When you think about the future of the college union and student activities profession, what comes to mind? Accountability? Fiscal challenges? Technology? Ever-changing higher education policies? While these topics certainly command attention, perhaps there is another question we should be considering. When you think about the future of our profession, who comes to mind?
As the former student representative with the ACUI Board of Trustees, I had the opportunity to collaborate with board members and the Central Office staff to explore member engagement in ACUI as it relates to the field’s on-going development. Informed by the 2008 Growing the Profession Task Force report, the decision was made to collect additional input from ACUI members closest to the topic—graduate students and new professionals.
Feedback was gathered through focus groups and peer network evaluations at the 2012 annual conference. Focus group participants drew from personal and professional experiences to recommend ACUI programming that would further support their work in the field. Graduate students and new professionals were also asked why they chose to be a part of ACUI, who encouraged them to join, and what they felt were benefits of attending the conference. Similar questions were included in the undergraduate student, graduate student, and new professional conference evaluations.
Their responses were consistent and encouraging. Graduate students and new professionals valued ACUI for the professional relationships, networking, and development experiences. They wanted more opportunities to be mentored, to complete internships at other unions, and to collaborate with professionals in similar positions at other institutions. Participants’ supervisors were frequently identified as the individuals responsible for introducing them to the Association. Additionally, both the evaluations and focus groups revealed a common theme among participants: They valued ACUI because they believed ACUI valued them.
So what does this mean and why does it matter?
- In their own words, members shared first-hand accounts of what ACUI meant to them. They revealed why they came to the conference and the influence supervisors played in introducing them to the field. And they discussed ways in which they felt ACUI is excelling at supporting the growth of the profession and opportunities to improve.
- Responses can inform current and future ACUI practices. As the Association endeavors to support the continued growth of the profession, the ability to hear from members, to be attentive to expressed needs, and to use data to guide practice will ensure ACUI’s work continues to remain relevant.
- This data can inform ACUI members’ work on their own campuses. Participants frequently noted the role supervisors played in encouraging them to join ACUI and in guiding their professional development. Do you mentor a graduate student filling an assistantship in your office? Supervise student workers in your union? Have a new professional joining your staff? The chance to invest in the on-going growth of ACUI and the college union and student activities field lie in these opportunities.
Finally, this information matters to me because I am one of those students whose professional growth has been supported through my involvement in ACUI. An aspiring student affairs practitioner, my membership began during graduate school at the suggestion of a mentor. To date, the experience has been nothing short of transformative. ACUI has afforded opportunities to develop professional networks and to hear the college union story retold through the experiences of those whose commitment to the Association parallels their commitment to the field.
I can echo the testimonies of those I met in Boston by saying ACUI and its members are well-positioned to play a powerful role in supporting the continued growth of the college union and student activities profession.
This post is the first in a series that will explore ACUI’s impact on developing the profession. But for today, there is simply the reminder to be intentional in our practice and to reflect not only on the issues that will shape the future of the field but the people who will do so as well.
is the Coordinator for Student Involvement and Advisor to the Ohio Union Activities Board at The Ohio State University.
Her responsibilities include advising, event planning, and student programming. She is a 2012 graduate of the higher education and student affairs master’s program at Indiana University, and in 2009, received her bachelor’s degree in communication studies from Cedarville University. Her involvement with ACUI includes serving as the 2012 student member on the Board of Trustees.