Volume 78 | Issue 2
March  2010

President's Column: Our future is full

Meg O'Sullivan

I’ve always been an optimist and have looked at my contributions to any project as an opportunity to make that organization better. A long time ago, when I was a student at Long Island University–C.W. Post, Joe Benedict was the director of student activities at Hillwood Commons, and he had a tremendous love for ACUI. As I became involved in student life, Joe passed his love for ACUI on to me. I could see the great things this organization was capable of and looked forward to serving it along the way.
Joe had been president in 1986–87, and over the years, I thought about running for the office myself. I knew it would be an honor if I was elected, but two things held me back: writing and delivering a speech at the annual conference and writing these Bulletin columns. I could not imagine what I could possibly share that someone would be interested in listening to or reading.
Eventually I overcame my anxiety, and during the past year, I’ve enjoyed my service as ACUI’s president-elect. Yet I still worried over possible topics for my impending inaugural address. While spending time with colleagues last summer, my dear friend Mandy Ellertson from Portland Community College suggested I speak about “optimism.” It was a wonderful idea, and I ran with it!
Thankfully my speech is now history, but I do believe optimism will be a guiding principle throughout my presidency. The Association will face challenges this year, and critical decisions will have to be made. The Board of Trustees will work as a team with the Association’s best interests in mind. Ultimately, I believe the process will be positive, and we will learn from the experience.
I also believe that there must be a collaborative partnership between the president and the executive director if we are to continue moving the Association forward. ACUI Executive Director Marsha Herman-Betzen and I recently attended the ASAE Symposium for Presidents and Executive Directors. Even after more than 25 years of friendship, it was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about our leadership styles, preferences, and resulting behaviors. Attending the symposium certainly enhanced my transition to president, and both of us are confident we can support each other as true partners in our new working relationship.
Under ACUI’s governance structure, there is a clear delineation of responsibilities for the Board of Trustees and the Central Office staff. The Board of Trustees’ role is to think and act strategically. That may sound fairly simple; however, given the operational nature of our campus responsibilities, board members are used to handling the day-to-day and fixing things. One of my responsibilities this year will be to make sure that the board concerns itself with strategy and vision, allowing Marsha and her staff to handle the operational aspects of what we do.
As the board considers the Association’s future, it is important for us to make decisions using four knowledge bases:

  • Our understanding of our members
  • Our understanding of our relative environment
  • Our core values, constitution, bylaws, mission, and the goals outlined in the strategic plan
  • The ethical impact of our decisions

This is how I plan on leading the board. The important work is ahead of us, and, thankfully, I am not alone. To tackle some of the areas, the following people have been selected as Board of Trustees committee chairs:

  • President-Elect Thomas Lane, Missouri State University, will lead the Strategic Direction Committee, which is responsible for organizing and overseeing the development, assessment, and communication of the strategic plan. The Strategic Direction Committee will enhance the quality and future viability of the Association by providing a blueprint to keep ACUI moving in a unified direction.
  • At-Large Member Sarah Aikman, Northern Kentucky University, will lead the Governance Committee, which is responsible for ongoing review and recommendations to enhance the quality and future viability of the board. It focuses on the board’s role and responsibilities, composition, knowledge, and effectiveness.
  • At-Large Member Chip West, University of La Verne, will lead the Finance Committee, which is responsible for assisting the board in ensuring that the organization is in good fiscal health. It oversees budget preparation and financial planning, safeguards the organization’s assets, and helps the full board understand ACUI’s financial affairs.

I am confident these individuals and the rest of our trustees will all do an amazing job. We also have a strong, committed Leadership Team and a dedicated, knowledgeable Central Office staff to support our efforts. Among them are lots of optimists who, despite these tough economic times, operate under the assumption that we expect good things to happen and minor setbacks to be easily overcome. If we do not, we could get really stressed, distracting us from realizing our end goals. By remaining true to our beliefs, we are motivated to produce the best possible results.
If you are an optimist reading this, I encourage you to get involved in big ways or small. Please do not hesitate to contact me when you have a brilliant idea or a solution to one of our challenges. I am here to serve our Association, and I look forward to hearing from you.