Las Vegas, Nevada—March 6, 2013—Kathleen Kerr’s Presidential Address

Thank you, Dawn. I am very appreciative of the support Dawn, and our Vice President, Michael Gilbert have offered to me. I also must offer thanks to my incredibly talented colleagues in Residence Life at the University of Delaware, especially my leadership team, that keeps things going while I am traveling (actually, they keep things going even when I’m there), Jim Tweedy, Michele Michelon Kane, Ivet Ziegelbauer Tweedy, and Joe Hazelton.

I’ve learned a lot this year, serving as ACPA Vice President. I was determined to learn the Association’s history, study our current state of being, and ponder what is next for us. Today, I will share with you some of my insights about our past, our present, and our future.

Along the way though, I also learned that in WI, you serve milk with every meal; in MN there is no cold weather, just bad clothing choices; in NC, you’ll find an airport with the best rocking chairs; and in NJ, the innovative spirit is alive and well. I learned that wifi on a plane is a godsend and parenting by text message can be quite effective. I also learned that Hawaiian sunsets can only be matched by Hawaiian sunrises, and it is worth the early hours and good for the soul to make sure you are sitting on the edge of the ocean to see as many sunsets and sunrises as you possibly can. Wisdom.

I’ll never forget when I was in my second year of graduate school at Indiana University, I was talking to my father about my impending job search. At the time, he was the Dean of Students at Ocean County College in Toms River, NJ (yes, I am one of the few people who has a parent who has understood for my entire career what I do for a living). He offered me three pieces of advice:

1st, never forget your foundational training in counseling and use it in every setting possible;

2nd, remember there are more than two sides to every story, more like 5 or 6 sides; and

3rd, pick your battles wisely and decide first if it’s a penny fight, a nickel fight, a dime fight, or if it’s worth a quarter. Advice shared with me by a man who was mentored by Betty Greenleaf and Bob Shaffer (two student affairs pioneers). Those words have served me well for almost a quarter of a century. Wisdom.

When I was in grade school, my father took me with him to hear a campus speaker, Isaac Asimov, a famous science fiction writer. I was a big fan of that genre at the time. Right before we left the house for the talk, I burned my hand on the stove. It was red and painful the entire evening, but after the talk, Istill wanted to go with my father to the front of the auditorium to meet the author. Upon being introduced he very graciously held out his hand to shake mine. I clumsily responded by offering him my left hand, shyly apologizing and explaining that I had burned my right one. Quickly he replied, “Go home and place your burned hand on a metal pan. Metal conducts electricity and your hand will feel better.” Now I have no idea if there is a lick of medical or scientific truth to that, but I went home and tried it, in fact I slept with my hand on a pan all night, and it did seem to make it feel better. Wisdom.

Isaac Asimov once said, “The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.”

ACPA has created and disseminated much knowledge since its inception. In fact, in 2014, ACPA will be 90 years old. ACPA – College Student Educators International grew out of interest by collegiate placement officers, then called appointment secretaries, at a meeting held in 1923 with the National Association of Women Deans, under the umbrella of the National Education Association. One year later, in Chicago, in 1924, the National Association of Appointment Officers was formed with nine members and May Cheney as President.

Membership grew rapidly, and in 1931 the organization changed its name to the American College Personnel Association, with two primary goals:

  • supporting the various functional areas within student affairs; and
  • the career and professional development of membership – emphasizing cooperation, research and service.

ACPA was instrumental in working with other professional Associations to create the American Personnel and Guidance Association (now the American Counseling Association), of which we were division #1 from 1952- 1991, when ACPA members voted to disaffiliate.

Many outstanding leaders have lead ACPA through significant change – Association name changes, governance restructuring, changes in staffing models, office location changes, and more. Yet for 90 years, we have been an Association consistently grounded by and committed to our core values:

  • Education and development of the total student
  • Diversity, multicultural competence and human dignity
  • Inclusiveness in and access to association-wide involvement and decision-making
  • Free and open exchange of ideas in a context of mutual respect
  • Advancement and dissemination of knowledge relevant to college students and their learning
  • Continuous professional development, and
  • Outreach, advocacy and leadership in higher education.

90 years. There is no way for me to briefly, and accurately summarize all that ACPA has contributed to students, student affairs, and higher education in that time.

Our first Journal was published in1943, initially the Journal for Educational and Psychological Measurement; replaced by the Personnel and Guidance Journal, which after two name changes, in 1988 became, the Journal of College Student Development, now recognized as the premier journal of the profession. We will celebrate the 55th anniversary of JCSD in 2014.

Our Association’s practitioner magazine, About Campus was first published in 1996, and has become as renowned as the Journal.

Another significant publication for the profession, the Student Learning Imperative was also published in 1996.

In 2002, ACPA was recognized and invited to become a member of the Higher Education Secretariat, a consortium of over fifty higher education organizations that meets monthly to share ideas and influence Congressional action in Washington, D. C. We are leaders in the Higher education arena!

In 2003, we added the tagline “College student educators international” – to reflect our commitment to a global understanding and service to international membership; we have also seen tremendous growth of state divisions and of course Commissions.

In 2004 Learning Reconsidered: A Campus-Wide Focus on the Student Experience, was published.

In 2005, the Governance Task Force recommended a new Governance structure, which was implemented in 2007.

The Assessment Skills and Knowledge (ASK) Standards were published in 2007 and the Professional Competencies in 2010.

And we continue be a strong Association. The 2012 Membership survey indicatesthat 93% of our members are either very or moderately satisfied with their ACPA membership. 96% are highly or moderately likely to recommend membership in ACPA to other higher education colleagues. These are satisfaction numbers of which we should certainly be proud!

And the survey also tells us that we are meeting or exceeding most members’ expectations as we:

  • offer essential resources,
  • provide applicable research and scholarship,
  • provide a voice to the field of student affairs in higher education,
  • offer high quality educational programs,
  • involve members, respond to their needs, and
  • support them in their job search.

Despite these accomplishments, we must not allow ourselves to be complacent. 90 years old, for anyone and for any organization, is something to celebrate. It offers us a chance to stop and look back, to reflect on accomplishments and contributions, but perhaps more importantly it calls for an examination of what lies ahead.

As we turn 90, we must look forward. David Starr Jordan, an educator, peace activist, and past President of my alma mater, Indiana University, once said, “Wisdom is knowing what to do next; virtue is doing it.” So we need to ask ourselves some very important questions: What will we accomplish before we turn 100? How will be leaders in higher education in the 21st century? How are we determined to distinguish ourselves? How will we make thoughtful and intentional choices to move forward in ways that allow us to be both knowledgeable in our old age, and virtuous? Wisdom.

Let me be clear. The responsibility to articulate a vision for our future does not rest in my hands. As I was thinking about our future, I spent a lot of time thinking about the ACPA 2013 to 2016 Strategic Plan, approved by the Governing Board in September. It resonates with the voices of our members, with your voice. Authored by the Governing Board and International Office staff, but only after we hosted dozens of meet ups, we collected input via the membership survey, and we spoke with past ACPA Presidents. The Strategic Plan was then vetted by our assembly and entity group leaders, and modified once again. It reflects this Association’s current collective wisdom.

The six strategic priority areas reflected in it will sound familiar to you:

  • Career Development
  • Professional Development
  • Leadership in Higher Education
  • Social Justice
  • Research & Scholarship, and
  • Association Performance and Excellence

They are familiar because they are foundational to who we have been, who we are, and who we will continue to be. They are strategic because within the plan we have articulated goals and strategies that are innovative, brave, and exciting. These steps will expand and enhance the strength of the Association, help us to better meet member needs & better serve students on our campuses.

Some work is already underway.

This winter, the ACPA Innovation Advocate selected Innovation Team members and together they have identified the first recipients of ACPA Innovation Grants, intended to support projects that are innovative, improve the effectiveness of ACPA, and support its strategic goals and objectives.

At this convention, we have launched the ACPA Involvement Team (ITeam) to increase member involvement in the Association.

We have launched a Policy Advocacy Task Force to quarterly review salient issues in higher education and student affairs, and identify strategies for ACPA policy advocacy and leadership.

Hopefully many of you have had or will have the opportunity to participate in conversations here in Las Vegas about the progress of the Credentialing Implementation Team. This group is preparing to launch a pilot Registry that allows participants to monitor and reflect upon their professional development and will decide next steps for this project in the coming months.

The ACPA Sustainability Advisory Committee has been revitalized and will promote and support sustainability education and sustainable policies and practices throughout the entire Association.

Utilizing technology, we have expanded a mentorship program in which relationships are formed via hashtag SA Grow and focus on professional and career enhancement.

But there is much more that we must do.

  • We must find better ways to connect with our international colleagues and be better prepared to serve the international students on our own campuses.
  • In light of the increasing challenges many of us face on our campuses around student mental health issues and certainly in light of the national debate around gun control and mental health, we must provide leadership and education to our membersin this area and we will utilize this year’s ACPA Think Tank to do so.
  • Before we are reacting to it, we must consider the implications of what has become the omnipresent opportunity for online learning.
  • We must reinvent our annual convention and other professional development offerings so that they are educationally inspiring, energizing, and distinct. We will offer you that in Indianapolis in 2014. For those of you in the Mid-Atlantic Region, I invite you to join us for an institute we are calling “ACPA Vision Day 2013,” which will take place on the University of Delaware’s campus in October, at which we will explore issues of leadership and innovation in higher education in the 21st century.
  • We must create vital, accessible, and affordable professional development opportunities connected to our professional competencies for all levels of experience and articulate pathways for member professional and career enhancement.
  • Faculty are a critical constituency within the association both as professionals with substantial knowledge and skills to contribute in the areas of research and scholarship and as mentors to the next generation of student affairs professionals. We must continue to find exciting ways to engage and support our faculty colleagues.
  • We must partner with other Associations in order to enhance the professional development options for our members and to broaden our leadership platform.

We must do these things, and we will do these things, not because these are my Presidential initiatives, they are not. We will do them because our 90 years have brought us to a place where we understand their importance, and we understand our obligation and ability to lead. And, amazingly, my father’s advice from 23 year’s ago applies to us as an Association as much as it did to me in graduate school. We must move forward remembering our foundation; we must remember to always consider multiple perspectives and we must choose our battles wisely. Our new strategic plan does this. Wisdom.

As George Bernard Shaw said, “We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.”

It is fitting that 90 is the granite anniversary. Granite: solid, valuable, beautiful. But we must not confuse our solid foundation, with rigidity, staleness, or an inability to be nimble or innovative. In fact, having a solid foundation, knowing our core values; that we are committed to research and scholarship, professional development, social justice, equity, and inclusion; member involvement; career development; and quality member services and experiences – this allows us a sort of freedom. It allows us to reinvent ourselves on top of that foundation. Reinvent our convention; reinvent our professional development; reinvent our place in higher education.

The strategic plan is just this. It is a call for innovation, built on top of a granite foundation. Its implementation with your support, will allow us to distinguish ourselves as the premier comprehensive international association with much to offer all college or university colleague who works with students in and outside of the classroom. An association that leads the discourse and action in higher and tertiary education related to the learning and development of college students, our members, and their institutions.

There is a poem about the freedom that comes with age, “Warning,” by Jenny Joseph. It starts like this, “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple. With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me. And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves. And satin sandals…”

This poem is about the confidence that comes from knowing who you are and your place in the world. Knowing what to care about, what to attend to, and what to leave behind. It’s about wisdom. 90 years old. This is our opportunity to wear more purple. To innovate and to reinvent ourselves. We are granite, we are wise, we are ACPA.

Thank you!

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