ACUI's mission is to support its members in the development of community through education, advocacy, and the delivery of services. 


ACUI is committed to becoming the innovative, responsive, and inclusive leader in creating progressive education, training, and research in college unions and student activities to excel in meeting member needs, impacting student learning, and enhancing campus communities.


These values guide our work: unconditional human worth, joy, learning, caring community, innovation, diversity, and integrity.

Strategic Plan

The three guideposts, which are focused on social justice, membership, and financial stability, will be in place from August 2020 thorough the Annual Conference in March 2022.

Strategic Guidepost 1

Advance campus community through social justice and education to overcome racism and anti-Blackness.

We seek to support professionals’ social justice work to address and overcome individual and systemic racism in our unions and on campus, in our association, throughout higher education, and across society. 

Annual Priorities
  • Ensure equitable distribution of power in recruitment, retention, and volunteer opportunities.
  • Provide resources for our members to create spaces that are actively anti-racist.
  • Review individual and organizational actions to understand their contribution to structural racism.

Strategic Guidepost 2

Actively engage members and promote the Association to ensure the continued success of ACUI.

Recognizing the financial impact from the pandemic on institutional support for professional development, our focus is to adjust our educational content and demonstrate value to members.

Annual Priorities
  • Examine membership dues, taking into consideration incentives to encourage continued membership and avenues for effective communication.
  • Enhance current and develop new opportunities for virtual engagement and access for membership.
  • Demonstrate value of membership through innovative and evolving programs and services. Deepen institutional connection to ACUI.

Strategic Guidepost 3

Identify viable strategic solutions to ensure the financial stability of the Association.

The Association must continue to prioritize its use of resources, mitigate expenses, and grow non-dues revenue to successfully withstand the current recession.

Annual Priorities
  • Invest personnel resources and energy researching and securing nontraditional revenue streams while ensuring that those streams align with ACUI’s values.
  • Consider social responsibility, good stewardship, and financial well-being when making decisions, including the financial investments of the Association.
  • Examine ACUI corporate partnerships, and reimagine the program to create ongoing engagement with the membership.


As one of the oldest higher education associations, ACUI dates back to 1914 when it was founded in the Midwestern United States by six students and one faculty advisor who were interested in learning how other universities were managing college union organizations.

Early Years

Professional staff and student leaders met annually to share ideas and discuss common challenges. Diversity can be noted even in those early years as the Association’s first president was J.B. Bickersteth of the University of Toronto and an early leader, Edith Ouzts Humphreys of Cornell University, would go on to publish the Association’s first book. Now namesakes of ACUI’s highest award, Porter Butts and Edgar Whiting ran the organization, keeping its finances, planning conferences, lobbying the government, and publishing resources.

A Movement

Following World War II, as campus enrollments surged, college unions were built to meet students’ cocurricular needs. ACUI began holding seminars and regional programs to reach its expanding membership. It even had an architect available for consultation as institutions constructed new facilities. In 1968, ACUI hired its first paid staff member, Chester Berry, and established an office at Stanford University. He would be the first of five chief executives to oversee the Association during its history.


In the late 20th century, ACUI became more like the association we know today. In 1972, Shirley Bird Perry of the University of Texas at Austin became the first woman president and in 1984 LeNorman Strong of Cornell University became the first president of color. Also during this time, identity and equity concerns led to the creation of interest-based committees and task forces. Meanwhile, the Association’s programs grew to focus on student leadership, many types of recreational activities, and professional managerial concerns such as budgeting, renovation, and staffing.

A New Century

In the 2000s, ACUI reinvented itself as a knowledge-based organization and developed core competencies. In addition to educational programs, research and new services such as Procure and Promos help to stretch the benefit of membership. Today, ACUI is a nonprofit 501(c)3 headquartered in Bloomington, Indiana. Its workforce includes 20 paid staff members and more than 450 volunteers.