May/June Bulletin cover
Volume 83 | Issue 3
May 2015

The Common Connector

Sarah Aikman, Northern Kentucky University
Editor’s Note: This column is an excerpt from President Aikman’s inaugural address, April 11, 2015.

Indiana State University, Kansas State University, University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh, Northern Kentucky University, Oklahoma State University, Moravian College, Purdue University, Tulane University, Ohio State University.

What do all of these schools have in common? Professionals at these campuses have become part of my life. I know their stories, and they know mine. I can’t imagine how different my professional and personal life would be without our paths having crossed. We have taken a journey together, and ACUI has been a common connector.

sarah aikmanAs your president for the next year, I would like to share with you the journey I have taken to get to this point. I am the second child to Howard and Margaret Hadley, who met on a blind date in London, England, 55 years ago. I am the younger sister to Andrew Hadley, although he will try to tell you I am older. I grew up in a suburb of Chicago, Park Ridge. I was a tomboy, who loved to play soccer, skied, and worked at a sporting goods store. I graduated from Maine South High School and then followed my brother to college at Indiana State University.

After years of involvement in my sorority, as a senior, I applied to be on the ISU Union Board’s Spring Week Committee. This is when I met a lady named Linda Eldred, who advised the Union Board. This was my first exposure to this incredible field.

Upon graduation, I moved back to Chicago and put my business management degree to use at the Hyatt Regency. After a year as a housekeeping manager (just another word for facilities management), I moved to the Hyatt Regency Cincinnati, where I became the assistant front office manager. (In other words, the information desk, the reservationist, the lost and found, a foreshadowing of what I do now.) After another year, I realized this wasn’t my calling.

On my next day off, I drove to Indiana State University, applied for graduate school, and received an assistantship with that lady Linda Eldred. Little did I know what an impact Linda would have on my life, career, and involvement with ACUI. She took an interest in my story and who I was. She had been the chair of ACUI’s 75th anniversary conference, had been involved on a regional level, and the previous year had received the Butts-Whiting Award from the Association. During my two years at ISU, Linda gave me the opportunity to attend a regional conference and an annual conference. She showed me the importance of giving back to my local community as well as my professional association of choice. She saw something in me.

I landed my first professional job at Kansas State University working with the Union Program Council. Upon my arrival, my supervisor, Ann Claussen (now at Moravian College), informed me we would be hosting the ACUI Region 11 conference. Through the conference, I began my volunteer experience with ACUI. I made a variety of connections serving as the secretary/treasurer of the Region 11 Leadership Team. All these people I met as a new professional and volunteer took an interest in my career and me as an individual. Many of us still remain connected to this day.

After a wonderful experience at Kansas State University, I returned to Indiana State. At ISU, I continued my involvement with ACUI. I also had the opportunity to get to know my students and impact their lives like Linda and Ann had done for me. I remember Carrie Miller (now at Ohio State) and Heather Beasley (now at Purdue) as undergraduate students at ISU. I took an interest in them and their stories and helped them find their way into this field.

From Indiana State University, I made my way to the cold north and the University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh. I interviewed with Mitch Kilcrease (now at Oklahoma State University), who I had worked with on the Region 11 Leadership Team. Mitch and I developed a great working relationship and a friendship that still remains strong. During my time at UW–Oshkosh, my ACUI volunteer experiences increased. I had applied for a variety of volunteer positions within ACUI over the years and had been turned down. It took me four chances before I became part of a conference program team. I had learned over the years to keep trying and not to give up. I also had the opportunity to serve as an I-LEAD® facilitator, which was life-changing.

The students at UW–Oshkosh had some amazing stories. Molly Ward (now at Tulane University) was a social work major, program board president, and student building manager. A decade later, she is a member of the ACUI Board of Trustees.
Northern Kentucky University was the next chapter in my story. I moved to a relatively young campus that didn’t have many outsiders on staff. It was a challenge for me to learn the stories of many people at NKU in the beginning. I created a student employee program as we began to open the new student union. It was through this program that I learned stories of my students and helped them chart their course for the future. Through the past nine years at NKU, I have developed a strong group of friends and colleagues.

In the coming months, another chapter of this story can be written. I hope each of you will take the time to share your story and learn the story of one of your students or colleagues. I hope to share our members’ stories through The Bulletin as well.

People come into our lives for a season, a reason, or a lifetime. ACUI enables us to build and nurture these relationships through the stories we share with each other. I can’t wait to write this next chapter of my life story and the story of ACUI.