Friday, May 29, 2009

The Governing Board & the Association's Work
by Dr. Tom Jackson, Jr., ACPA President 2009-10

Twenty five years ago I really wasn't all that interested in what the ACPA Executive Council discussed during their meetings. Quite frankly, I was just happy to be employed as a newer professional, meeting new life-long friends, and getting a few presentations to build a resume.

Today I devote an enormous amount of time to what the ACPA Governing Board discusses. You should know that ACPA has come a very long way over the years and the Governing Board very rarely "dabbles" or "micro-manages." The ACPA Governing Board of today is more like the Board of Trustees on many of our campuses. We are very deliberate, strategic, focused, and disciplined. We carefully look at issues, try our best to stay true to process and the ACPA values, and value the membership's opinion. Personally I really enjoy being around such a diverse and dynamic group.

The people on the Governing Board have devoted a lot of personal time to ACPA. In the last two days I probably spent 10 hours working on ACPA items. I talked to the ACPA Executive Director twice and the Convention Chair three times. I swapped emails with dozens of members and even swapped emails with my good colleagues in NASPA. We share and collaborate a lot more than people think and have so much planned together. The Convention Chair (Robin Diana) easily put in a good 10 plus hours responding to ACPA issues as well. These are progressive issues, such as how to improve the convention, lower costs, improve technology, better promote the event, and so much more. It amazes me the devotion our membership has for ACPA and the willingness of individuals to share their time to make this an incredible association.

As the ACPA President I try to respect the time commitments of the Governing Board and other volunteers. I recognize that this Governing Board does not need to be deciding on issues that commission chairs, standing committee chairs, or state/international presidents should be handling. This perspective should be common on your campus. Does your President make departmental decisions? I would hope that directors get to handle departmental issues and most senior administrators allow for decision-making authority to exist at the lowest levels in the organization. While I know this isn't always true, I am trying to make sure our Governing Board stays focused on macro and strategic issues and the many other leaders within this association are afforded the opportunity to lead. As a former supervisor once said to me and her other supervisees, "See the potential and ask." She also said, "Lead. Don't wait to be told." I learned a lot from Kim D. West during my short time at the University of Southern California (1989-90).

As President my time during May and June is preparing for the Summer Leadership Meeting (SLM). This is where the chairs and state/international presidents come together to plan and train. The Governing Board meets FOUR times during this four day period. Naturally we cover a great deal of topics. I am trying to push through some issues in June so we can focus on the more challenging topics in July during SLM. We have only a few face-to-face meetings during the year and that time together is precious.

So what will the Governing Board talk about in June? Here is the running list:

  1. ACPA/NASPA Joint Futures Task Force
  2. ACPA Associate Executive Director Vacancy
  3. ACPA Budget
  4. ACPA Placement & Technology
  5. ACPA/NASPA Collaboration with Professional Competencies
  6. ACPA Anniversary Celebrations
  7. Developments (newsletter) and Editorial Board
  8. ACPA Convention Shell (what fixed events happen at convention)
  9. Corporate Sponsor Benchmarking
  10. Major Awards

What has been happening behind the scenes has been supporting the development and establishment of the International Association of Student Affairs Services (IASAS), taking a critical look at the role of specialty colleges, establishing our veteran services agenda, improving corporate relations, and supporting our many sister associations.

The pace required for the ACPA President TODAY is FAST. Things are real-time. Like our campuses, information and communication is often instant and frequent; and our membership, you, are curious. ACPA has a great group of people serving it in volunteer roles. I believe in each one of them and value their commitment to this association, your association, my acpa. Weeeee!

Follow the ACPA President on Twitter (ACPAPREZ) for the most up to date information.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Veterans Are More Than A Campus Number
by Dr. Tom Jackson, Jr., ACPA President 2009-10

This year (and this Memorial Day) was a little more unusual for me. Strangely this year a few more people "thanked" me for my service to the country. It felt odd for many reasons. Part of the reason it felt odd was simply I am not accustomed to being thanked for things too often lately. Vice Presidents (for Student Affairs) are not often thanked since we are often the ones thanking others. Many times the ACPA President only gets thanked when they are actually leaving office. As an adult child I don't recall thanking my Dad for too many things other than the car keys and money, but that was after a lot of effort and promises on my part. Today, as a parent the "thank yous" are not that frequent either. Let’s not even talk about being a spouse (G).

I guess being thanked for my military service, or being thanked for anything just seems odd. It is also strange since my service was not particularly memorable or earth shattering. Like many that have served their country in the military, we put in our time and feel honored to have done so. The truth is, however, I carry no amazing medals and you will not read about me in any history book.

We all love our country. We certainly love the perceived benefits of being an American Citizen and for some of us, seeing the U.S. flag still brings tears to our eyes. Having said this, what are many of us willing to do to preserve our way of life, to protect our freedoms, to defend the flag? I stated in my first presidential remarks that "veterans" are the most patriotic people one will ever meet. Think about it for just a moment. Veterans are those that put actions above words. They are those that stepped forward and said, "I will do it."

It was 1978 when I "signed" on the bottom line. It took months for the Coast Guard recruiter to sell me, and to his credit, he stayed with me. I had enormous pride when I signed. Several months later I took even greater pride when I finished nine weeks of "boot camp." I was a better person leaving "boot." I was certainly more fit, but I also was much smarter. I spent a lot of time in the classroom in all kinds of training. I left basic training for more school. Seven months later I graduated prepared to do all kinds of things, primarily search and rescue. Seven months! That was classroom training eight hours every day. Imagine if college were like that?!

As a small boat engineer I was the guy that made sure the boat was running properly. I also was the guy that put out fires and did whatever was needed on a small three-person search and rescue crew. That is right, if you were the unlucky one to have a boat stall, or a dock fire it might have been someone like me showing up in a small 41' utility boat. Today, these same "Coasties" must also deal with pirates and drugs. I feel fortunate I served when I did.

I don't think I was ever a great Coastie. I mean I had many successes, but I was a civilian at heart. I was a reservist so 28 days out of the month I was all things "non-military." For two days each month I suited up and did my service, knowing that at anytime I could be called up, required, told that I must drop everything else I was doing to serve my country full-time. I willingly did that since that was the deal and that was my perceived duty as a U.S. citizen. I felt honored and privileged to do it.

I still maintain contact with a very dear friend of mine from those days. We both went through basic training together and were roommates in Virginia during those seven months of schooling. He graduated first. I was seventh. He really knew his stuff and I benefited from it I am sure. I also have pictures from that time. I didn't say this earlier but I was also part of a slightly more elite parade and drill company for awhile. This meant that we traveled a little, spun rifles, marched in fancy formations, worked parades, carried the flag, and assisted at funerals. Those funerals were very humbling because we were honoring the fallen that had served longed before us. It also meant lots more work and training.

I can't imagine being in war like our some of our veterans today. Seriously. I mean I recall stopping boats late at night, not knowing what crazy things could happen out on the water. However, this was done in the U.S. and with some backup.

Our veterans today are very diverse. While we often see those serving in Iraq or Afghanistan on TV during a patrol or conflict, we often do not see the many in support of all these efforts. The technicians, the physicians, the educators, the repair personnel, and so many other trades all support our way of life. When we fly commercially it might be the air traffic controller that once served. The training they received in the military has been turned into a lucrative career. My point, it is not just what is seen on TV, although the pride may still be the same.

Whether one was in battle or "behind the lines" providing for those in battle, there is pride and honor in serving one's country. The flag means everything to a veteran. It often is second only to those brothers and sisters that one has served beside.

Our veterans returning to campus are more than a number. They are an extremely distinguished group of people. They are full of pride. They are extremely well trained. They are focused. They value service, loyalty, honor, patriotism, integrity, and intelligence. They have aspirations and represent the absolute best in humankind. They have willingly given of themselves for a much greater purpose at the potential loss of their own life. They are not a means for increased enrollment. In fact, one could make a case for the opposite. They have earned enrollment and represent the best in students, leadership, and civic duty. They are the people we want to have college degrees and the ones we want balancing the public good against individual self-interest.

ACPA, like other associations, will find a place for practitioners serving veterans on our campuses. We will find a place because we have found places for many other practitioners serving students in other capacities. It is the right thing to do. The challenge for ACPA, and the Student Affairs membership across the globe, is to build upon the best practices occurring on campuses today. These students (veterans) simply seek a chance. This chance they have earned, and because of how they earned it, we should give them every opportunity to succeed in this different and cumbersome educational process we call higher education. Give the veteran one solid year, one where they can trust and work with others like themselves, and society will get a college graduate a few years later. Just one solid and supportive year. Simplifying the admission process, totally revamping the transfer of credit process (don't get me started on this one), improving advising, and developing a "veteran friendly" campus is just some of what it will take to create the type of campus deserving of a veteran. Interestingly, these efforts will also improve campus life for all students.

I am a very proud veteran of the United States Coast Guard Reserve, Army National Guard, Texas State Guard, and Indiana Guard Reserve. On a day (Memorial Day) where we honor those many that have paid the ultimate price, I take great pride not in the thanks I may receive from others but my continued service to my country and the service men and women seeking college degrees. This is also one additional way you may serve your country today. Weeeee!

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Opportunity vs. Perception: Give me your thoughts
by Dr. Tom Jackson, Jr., ACPA President 2009-10

In the 25 years I have been a part of higher education I have observed many times a campus that acted cautiously instead of boldly in addressing an issue. Certainly there has been an occasion where I have observed a campus proudly stating a position even when it wasn't popular to do so. That has happened much less, but I have seen it.

ACPA struggles with this same dilemma at times. There are many, many opportunities that rightfully get balanced against perception (or sometimes self-interest). Some of these wonderful opportunities get squelched because of funding, but I am learning as your President, that we can often find the resources for things when opportunity and "positive" perception come together.

There is a perception that we are in an economic downturn. This is inevitable in the free market place and one of those necessary corrections. The downturn doesn't mean "nobody" has money, it just means we may not be "making" money in the speed or fashion we had been a year before. It doesn't mean our doors must close, or even that we must stop being innovative. It may simply mean that we have to more deliberately balance "perception" to opportunity.

Allow me to raise a couple of scenarios for you, as the blog reader, to consider. I invite you to email me at (or with your reactions and insights.

International Agenda

It is well known that ACPA is an international association. Actually, more accurately, we are a strong national association with strong international interests. Student development research drives the global profession. Our many international practitioners are finding value in the professional development offered not only internationally, but locally within the United States. ACPA is represented in 27 other countries. The Caribbean has been actively involved in over a decade and has patiently waited for their association, ACPA, to show as much interest in the international agenda as they have in this association. So what am I saying?

Imagine. What message would it send if me, as your President, brought the Governing Board to the Mona campus (University of the West Indies) in Jamaica for our February Governing Board meeting? Allow me to give you just a little more context as you think about this complex question. The ACPA President does budget Governing Board meetings and I have already modified the budget to easily accommodate a Governing Board meeting at the Mona campus. This isn't about money. The cost is just slightly more than meeting in Washington D.C. and we have reduced costs in other areas. This is about opportunity vs. perception.

The perception might be that the Governing Board is off to some exotic place, playing, sitting on a beach, and having fun instead of doing the work of the association. The perception might be that we are cutting the budget, tightening the belt, and shifting resources -- how is it possible that we can even afford to bring the Governing Board abroad?

The perception could be, "Wow. ACPA is showing commitment to it's international members so much that it was willing to bring its leadership team to an international location, and meet at the campus of its first and longest standing international member." The international members would be ecstatic! We have an opportunity to do just this right now. I have already said I am willing to do this for all the right reasons, but I am also aware that with great opportunities sometimes come less than positive perceptions of the effort.

What are YOUR reactions and YOUR thoughts?

AIDS Memorial

ACPA has long held a very meaningful activity during the international convention. The AIDS Memorial was first introduced to bring recognition to our brothers and sisters that have died from AIDS. It also brought to the attention of the membership the importance of education, tolerance, collegiality, insight, awareness, and sensitivity to a difficult topic, AIDS. More than the symbolism of the event, the AIDS Memorial has spoken to the humanity in each of us. Was this an easy decision for ACPA to make at the time? Probably not. However, it was an example of opportunity and positive perception coming together.

For a few years now there has been some discussion about whether to modify this activity. The viewpoints cover a wide range. There are not many that would say they come to the convention solely for the AIDS Memorial, and there are likely no employers that would say they send staff to ACPA to attend the AIDS Memorial. But, we still do it and are proud of it. There have been emerging suggestions that the activity should be broadened to become a memorial ceremony for all practitioners that have passed. Where does opportunity and perception come together on a topic such as the AIDS Memorial?

What are YOUR reactions and YOUR thoughts?

There are many other examples of "opportunity vs. perception." Nearly anything new that is done, or anything that is changed goes through this same test. Give me your thoughts.

It amazes me the amount of work that goes into making ACPA an incredible volunteer association. Every person gives something of themselves to this association. Please know that your time, your interest, and your passion are not taken for granted. They are valued. Thanks for all you do. Take care. Weeeee!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

If You Have Questions, We Have Answers

On Friday, May 8 from 11:00-11:30 a.m., we are hosting a public chat on AIM. This originally was going to be on Skype, but with the new Skype 4.0, that feature was removed. Instead we will use AIM. There is no need to download any software. All one has to do is join me online. The likely URL will be:
(***Note the dash at the end***)

Do not hold me to that URL TODAY. Be sure to check this BLOG and/or TWITTER on Friday morning for the actual URL. Since this is the first one, I expect a few glitches that we will just have to work through as they arrive.

During the chat please feel free to ask me anything. ACPA has so much happening. You have heard me say it before, ACPA is is an amazing association. "If you have questions, we have answers." Ask away and I will chat with you Friday. Weeeee!