Bulletin September 2006
Volume 74 | Issue 5
September 2006

From the President: Mid-Year Report: ACUI plans take shape 

Robert Mindrum

July is traditionally a busy time in the life of the Association, and this year was no exception. On Thursday evening, July 13, just a day after the successful conclusion of the Indiana Professional Development Seminar (IPDS), members of the ACUI Leadership Team gathered in Bloomington, Ind., to begin four days of collaboration and discussion. In the hospitable environs of the Indiana Memorial Union, and after a warm welcome reception with hosts IMU Executive Director Loren Rullman and his staff, we began in earnest to do both the ongoing work of the Association as well as determine new ways to support our strategic plan.

I’m continually fascinated by the paradox of strategic plans: that is, although they are extremely process-oriented in their development, with a premium placed on reflection and deliberation, the ultimate success of the plan depends on the accomplishment of tasks. Perhaps this transition from process to task is why so many strategic plans end up gathering dust on a shelf. It’s certainly fun (as well as important) to get in the think-tank mode and to wax philosophic about our future, but talk (and thought) is relatively meaningless without action, and does little to move us forward strategically.

With that in mind, the focus of the Leadership Team this year has been to clarify our various roles in support of the strategic plan, and to generate action plans that will guide our efforts and ensure that we are making measurable progress toward our goals. This effort actually began during the annual conference in Kansas City, Mo., where we agreed on the following division of labor as it relates to our strategic plan:

Board of Trustees: This group is charged with establishing the strategic direction of the Association, after soliciting and considering input from the membership. Once the strategic direction is in place, the board establishes priorities and monitors the progress of both the Central Office and the volunteer component groups as they work to execute the strategic plan through programs and services. The Board of Trustees also processes new information and makes changes to the strategic plan as necessary.

Central Office: This group is charged with providing the infrastructure within which volunteer efforts take place, partnering with volunteers on a number of important initiatives, executing its own operational plan in support of strategic objectives, and managing the incredibly diverse and increasingly complex daily operations of the Association. Through the executive director, they take their lead from and are accountable to the Board of Trustees as it relates to strategic direction.

Component groups: These include the regional directors, Education Councils, program teams (annual conference, College Bowl, Institute for Leadership Education and Development, Poetry Slam, leisure activities, public policy), and other special appointments including the liaison to the Council on the Advancement of Standards (CAS) and the ACUI affirmative action officer. It is within these component groups that much of the traditional work of the Association takes place, through the successful delivery of programs and services that support our strategic plan and meet or exceed member needs.

Given that a new strategic plan—as well as a Central Office operational plan—were already in place, the “missing link” in this process seemed to be an action plan for the component groups to follow in support of ACUI strategic goals. Thus, beginning in Kansas City and continuing in the recent Leadership Team meetings, the focus was to help the component groups define and articulate their own action plans, allowing the Leadership Team to develop, both collectively and individually within its component groups, a strategic roadmap for the remainder of the year, as follows:

Board of Trustees: With a fresh new strategic plan in place, the board discussed its role in implementing the plan and concluded that its structure needed to change as follows:

  • The Governance Committee was totally revamped, moving away from an external and reactive focus of governing the Association at large to an internal and proactive focus of providing the orientation, training, development, and self-assessment necessary for board members to succeed. Implicit in this change was the realization that for most new board members, it is difficult to move from an “operational focus” to a “strategic focus.” Just as an hourly employee must be trained to succeed as a supervisor or manager, so must board members be trained to understand and succeed in their new responsibilities. This committee also is responsible for the elections process, including the recruitment of volunteers for at-large board member and president-elect positions. Beginning next year, as a result of the recent change in bylaws, the immediate past president will chair this committee, which will help define that new role as distinctly separate from the incoming president’s leadership.
  • A new Strategic Directions Committee was created and charged with establishing ongoing communications with both the Central Office and the component groups relative to their strategic efforts. This committee also will assess new data and trends to help the board determine priorities and/or alter the strategic plan based on new information. Because this is a forward-looking committee, it will be chaired by the president-elect, who will benefit from these deliberations when he or she assumes the presidency.
  • The Finance Committee will remain largely the same, with ongoing fiduciary responsibilities in monitoring current financial performance, but with the added responsibility of establishing a long-term financial plan in support of the overall strategic plan, and with new emphasis on managing the investment of ACUI reserves.
  • Lastly, the Executive Committee will consist of the president, president-elect, and executive director. This group has existed for years in practice, meets weekly by conference call, and participates in all of the other board committee meetings. They establish the agenda for all full board meetings and are charged with evaluating the executive director’s performance.

Regional directors: In addition to their normal business, the regional directors created their own action plan for the current year, focusing on the following strategic initiatives:

  • Helping regional volunteers to understand the requirements of their positions and the resources available by establishing a checklist of responsibilities, generating a calendar of activity deadlines, and populating the Regional Resources page on www.acui.org
  • Providing examples of exemplary community-building activities
  • Retaining current institutional members through a variety of promotional efforts and personal interactions
  • Developing plans to reinstate 20 “lapsed” member institutions and add 10 new member institutions, including five new international members
  • Assisting with the implementation of the new “membership section” of the ACUI Web site
  • Conducting a diversity needs assessment at the regional level and creating a diversity “census” within the framework of ACUInfo
  • Developing a comprehensive training program for incoming regional directors

The Education Councils established the following strategic objectives:

  • Assessing knowledge, effectiveness, and use of ACUI resources such as ACUI Forum, Content Expert Database, ACUI publications, seminars, online offerings, and educational session content
  • Developing strategies to educate members about the core competencies
  • Creating a process to share information about outstanding educational programs
  • Identifying core competency-based learning outcomes for all ACUI volunteer experiences

There was consensus among volunteers representing the program teams (Poetry Slam, I-LEAD®, College Bowl, and the annual conference) that a concerted effort must be made to improve the student experience within ACUI.

To that end, these groups agreed on the following collaborative initiatives:

  • Developing a standard student program evaluation tool and implementing it on both the international and regional levels
  • Designing and distributing an electronic “testimonial presentation” for each program area, to be used to promote student involvement
  • Generating a “year in the life of ACUI” calendar reflecting program event dates, registration deadlines, and volunteer needs of all component groups

The two Conference Program Team leaders agreed to pursue the following strategic initiatives this year while developing the Atlanta and New Orleans conferences:

  • Refining the use of the core competencies to present a balanced educational program
  • Developing partnerships with other organizations that can provide educational content that ACUI cannot
  • Assisting regions and Communities with planning their special events at the annual conference
  • Fully funding the annual conference’s share of the ACUI contingency reserve
  • Assessing the annual conference experience for first-time attendees
  • Developing an internship program whereby a graduate
    student may serve on the Conference Program Team
  • Continuing the concept of a holistic Conference Program Team versus a separate Conference Program Team and Host Team
  • Enhancing the undergraduate experience at the annual conference through more intentional programmatic offerings

The College Bowl Program Team will pursue the following objectives in support of the strategic plan:

  • Developing a master planning timetable for the College
    Bowl calendar year to promote tournament participation across regions
  • Creating a package of video commercials to be used at regional conferences to promote College Bowl and other student-centered programs (Poetry Slam, I-LEAD®, etc.)
  • Developing a survey instrument to assess nonparticipating institutions
  • Committing to take action based on feedback received
  • Encouraging collaboration between schools and regions in planning events and in the sharing of program tools and resources
  • Fine-tuning job descriptions for College Bowl coordinator and other regional tournament volunteer positions
  • Similarly, the Poetry Slam Program Team will pursue the
    following initiatives:
  • Organizing a more formal program team through involvement of past volunteers and other interested individuals
  • Reviewing our current certification process and outcomes and developing new certification language
  • Developing a commercial script to be used to promote
    Poetry Slam
  • Assessing the feasibility of using the ACUI Forum to promote communication between student poets
  • Managing the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational budget to ensure that financial goals are met
  • Pursuing ways to support regions in sending winning teams to the invitational
  • Developing a process to evaluate the experience of invitational volunteers

It should be noted that the action plans generated by the component groups did not stop with identifying objectives, but also included the delineation of tasks assigned to individuals, timelines for completion of those tasks, and measurements for assessing progress. And while it is possible that these new action plans may be overly aggressive in their reach, I believe that they will nevertheless provide a framework and a process wherein the component groups can understand the tremendous potential that they have in moving the Association forward. Because as important as it is for the board to establish the strategic agenda and for the Central Office to provide the infrastructure and ongoing operational support, in the end it may well be these volunteer efforts that determine our success as an Association. Please join me in recognizing the impact of all our dedicated volunteers and staff members, and in providing them with the support and recognition that they truly deserve.
If you would like to help with any of the initiatives you’ve seen here, please e-mail volunteer@acui.org.