Volume 85 | Issue 1
January/February 2017

From the President: Looking Into the Crystal Ball

J. Scott Derrick
J. Scott DerrickWhen I was a kid, I often spent my days in far-flung adventures achieving amazing feats of heroism spun out of my own creativity. Being an only child, I spent a lot of my time on these imaginative pursuits—drawing my own comic book series and actually being the superhero I depicted, pretending that the barn on my grandfather’s farm was my own personal clubhouse, and spending long summer afternoons fishing in a nearby lake and dreaming of landing a giant, record-setting catfish (but in reality only pulling out a baby bass). I would also watch Star Trek and Get Smart, believing that transporters, warp speed, and shoe phones might one day be a reality. The future looked wondrous to my childish self, and I imagined the many things I might accomplish and experience in time.

So, here we are, in said future, still without transporters and warp speed (I’ll argue shoe phones are simply iPhones in a wing-tip Bostonian), but also still dreaming of what the next version of the future will look like. I spent some special time this regional conference season at two regions looking into a proverbial crystal ball, dreaming what our unions would be like a decade or two in the future. For those who were not at Region I nor Region III, my prospectus for the future of our profession includes a number of trends, some backed up by research, some simply an extrapolation from my knowledge and imagination, but I’ll share them here and see what you think.

First and foremost, I think student activism is on the rise and that our unions will be the landing spot for a great deal of it. Unions did begin, after all, as a safe place for debating societies to argue over pertinent points of the day, so it would follow that we are also a safe haven for our students today to voice their societal concerns, demonstrate peacefully, and be protected from anyone who would infringe on those rights. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte has actually gotten ahead of this trend by forming the Demonstration Activities Response Team (DART), a body of faculty and staff volunteers organized to support and assist at demonstration activities, provide active input, and ensure the safety, integrity, and viability of the participants and the activity itself. With many demonstrations emanating at the union, the DART has been important to our success in supporting the students. With so many different national and regional incidents sparking emotions and reactions across our campuses, this trend will only grow, so I encourage all of us to put our student development hats on tight and prepare to be the center of support.

Other trends I foresee:

Technology, technology, technology!
Put away your eight-track tapes and your wired microphones, and get ready for wireless high-definition everything! We all know that the technology we buy today is out of date by tomorrow, but our ability to remain current with trends and cutting-edge upgrades is crucial for our continued success. Current and future students simply expect us to provide whatever is “hot” at the time; without it, we lose credibility with the very population we should be reaching at all times.

Social media backlash
While it seems that every part of our daily lives are now up for public consumption via social media, I believe there is going to be a certain segment of our population—perhaps Generation Z—who will shy away from a moment-by-moment Instagram chronicling of their lives to opt for a bit more overall privacy. Let’s call this the “Book-Face Phenomena,” as we see at least a measured stepping back of our public personas. This is not necessarily a union-specific trend, just a general swinging of the pendulum in society.

Student unions on community college campuses
As community and technical college systems grow, so too will the need for similar services and programs available on other campuses, and student unions will and should be among those that will arise.

Consolidation of resources
Just look to the university system of Georgia as a prominent example of consolidation in practice. As resources dwindle at the state and federal level, the need to combine services, programs, and even entire campuses becomes more practical every day.

So that’s my look into the college union (and beyond) crystal ball. Whether you agree or disagree, you will have to admit that the next decade will most certainly be exciting. Regardless of the outcome, the union will always be the campus gathering spot, the safe and secure zone, and the place where community is built every day. J. Scott … OUT!