Volume 79 | Issue 6
November 2011

President's Column: Regional rhapsody

Thomas Lane

Our association’s regional conferences are in full swing. In surveying the various conference themes, keynotes, and educational sessions from across our 15 regions, it looks like delegates will once again have some wonderful experiences. For many of us in ACUI, the regions are the “front door” to our Association. The regional conference often is the first ACUI gathering for students and professionals, where delegates have the opportunity to learn more about the association and the many characteristics that create each region’s unique culture. I’ve had the fortune in my professional career to be a member of Regions 9, 10, and 11. Though each of those regions are located in the Midwest, each has its own personality reflected in its diverse members, traditions, awards, and schedules.

For many of our member institutions, the regional conference is a cherished annual tradition and pilgrimage. Much like traveling home for the holidays, each year we load into our university or college vans and head down the highway (or take to the skies for some of our more geographically expansive regions), eager to visit another college union, see familiar friends and colleagues, and meet new students and professionals who are excited to learn more about what the college union experience offers. Because of the ACUI regional conference, I’ve been to places I may not have otherwise had the chance to visit. Places like Valpariso, Ind. (where I had the chance to meet the grandson of popcorn connoisseur Orville Redenbacher), or Vermillion, S.D. (home to the wonderful National Music Museum), or Manhattan, Kan. (home of the longest continuously running Pizza Hut). I get a sense of what it’s like on those campuses and in their college unions from seeing the event fliers hanging on bulletin boards, learning about the activities and services the union provides, and interacting with the students and staff who are proud to showcase their facility and programs.

It takes a lot of hard work to put on a regional conference. Often, conference planning teams will meet more than a year in advance, planning and setting the stage for what they hope will be a memorable and richly educational experience for delegates. The details to be managed are numerous: selecting keynotes, soliciting educational session presenters, determining meal selections, and developing and monitoring a conference budget that never quite seems to be enough for all of the planning team’s hopes and dreams. This work is all done on a volunteer basis by many willing helpers. Volunteers simply motivated by their love of ACUI and their desire to create something special for their region’s students and staff. While attending your regional conference, make sure to let your regional director, regional leadership team members, and regional conference program team members know how much you appreciate them and the work they do.

It is my belief ACUI’s greatest strength is its regions. Our future leaders are nurtured and developed there, perceptions about the Association start there, and our deepest collegial bonds often are formed from there. Our association’s strategic plan reflects the regions’ importance with a strategic direction calling for ACUI to critically examine how the overall regional experience can be improved for the benefit of our membership. I am greatly pleased to share that the regional directors have taken a prominent leadership role in this endeavor and will be engaging the membership with such important questions as: How can regional programs and services be delivered at a consistently high level of quality that strengthens the ACUI brand? Is the way our regions are geographically constructed the most effective way to offer regional programs and services? How permeable can regional geographical boundaries be? Answering these questions and others important to our regions will require a great deal of conversation and a willingness to engage with an open mind and creative spirit. Given the importance our regions hold for the overall health of ACUI, ignoring or kicking these questions “down the road” does a disservice to the value members place on the regional experience. I look forward to being a part of this conversation and hope you do as well.