Posted February 3, 2014 by Elizabeth Beltramini 

A Vision, A Plan, A Story

In the past few months, ACUI has completed several technology projects. Having worked on a number of these, I should know better, but I’m always surprised by the necessity of elucidating every detail to ensure the outcome is what we expect. Countless times I imagine some bit of technology will operate a certain way, when each person around the table has their own assumptions—none of which are the same. We each claim likes and dislikes based on the sites we frequent and the software we use. Commonly, we are unaware of such biases until we take the time to discuss them with others.February Bulletin - Post

Similarly, facilities hold meanings that each visitor interprets through their own cultural and experiential lens. What might be a portrait gallery of honored alumni to some is seen by others as an exclusionary symbol of the wealthy elite. In "An Inclusive Union: Welcoming a Diverse Population," Trinity Gonzalez further delves into the cultural constructs college union buildings may offer. Simple awareness of difference can be the first step in achieving our ideals.

Considering the technology example, once we conceptualize the possibilities, we must identify the best of our collective notions and then describe them in a way that accessibly describes the vision. For technology projects—and campus construction projects as well—this comes in the form of a Request for Qualifications or Request for Proposal. Ben Perlman contrasts RFQs and RFPs and outlines the process for drafting one of these important documents. It can be daunting from the outset, but if done well, an RFP can serve as a guide throughout a project once the actual work of achieving the vision has begun.

For a construction project, this philosophy should undergird the process, although it can be easy to get lost in the minutia or be swayed by competing interests. With some noticeable distinctions, the concerns related to building a facility have remained mostly unchanged in recent decades as a Bulletin article from the 1940s illustrates.

And once that work is complete, the result becomes a showpiece of the campus, as evidenced by The Bulletin’s annual Renovation and Construction Showcase, which this year begins on p. 12. Each project necessitated juggling the perspectives of multiple constituencies to determine a vision and then achieve those goals.

One hundred years ago, students from the University of Michigan wrote to students from The Ohio State University offering a vision, albeit a modest one at the time. They didn’t have all the details figured out, but the concept was profound: a meeting of the two college unions to swap best practices. That was in 1914, and 100 years later we are thankful that the idea became a reality and continued to grow into the Association as we know it today. As ACUI celebrates its centennial this year, we hope each Bulletin will offer a reflection on our history as well as prepare union and activities professionals for the future. Bulletins will be published in even-numbered months, as they have been at times throughout history, so that we might better align editions with the most significant months of the year—particularly our annual conference in April and the precise anniversary of the Association’s founding in December. In 2014, we look forward to sharing ACUI’s story and offering a vision of what may come.

Elizabeth Beltramini

Elizabeth Beltramini is the Director of Content Curation at ACUI.

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