2023 ACUI Annual Business Meeting, State of the Association Highlights
ACUI’s strategic guideposts, its new Student Affairs and College Unions Certification program, and the kickoff of the Investing in Our Profession fundraising campaign were just some of the topics members received updates on during ACUI’s Annual Conference in Boston through the Business Meeting and other presentations.
Finances and Fundraising
ACUI received a “clean” audit for fiscal year 2021 reported by the accounting firm Blue & Co. The annual operating budget of $3.6 million is down from $4.8 million pre-pandemic in 2019; and the Association has reserves of over $500,000, while the regional funds, Education and Research Fund, and primary ACUI fund, collectively, total $1.4 million.
ACUI launched a new fundraising campaign, “Investing in Our Profession,” with a goal of raising $200,000 by the 2025 Annual Conference in New York City. In addition to that initiative, the Education and Research Fund Team reported that the silent auction in Chicago raised $7,428, the Legacy Leader program raised $13,044, and the Day of Giving in December $39,655, including a $20,000 gift from Don Rohel, a longtime volunteer in ACUI.
Donations also supported member engagement through the Financial Assistance Fund. Established by the Board of Trustees in 2020, the Financial Assistance Fund provides support for campuses facing financial difficulties because of the pandemic. In total $60,355 was distributed, allowing 18 institutions to maintain their membership, 70 individuals to attend ACUI conferences and programs, including 14 members with 2023 Annual Conference registration and another 18 delegates with hotel expenses.
Student Affairs Certification
Participation in a new professional certification program, the Higher Education Consortium for Student Affairs Certification, began in 2022 with ACUI partnering with six other higher education associations. The Association supported the program's creation with an initial $50,000 commitment, and 12 ACUI members completed the pilot portion. A specialty credential, College Unions Student Affairs Certification, is designed for college unions specialists and campus community builders who are mid-level and above, as well as student affairs educators looking to transition into college unions specialist and senior-level roles.
Programming in 2022 was again at the core of services provided by the Association, with in-person programs including a return to an on-site Annual Conference (in Chicago), the Aspiring Directors Institute held at Northwestern University, and IPDS at Indiana University. Seven out of the out regions offered an in-person conference, but lower attendance was reported. The Board of Trustees established a Regional Engagement Task Force to examine the health of the regions, led by Sarah Comstock of the University of Puget Sound and Wendy Denman at the University of North Texas.
CUPSI, the Association’s college union poetry slam competition for students, did not have enough teams to hold the event in 2022, and following a task force report on the program, the Board of Trustees decided to pause CUPSI for 2023 and 2024 and more broadly examine the role of student programs.
Last year, ACUI changed to a tiered membership model, standardizing the number of voting members and making benefits available to anyone on campus. ACUI maintained a standard or full membership tier that retains previous membership benefits. The new digital tier has limited benefits and is primarily for those campuses only engaging through the online community platform. And an elevated premium tier allows campuses to commit to professional development as well as membership—94 institutions opted into the premium level, exceeding an original budget goal of 60.
ACUI has three broad guideposts for its strategic plan: to advance campus community through social justice and education; to actively engage members and promote the association; and to identify strategic solutions for the financial stability of the Association. The board then sets annual priorities to advance the strategic plan, which provides a framework for ACUI’s Leadership Team to set measurable goals. Examples of work carried out under the guideposts included creating a social justice and equity assessment tool; drafting of expectations for short-term volunteer positions to assist with building consistent and positive volunteer experiences; updating the social justice resources page to reflect evergreen content; and increasing communication cadence by developing liaisons with each of the Association’s volunteer teams. In the year ahead, the board will create a 2024–29 strategic plan.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Efforts to improve diversity, equity and inclusion, included partnering with Social Responsibility Speaks for programming at annual conferences the past two years to provide membership with workshops; resumption of the ACUI Table Talks podcast during PRIDE month; a social justice seminar that used a hack-a-thon approach; and a third successful year for ACUI’s Closing the Gap program, which saw seven professionals of traditionally marginalized identities benefit from a structured program designed to enhance their career paths.