Volume 84 | Issue 3
May/June 2016

From the President: Breaking the Fourth Wall

J. Scott Derrick
ACUI President J. Scott DerrickIf any of you have seen the recent movie Deadpool, you will notice that one of the most endearing tactics actor Ryan Reynolds employs is the breaking of the fourth wall. In case you do not know what I am talking about, a character breaks the fourth wall when they diverge from the scripted dialogue to either directly or indirectly address the bigger audience. Some other great examples of this occur in Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, Spaceballs, and just about anything Jim Carrey is in. My favorites are actually the old Airplane and Naked Gun movies, which, in my humble opinion, are still the funniest movies ever made. The reason I bring this up is to let you know that I generally break the fourth wall throughout my speaking and writing. When you see phrases set apart by the ellipses (or three dots) in my articles, you will know I am talking directly to you.

Since this is the first column with a new president, let’s talk about change. Change happens all the time. We change jobs more often than ever before. We change clothes every day. We change channels on our television (unless, of course, we lose the remote … then we just keep watching). Our student population changes every year, and it affects what we do every day. We even throw change in the bucket at McDonald’s to aid Ronald McDonald House. David Bowie sang “Ch-ch-ch-changes,” and Cyndi Lauper had a Change of Heart. Change is everywhere. And it is inevitable. Sometimes it is positive; sometimes it is change for change’s sake. Sometimes it makes people nervous. … Is the new manager going to change my job or upset my perfect little routine? ... And sometimes it invigorates people to improve, renovate, or simplify their lives in some way. Sometimes it involves loss, as many of us know the passing of a loved one or a cherished pet changes both our lives and our perspectives in many ways. Change is not bad or good. How we react to change and what we learn from change is really the measuring stick for its impact.

With that being said, it is no secret that ACUI is in a period of change. I am not simply talking about the time of year, every year, when the Board of Trustees changes over and new officers are installed, but I’m talking about the “capital-C” kind of Change. With higher education at a crossroads in terms of its future path, with dollars and cents becoming harder and harder to come by on many campuses, and with the millennials giving way to Generation Z and providing those of us in student affairs with yet another nexus of learning, we, as an international association within that framework, must open our minds and our perspectives to navigate our path forward. If you have not read Switch, by Chip & Dan Heath (yes, I got my copy as a free sample when Dan keynoted our conference in 2010), I recommend it highly. I do not want to give anything away, but I promise it will set your mind in the right direction to look at change when it is not easy to do so. Our Future of the Brand Task Force is hard at work as you are reading this, pulling together recommendations and looking at options for moving the brand of ACUI into the future and into a position where we might be able to serve our constituents … including new constituents … in a bigger way. Our Council for Diversity and Inclusion is digging deeper into what makes a diverse and inclusive association and how that kind of forward thinking can make us an industry leader in this endeavor. Our new CEO, who is not so new anymore, is looking at innovative ways to bolster and improve the image, finances, and operation of our association. And, as I stated clearly in my speech at the annual conference, I will be working every day to discover and support new changes … the positive kind that invigorate and inspire … to move ACUI ever onward and upward.

Let me hear from you on Twitter (@jscottderrick, #ACUIdeas) if you have something to contribute to this dialogue. Or let me know how this first column turned out. Unless, of course, in your opinion, it stunk. In that case, please refrain from breaking the fourth wall and leave me to my bliss. But I think this is going to be fun. Stay tuned. J. Scott … OUT.