Volume 82 | Issue 5
October 2014

Eight New Regions, One Valued Custom

Kim Harrington-Pete

This is a milestone year in our association. We continue to celebrate our centennial and will convene for the first time at regional conferences in our new structure. Developed to provide consistent and high-quality experiences, the new regional structure supports continued participation in enriching educational opportunities. In eight cities in the United States, conference delegates will gather to Kimcelebrate a century of community building, advocacy, and student leadership development. With support from the 100th Anniversary Task Force, each region will commemorate the history of ACUI and establish new regional traditions. With permeability in mind, members are welcome to consider conferences based on proximity, not just regional boundaries.

I have vivid memories of each regional conference I attended, from my first in 1998 at Savannah State University to my most recent at Kennesaw State University in Marietta, Ga. In every instance, I left those experiences a stronger professional than when I entered. I cherished the opportunity to spend time with colleagues, attend educational sessions, and reaffirm my passion for the union and activities field. Regional conferences have allowed me to learn about different campus cultures, tour many college unions, and borrow ideas that have enhanced our facilities, programs, and services over the years.

Proximity and timing often afford us the ability to take more students to regional conferences. The connections, discovery, and new perspectives that they glean through participation are immeasurable. Not only have our student team members appreciated the chance to meet and talk with peers in similar roles on other campuses, they also return with fresh ideas and a renewed sense of connection to the college union idea.

This will be the 66th year of regional conferences for our association, and these core components of the program will continue. The first regional conference was held at the University of Minnesota, Jan. 7–8, 1949, and proved to be a fantastic new idea. Despite a blizzard, 22 visiting delegates and 29 Minnesota participants attended. Of the 10 schools represented, most were small with fewer than 3,000 students and couldn’t travel to the annual conference.

Topics included:

  • Organizational structure
  • Finances
  • Facilities
  • Planning programs
  • Faculty and administrative attitudes toward the union
  • Student governance
  • The Association of College Unions
  • Educational value of student involvement

In that way, not much has changed. The Bulletin review of that first conference also noted a “surprising benefit” that also sounds familiar: the event served to energize and motivate the staff of the host institution, giving them “a new sense of responsibility and importance.” We recognize this today, as volunteers responsible for planning and hosting conferences gain a sense of satisfaction and camaraderie.
This powerful esprit de corps was palpable the first time we saw the new eight regions gathered at the annual conference in Orlando. One of my favorite moments was the regional procession to the Annual Meeting of the Delegates. Watching the membership walk in with regional banners held high and newly developed regional hand symbols made me smile. The regions are the heart of our association, and I was delighted to see that ours is beating strong.

The Association last introduced a redesigned regional structure in the year of its golden anniversary, 1964. Previous structures had volleyed between large and small based on changing population trends. Interestingly, in 1953, the regions were reduced to 11 with an emphasis on permeability and continued growth. These are among the benefits our 2014 structure provides.

The new regional structure was created to improve the member experience, volunteer development, learning outcomes, and the student experience. I am confident that it will, and I’m hopeful that members will choose to attend the regional conference they prefer regardless of geographic boundaries. The Board of Trustees will certainly embrace this option, as each of us will attend at least one regional conference to demonstrate our support for our exceptional volunteers and the new regional structure. I will be at the Region VII conference, in addition to my home conference of Region III.

From Tuning up for Success in Region I to Connecting Our Roots in Region VIII, this regional conference season promises to be extraordinary. Please take advantage of one of these eight educational experiences. We look forward to seeing you.