Volume 81 | Issue 4
July 2013

Executive Director's Column: Sharing a Connection

Marsha Herman-Betzen

Do you remember the first time your boss called you into her office and said she would like to send you to a seminar or conference? I sure do, like it was yesterday.

So many feelings consumed me all at once: Gratitude to my supervisor for thinking I was worth the expenditure. A self-satisfied reassurance that she was investing in my future with the organization. And then a kind of rush because who wouldn’t be excited about traveling to a new place, staying in a hotel, seeing a new campus, and meeting new people? MHB

What I did not expect, and what I will always remember, was discovering there were people who did what I did and felt what I felt about our chosen life’s work. Even more surprising, and pretty much without exception, my new colleagues and soon-to-be best friends were willing to candidly share their successes and failures, which, in the end, became the most valuable part of the experience.
Thirty-five years later, through many different job responsibilities, the joy of that first encounter has not lost any significance. Even at this stage of my career, I value the responsibility I have in providing similar experiences for my staff, and I continue to seek knowledge from my peers.

That is exactly what happened a few months ago when I had the pleasure of hosting the Student Affairs Higher Education Consortium, a group of 10 chief executive officers from ACUI’s sister student affairs associations at the Central Office. Just like when you host any event for your contemporaries, we went all out: offices and public space were cleaned and sparkling, staff were alerted to dress up, and each executive director arrived to a gift basket filled with local treats.

Like any ACUI event, the executive directors worked hard, played hard, laughed, learned, and enjoyed one another. Although we don’t take ourselves too seriously, there is always a tremendous amount of respect in the room, and we willingly share best practices as well as candid warnings of what to avoid. Agenda topics included governance issues like guidelines for alcohol purchase and bias reporting; online engagement topics such as mobile applications and Massive Open Online Courses; and event management questions dealing with cancellation policies and rate structures. We also shared some lessons learned as three organizations were in the middle of planning anniversary celebrations. We began early each morning, had working lunches, and after some down time at the end of the day, gathered again over a relaxing dinner. The exchange of knowledge and ability to bond over similar experiences made this a treasured few days with lasting rewards.

When you find that special group of colleagues and professional friends make sure to nurture, contribute to, and cherish that relationship for the life of your career. Whether it is the gatherings that occur in ACUI regions or those based on state or athletic conference, know how lucky you are to share a connection with people who are trying to find their way on campus doing what you do in similar surroundings. You also have ample opportunities to build your support system through volunteer roles with student programs like poetry slam or I-LEAD®; professional development opportunities such as IPDS: New Professionals Orientation or Women’s Leadership Institute; and participation in one or more of the 14 ACUI communities of practice. Through these experiences, you will form a network of colleagues and friends who are passionate about the same area and are willing to share best practices.

I could not have done my job without extraordinary professional relationships that were built over my career—a cadre of people so diverse and competent, so intelligent and unselfish, so creative and passionate, who gave of their time and expertise whenever I needed it most and ultimately helped make me successful. I hope I have given a fraction of what has been given to me.