If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn't thinking.
– George Patton
Volume 76 | Issue 3
May 2008

From the President: Lucky with ACUI

Rich Steele

Generally, I am not a very lucky individual. Certainly, I feel blessed with a great family, a challenging and rewarding career, and great co-workers. But, my several trips to cities with casinos and occasional lottery ticket purchases have never paid big dividends. Not yet, anyway.

However, I am pretty lucky with ACUI. When I returned to the office after the New Orleans annual conference, I received an unexpected package. My business card had been drawn, and I had won an iPod Touch in the ACUI Expo! What a great gadget to exercise my self-proclaimed geeky side.

Material winnings are nice, but I feel most lucky to be able to serve the membership of ACUI with the Board of Trustees. The 10 members of the board are a passionate collection of diverse thinkers with amazing intellect. Our conversations and debates can be intense, sometimes fun, but always focused on making the Association a great asset for the profession. It is a fantastic growth experience to meld an understanding of college unions and student activities with association management and organizational dynamics.

I am reminded of the Thomas Jefferson quote, "I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have." The board is certainly willing to work as we have committed to meeting weekly throughout the year. These meetings will focus on the areas of finance, governance, and strategic direction and provide general oversight of ACUI affairs. If luck is a result of diligence and hard work, then I look forward to the year ahead.

The board also keeps its sights set on the horizon, gauging the terrain and making adjustments as we traverse the path the ACUI strategic plan outlines. Not that we are on a bumpy road, only that we are charged with the responsibility of navigating—and completing—our intended direction. The plan is well defined with goals (both audacious and incremental) and strategies that give landmarks to track progress.

Now comes the tricky part. With time, things change. Paths become obscure. Road signs become illegible. We may even question the intent of our journey. We may need some luck to reach our goals.

The good news is that we are all in luck. We have a Central Office staff who possess great depth of knowledge, experience, and dedication to members’ professional growth. Our executive director, Marsha Herman-Betzen, had her start in a college union position, and she is as passionate about the profession as any member. Her team in Bloomington, Ind., is creative, innovative, productive, and help light our path as we progress. Indeed, ACUI sets the standard for excellence in many regards and is highly regarded in the field of association management by peer organizations.

I was especially excited to see a strong level of interest at the New Orleans conference in communities of practice—a creation of the Central Office staff based on members’ input and communicated needs. This program allows ACUI members to gather in both a virtual environment and face to face at conference. The process is very similar to how you may recognize organizations on your campus. A group of people with common interests and a set of issues selects a leader and submits an application to become recognized. The net result is an array of services that the group can then utilize.

The creation and collection of knowledge is an important anticipated outcome from the communities of practice. Electronic discussions, pertinent shared documents, and collaboratively developed information can be captured and made available to the entire membership. Communities of practice also can apply for funding as needs arise for special projects. I hope you will create or join a community of practice for the benefit of your colleagues and your profession.

The Association also has experienced tremendous luck with short-term think tanks and task forces. Not only are these groups developing great recommendations and ideas for implementation, we are lucky to have great volunteers who have dedicated their time to these think tank and task force initiatives.

Following the completion of the Core Competencies Task Force’s final report in 2005, the Applying the Core Competencies Task Force was charged with drilling down the core competencies to determine areas of expertise needed for various positions in the profession. From their work, we will soon have a valuable product with skill sets for each of the 11 defined core competencies along with learning outcomes associated with each.

Two think tanks dedicated time at the Atlanta annual conference, addressing the areas of diversity and community. This resulted in thoughtful reports that outlined multiple actions that could be taken to move forward. The implementation of these two essential goals from our strategic plan continues to be a high priority of the board.

The Volunteer Engagement Task Force provided more than 40 recommendations to enhance ACUI volunteer experiences. Many of these recommendations will be implemented by a reconstituted volunteer development coordinator position on the Leadership Team. Other recommendations have been categorized and prioritized by the board and staff for implementation.

Currently, the Growing the Profession Task Force is finishing its work that will undoubtedly impact the future of our profession. Its recommendations will focus on the pipeline of professionals and our ability to recruit and retain individuals to the college union and student activities field.

The future looks bright for ACUI.

With a little luck, we will soon envision a future that includes significant delivery of knowledge through digital means. Our world is now a place where everything is available anywhere, anytime. Mobile devices are becoming as useful as desktop computers. Communication is conducted through a continual stream of text, audio, and video images. We socialize in places defined by an IP address, not a street number. As Sean O’Keefe stated during the annual conference in New Orleans, we have entered a "new normal" with a current reality that does not necessarily mirror current practice.

So, the board and staff are working hard to assess our current state. A consultant is helping us understand the value placed on ACUI by both members and nonmembers. Staff and volunteers are marketing membership, structuring volunteer opportunities, and improving online system functionality. Assessment abounds from program evaluations to member surveys to board member evaluations.

These activities highlight that fact that there is a bright light of welcomed scrutiny placed on ACUI by the membership. This analysis will allow the Association to affect change with the time is right. Tony Robbins said, "The meeting of preparation with opportunity generates the offspring we call luck." We see opportunity at the doorstep—soon to meet with our preparations for a very fortunate outcome.

Luck is not just how I explain success; I am lucky with ACUI and I believe you are too.