Professionals can use the core competencies to better understand the foundation of knowledge and expertise required in the unions and activities field.

Specifically, consider the core competencies:

  • When developing training programs for graduate students and staff
  • For self-reflection regarding skills and opportunities for growth
  • During career planning exercises, understanding that senior leaders must have expertise in all competency areas
  • As part of job descriptions, to craft consistent roles and responsibilities across the profession
  • When determining assessment criteria or conducting evaluation projects 

You may download a PDF of the ACUI core competencies.

Competency Area Threads

Threads are common components of the separate core competencies. These threads emphasize these areas in all roles within the union field. The identified threads are:


The ability to successfully exchange information through verbal and nonverbal symbols and behaviors.


The ability to understand the overall intent of and choose from appropriate tools, equipment, and procedures for service delivery and problem solving.


The ability to develop and maintain integrity.


The guarantee of fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all members of our communities, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups.

Core Competencies

Assessment, Evaluation, & Research

The ability to understand the language of assessment, evaluation, and research; collect and analyze different types of data; and communicate the results to drive decision making within the organization.

  • Language of and Use of Assessment, Evaluation, and Research
  • Application of Assessment, Evaluation, and Research Frameworks
  • Data Collection and Use of Data
  • Research Ethics
Event Management

The ability to successfully plan and execute high-quality programs with and for campus and external stakeholders.

  • Programming and Event Planning
  • Event Operations
  • Risk Management
Facility Management

The ability to successfully create and maintain attractive, safe, fully operable, built environments.

  • General Administration and Management
  • Daily Facilities Management
  • Facility Planning and Assessment
  • Building Design, Construction, and Renovation
  • Environmental Management and Sustainability
  • Information Technology 
Fiscal Management

The ability to create simple and complex budgets, understand funding sources, create systems for monitoring and evaluating budgets, and understand investment strategies.

  • Budget Management and Development
  • Budget Oversight Strategies
  • Fundraising
  • Contract Negotiation and Management 
Human Resources

The ability to manage organizational processes, including human resource needs of staff members, in a consistent and equitable manner.

  • Organizational Development
  • Ethical Hiring, Promotion, and Retention
  • Training and Development
  • Supervision

The ability to identify and connect with different audiences and to develop and use effective promotions, communication, and information in multiple media and formats.

  • Principles of Marketing
  • Using Data for and from Marketing
  • Marketing and Communication Technology 
Organizational Leadership

The ability to develop and communicate a vision so that others commit and take action to fulfill the mission and goals of the organization.


  • Awareness of Self
  • Problem Solving
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Collaboration and Partnerships
  • Group Management
  • Motivation and Empowerment
  • Administrative Acumen

The ability to identify organizational needs and to initiate strategies aligned with the institutional mission, strategic direction, and values.

  • Establishing Priorities
  • Goal Setting
  • Strategic Planning
  • Preparation for the Unexpected
  • Project Management
  • Succession Planning
Social Justice

The ability to successfully seek understanding and respect for persons of all cultural, social, and ability identities; to create environments that foster inclusive participation of all groups and unconditional human worth; and to advocate for equity and social justice with and for all identities and communities through education, support, awareness, advocacy, and allocation of resources.

  • Understanding of Self, Identity, and Culture
  • Institutional Awareness and Communication
  • Advocacy 
Student Learning

The ability to create educational environments and experiences, grounded in theory and its application to practice, that intentionally provide students with opportunities for development.

  • Knowledge of Student Development Theory
  • Application of Theory to Practice 

Current Version

In 2017, the Education Council set out to review and propose changes to the original core competencies that were established in 2005 to update language, review how the core competencies should be used and by whom, and to ensure the alignment of the core competencies with the ever evolving role of the college union. The current core competencies, accepted formally by the Board July 2019, are the results of feedback and guidance by the ACUI Leadership Team; a significant review of student affairs, college union, and association management literature; focus groups and feedback solicitation virtually, at 2018 Regional Conferences, at the 2019 ACUI Annual Conference; significant input from ACUI communities of practice; and final review from the Education Council and various subject matter experts. A rotating process to review a few competencies every year is in development by the Education Council. 

For more complete details about the 2019 revision process, please see this article from the September/October 2019 Bulletin.