Pull up Google Earth. Go on. Now, type in your work address. Good. Zoom down not quite to street level. You see your building with the trees, sidewalks, and cars. You might even see a student or faculty member you know. Now zoom out to see your state. Now zoom out further to see the United States and the world. What do you see now? Very different, right? Right!
You have just experienced the transition from the perspective of an individual ACUI member or school to that of a member of the Board of Trustees. It’s a tremendous difference that I am only now beginning to comprehend.
My role is to see the “whole” of the organization. Board of Trustees members have the view from 30,000 feet that allows us to see all the landscape of our association. We see the sunshine moving over the central part of the organization and the storms on the coasts. We see the land as unchanging all the time while knowing that the changes are occurring even though we can’t see them in detail.
Our view is one of breadth and expanse. From a skyward view, the mass of the Association hasn’t changed. No cataclysm has split the continent of our membership. It is the same from one side to the other. We can’t see the artificial boundaries that divide regions or states. We can see the large things (conferences, programs, and websites) that connect our communities like highways and rivers connect cities.
What we can’t see from that view are the details that the general member or regional leader sees. We can’t see bureaucratic traffic jams or individual professionals running a union who need our support. And because we can’t see those things, we need your eyes to see them for us and your voice to tell us what you see.
The view from the top also means our actions must be strategic. On the ground, a change of just one degree north or south does not have a significant impact. In the stratosphere, that same change can take us miles off course, requiring extensive effort to return to the former course. The board view requires us to be strategic and plan our course well in advance by considering many directions. We don’t see the specific road we will take to get to our destination; we see all the roads and some of the pathways in between. It is not our purpose on the board to pave the roads; actually from 30,000 feet, we can’t see the pot holes. We set the course based on the needs of the members. Our role is to make sure that those who will travel the road to the future we have chosen have the tools, equipment, materials, and people to get the job done.
So if at times it seems as though the board has our collective heads in the clouds, it’s because we do and we should. By being strategic from 30,000 feet, we can ensure that the work of the Association is based on seeing beyond the horizon.
Tell me, what issue or roadblock to success do you see at the ground level that we may not be seeing at 30,000 feet?
This is the second in a series of posts by Tim Reed about being on the ACUI Board of Trustees. His first post may be found here.
is the Assistant Dean of Student Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Tim has worked in student unions and student activities for 25 years. He has Ph.D. from Virginia Tech with an emphasis on leadership development. He has served ACUI in a variety of positions and is currently on the ACUI Board of Trustees.