  As you might know 2005-2014 has been declared the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development.  I have asked the co-chair of that global effort – Dr. Debra Rowe from Oakland Community College in Michigan to work with us on this national effort.

When we traditionally think of sustainability we think about the environment and that is only one component of the larger milieu.  Debra Rowe suggests that sustainability is working toward “healthy social systems, healthy ecosystems and a healthy economy.”  If you think about  our roles as college student educators we help build and foster ethical and just social systems, ecosystems that are connected to us and through us with civic engagement and we are and help sustain significant economic and intellectual engines around the nation and world.

It is time that we think about fulfilling our part in meaningful ways that can be translated into action whether it is resources where RAs can download bulletin board materials on Sustainable Education for their halls from the ACPA website or Career Service professionals working with local agencies to help retrain day laborers.

I have asked Ms. Kathleen Gardner, Director-Elect Core Council for Professional Issues and Dr. Boyd Yarbrough, Past-President of South Carolina CPA to help lead a national effort with Dr. Rowe’s assistance to see how ACPA can be a leader in Sustainability in Higher Education.
A group will be convening soon to set the agenda to strategize and outline what theoretical and practical contributions ACPA leaders and members can make to this important effort.

Governance Taskforce
I was in Washington DC for the ACPA Executive Committee meeting in February 2006. On a morning run I went into the Jefferson Memorial and on panel number four I found this quote which stated, “I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times.  We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy…”     Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval, July 12, 1810

When I think about how our profession and how ACPA – College Student Educators International has changed since our disaffiliation with AACD-  friends and higher education compatriots… it is time to seek out and find a new coat.

Two years ago I brought forward the idea that we needed to take a look at our organizational structure. The ACPA Governance Task Force was charged to consider the re-organization and re-engineering of that structure, ultimately developing a proposed new structure for ACPA, based upon member needs, organizational and operational efficiencies, and the changing landscape of higher education and its constituent institutions.

This taskforce has gone to extensive and exhaustive lengths to be inclusive and transparent. To give you an example, during the past 15 months we met five times in person; conducted 25 conference call meetings; met with constituent groups and held open forums for general members at convention 2005; consulted with experts on organizational development, diversity, and legal issues, conducted 41 personal interviews with officers and leaders of the Association; conducted small group updates/received input at 2005 Summer Leadership Meeting; developed/presented a proposed model for ACPA Governance to the Executive Committee; had one-on-one conference calls to members of  Executive Council; and modified the draft proposal based on on-going feedback. (Sometimes daily!).

In the process of the data collection there were certain themes that emerged that served as touchstones to our work and served as a basis for a revised governance structure;

  • The status quo is not an option; almost everyone we interviewed recommended change in how ACPA is structured and functions;
  • We must reduce the complexity of the organization, so that its structure and functions are simpler and more understandable to both our members and external entities;
  • Form must follow function; ACPA’s structure must reflect and facilitate the work of the Association.  The values of the Association are one context for that work, and, therefore, one context for the structure;
  • We must separate governance, association effectiveness, and management functions from programmatic content and activities;
  • We must develop predictable and consistent mechanisms for individuals to get involved in the Association and have voice in its work;

And finally, we must consider the culture of ACPA (i.e., elements such as values, artifacts, and history that make ACPA unique and special) as separate from the organizational structure.  We must, however, develop an organizational structure that respects the culture.

It is my honor and privilege to introduce the members of the Governance Taskforce.  The chair is Dr. Patty Perillo, AVP from UMBC.  Other members of the task force are: (Please stand when I call your name and hold the applause.)  Greg Blimling, Mela Dutka,   Lee Hawthorne Calizo, Keith Humphrey, Stacey Pearson, Greg Roberts, Matt Soldner,   Chris Strong, Bridget Turner Kelly, Elizabeth Whitt, and Lynn Willett. Thank you all for the bottom of my heart for your tireless efforts on behalf of ACPA and the next century of college students affairs work!

I am excited to share with you the theme and the talented ACPA and NASPA leaders who will coordinate the 2007 joint meeting in Orlando, Florida.  The theme for the 2007 Meeting is Our Power and Responsibility to Shape Education. The chairs for the joint meeting are Mike Segawa from the University of Puget Sound and Jill Carnaghi from Washington University in St. Louis.

I stand before you today on the shoulders of many women and men who have previously lead the ACPA family and it’s diverse and engaged membership since May Cheney started the organization in 1924.  I’d like to honor those distinguished leaders of the past and the association’s leaders of our current and proud future. Thank you all for your service to ACPA, to each other and most importantly to your students, to our students.

In conclusion, when I think of what the organization has been through during the past few years I am very proud of the accomplishments and growth we have made together and the growth that we have initiated together. It reminded me of a poem, or parts of a poem that I would like to share with you by Dr. Maya Angelou.

[Excerpts from] Still I Rise (1978)

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Thank you all for your service to ACPA, and helping ACPA rise. But most importantly helping our students rise. I hope that you will grow old with me in this profession and in this association. I am so proud to be a part of this profession and so proud to call you colleagues and close friends.

Thank you so much and we’ll see you in Orlando in 2007!


  • Angelou, M. (1978).  Still I rise.  In And still I rise (pp. 41-42). New York: Random House.

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