Staying in Community, a letter from the Executive Director

Staying in Community
Chris Moody, ACPA Executive Director

As we close another annual convention, we experienced another “first” as a community: Our first virtual annual convention. Although not by any of our choosing, we were not deterred in our coming together by a global health pandemic. Yes, I missed the cross-convention squeals of friends and colleagues greeting each other for the first time. I was sad to not experience the claps, snaps, and cheers as we learned from keynotes and session presenters. And it was even more challenging to meet new people to welcome them into the ACPA community of care. I hope each first-timer will make ACPA your professional home and that you will be with us in St. Louis next March for ACPA22.

In my remarks at Closing Session of this year’s virtual convention, I shared a few thoughts that I would like to once again offer here as a way to summarize this past year and to describe ACPA’s current vibrancy for those who may have missed it:

This past year has made it even more clear to me how important our community is to each other. When we departed Nashville after our convention last March, none of us had prepared for what was ahead. As campuses began closing and course instruction moved online, I was amazed by how quickly higher education and student affairs came together. Our quick response webinars were filled to capacity for ten consecutive days as you sought comfort and resources from each other and from the association. When faced with continued brutality, violence, and murder of Black lives, you responded to the calls to action to speak up, to show up, and to fight for justice. You led the discussions on college campuses that we were not fighting just one pandemic, but many, with all crises disproportionately affecting Black and Brown bodies.

During these times, you craved connection and community as we continued to experience programs filling beyond technological capacity, even when your campuses could not financially support your participation. Knowing that higher education institutions were hit hard, your strength and resilience saved lives this year. It is my hope that this community, your ACPA community, helped give you the courage, the strength, and the compassion to stay in the long fight because your work mattered, and you matter.

I can tell that your desire for community was stronger in this past year than in previous years because our membership numbers were higher at the end of 2020 than they were at the end of 2019. In a year when most associations took a 20-40% drop in membership, our community grew. And I believe we will continue growing because we are an Association that leads from our values. We aim to always center people before policies, people before procedures, and people before profits.

Evidence continues to illuminate your craving for community, as we registered right at 5,000 attendees at this year’s convention – even more people than when we were together in Las Vegas in 2013! Our membership numbers climbed and are maintaining at 6,200 and above, more than 1,000 people above the lowest point during the COVID-19 pandemic. And we are committed to making sure that we remain relevant, member-centered, and affordable as we individually, as our campuses, and as a global collective continue to fight to make our way through and beyond these crises. Your association is thriving because you have chosen to dedicate your time, talent, and heart to the work of changing student lives through our bold efforts to transform higher education into a more socially and racially just, and less colonized, community of care. Thank you for making ACPA your professional home.