The Donna M. Bourassa Mid-Level Management Institute Experience

Mid-Managers. Are you one? Do you aspire to be one? If you answered “yes,” then ACPA’s Mid-Level Management Institute is just what you need!

This past January I had the opportunity to attend the Mid-Level Management Institute. I greatly anticipated what I would learn and whom I would meet, but I could not have predicted what I would take with me when I completed the experience. ACPA’s Mid-Level Management Institute is an excellent opportunity provided to help those mid-level professionals who want to strengthen their administrative skills and understand the ever-changing dynamics of our campuses and the profession. The Institute was renamed this year in honor of former ACPA Associate Executive Director Dr. Donna Bourassa, who established the Institute in 1999 as a way to ‘promote a more advanced understanding of the principles of student affairs and provide effective management tools to excel.’ This was the first institute that Donna did not physically attend as she had passed away the previous September. However, after hearing shared experiences by the long-time faculty in residence at the Institute, Donna was certainly there in spirit.

The Institute is grounded on several key areas: Building Foundations, Setting the Stage, Personnel and Professional Issues, Strategies for Enacting Change, and Continued Professional Development. In addition to classroom time, social time provided opportunities to interact with many of the approximately 35 nationwide participants. (Even Alaska!) What I enjoyed most about this experience was seeing that challenges affecting housing and residence life professionals also affect other student affairs professionals. Our faculty in residence was also a highly valuable programmatic component. These consummate professionals shared their experiences and wisdom with us as colleagues and mentors. Dr. Jill Carnaghi, Dr. Tom Jackson, Dr. Tim Pierson, Dr. Dawn Person, Dr. Vasti Torres, and Dr. Jacqueline Skinner helped our group navigate through subjects such as financial responsibility and management, the doctoral degree decision, keeping current with professional development opportunities, and avoiding burnout in the field.

The small groups were one of the most beneficial parts of the Institute. Each participant was placed into a small group which was facilitated by a faculty in residence. These small groups were vital in processing the day’s events and discussions and with analyzing where each of us was in our own career paths. The culmination of the Institute and small group work was the creation of a personalized career development plan designed to assess our strengths and deficiencies and seek out opportunities to better our skills and abilities in the profession.

The Donna Bourassa Mid-Level Management Institute is an excellent investment in your career development as a student affairs professional. The friendships and connections you make through this Institute will stay with you and will continue to support you long after the Institute ends. For more information, check out and feel free to ask me any questions you may have about participation in the Institute as well.

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