September Cover
Volume 81 | Issue 5
September 2013

President's Column: Breathing New Life into ACUI’s Soul

Mark Guthier

For those of you who were able to attend the closing banquet at the annual conference in St. Louis last March, you may remember that I spoke to you then of our role as “soul-makers” on our campuses. I asked us to think of ourselves as uniquely situated to bringing our campus’s soul to life—breathing emotion and desire into the knowledge enterprise at our college or university. I hoped then that we would reflect from time to time on our task being about more than community building—that we would appreciate more fully the impact we have on creating something as special as the soul of our institution. Guthier

Little did I know then that I would find myself in the position of asking myself to consider the same thing when it comes to our professional association. But that is what happened this past July—a totally unexpected occurrence that I want to share with all of you.

The Leadership Team (a group of nearly 60 of your colleagues—volunteers and staff) assembled for our annual meeting. In addition to the regular business topics that the various component groups of the Association had on their agendas, the Board of Trustees dedicated a significant amount of time for the entire group to make progress on ACUI’s Strategic Direction 3: “ACUI will be recognized by our members as a multicultural organization, which it defines as ‘one which is genuinely committed to a diverse representation of its membership; is sensitive to maintaining an open, supportive, and responsive environment; is working toward and purposefully including elements of diverse cultures in its ongoing operations; and … is authentic in its responses to issues confronting it.’”

The commitment of time and resources to this topic was the direct result of the board acknowledging that, while this strategic goal is extremely important to the overall Association, we could not, in a demonstrable way, describe our success in achieving what it calls us to be. And while we expect to document success over the next two years of our strategic plan in our other theme areas, it is imperative that we be able to do the same with respect to multiculturalism.

As I reflected on why this seemed so important to us, it occurred to me that perhaps, being described as an “open, supportive, and responsive multicultural organization” by our membership may in fact be the essence of ACUI’s soul. If our members can see us that way, feel the strength of what that means and are drawn to us because of it, aren’t we in fact ensuring that emotion and desire exist within our programs and services? Aren’t we breathing life and joy into the very heart of our association? Indeed, aren’t we being soul-makers for ACUI—the organization that assists us in doing the same thing on our own campus? I think so—and that is why the Board of Trustees and the Leadership Team are strongly committed to doing a better job by engaging whole-heartedly in this effort over the next year.

We started in July by identifying specific actions each of the component groups (Board of Trustees, regional directors, Education Council, special appointments) can take. The Board of Trustees will commit a monthly conference call to this particular theme. In addition, an extended web meeting of the board will be scheduled in October and an additional face-to-face meeting in February will be used to move this initiative forward. By ACUI’s next annual conference, in April 2014, we will share with the leadership and general membership our well-defined efforts related to this prioritization of enhancing our reputation as a multicultural organization.

As I mentioned to the Leadership Team in July, this is not the first time—or the last time—that ACUI will thoughtfully and purposefully advance its commitment to being a multicultural organization. And we have much to be proud of with respect to the journey we’ve taken so far. We want to build on that success. We want to strengthen our story telling about who we are and why this is important to us. And ultimately, we want to celebrate the successes we know we can have in the future if we can but harness the tremendous amount of talent, goodwill, and commitment available throughout ACUI.

I encourage anyone who has an interest in working to sustain the soul of ACUI to join the board and the Leadership Team this year on our endeavor. Together, I know we can create something special that we’ll be proud to pass on to future colleagues, and we’ll be soul-makers at the same time.