Thursday, August 20, 2009

Future & Unification Responses (as of August 19, 2009)

When the leaderships of both ACPA and NASPA started seriously talking about the future of the profession and the many positive reasons to consider unification, we wanted to make sure that our members had the opportunity to express themselves. As the ACPA President, I have heard most of my career many reasons why both ACPA and NASPA should unify. As both a long time active member of both organizations it is rewarding to see the many comments that have come from the membership. Please do not stop. We want to hear what you are thinking.

Below is a summary of the many emails both Mike and I have received on the "" account. Since ACPA does not have a discussion board (as NASPA does on the member pages), this seemed to be a fitting way to share the comments that have been shared. There really are not too many secrets here, and this really isn't a new topic for many of us. We have taken out identifying or non-unification related information only because those comments had been written to Mike and I, and we suspect the authors did not intend the comments to be publicly identifiable.

If you have comments about any of the messages simply use the "comments" feature at the bottom of this blog post. As always, please share your thoughts. Our emails remain: (read by Tom and Mike) (read by Tom) (read by Mike)

COMMENTS FROM MEMBERS (prior to August 19, 2009)

  1. I believe that the time for one student affairs organization is here. I am a younger student affairs professional; I have been in the field since 2001 and I am now doing my PhD in Higher Education. I am sure that you have heard all of the arguments articulated a number of ways, so I will just voice my personal experience.

    I am currently a NASPA member, though in the past I have also been an ACPA member. To be honest, I don’t ever see a point where I will be able to justify paying for membership in both organizations. I wind up paying my yearly dues based on which conference I am better able to attend. I do some work in both organizations and sometimes find myself in the awkward position of technically not even being a member of the organization I am working for.

    I will not represent myself as doing a lot of work for either organization, but I have done enough and seen enough and been privy to enough meetings and decisions to absolutely resent the competition (rarely healthy, sometimes petty, often unnecessary) between the 2 groups. Unfortunately I have plenty of examples that cast people and groups in both organizations in a poor light. I have wasted time at conferences and on conference calls having conversations about how we can guard turf against the “other” group .

    Please create one voice for our profession as soon as possible.

  2. You both are very courageous as are the members of the task force that has done remarkable work. Jan and Vasti have provided vision and leadership that is needed and they bring a wealth of knowledge and wisdom to the task. Having spoken at length with Tom about just this topic over numerous years, I think that you, Tom know my feelings on this matter. Mike, I’ll say that this bold step is necessary for our profession to be a vibrant voice and force in higher education in this century. Without it, I fear we will drift and perhaps lose relevance and certainly influence in higher education and most definitely on our individual campuses – not all at once and maybe not on all campuses … but on many and perhaps the majority of campuses, we will become just another service center that is viewed as ancillary to the mission of the institution. We need a solid and unified national and international voice to have impact on the higher education stage now and in the foreseeable future.

    I therefore wish to state that I wholeheartedly support our profession’s efforts to join our two national voices into one and merge our efforts toward the betterment of our profession and our students. Thank you both for your vision and willingness to put aside the rivalry (maybe overstated, but most likely not …) between my two associations and to work to have one vital and strong visionary organization.

  3. First of all, I would like to thank the two of you for taking up this thorny issue which has long been a concern to me and our fellow NASPA and ACPA members. I know that the issues are many and the topic is fraught with potential pitfalls and that you will hear opinions across the spectrum from keep the organizations separate at all costs to lets merge tomorrow. Many of these voices come from powerful constituencies from within one or both of our organizations, and have managed to destroy past efforts in this direction. My first recommendation to both of you is please do not let these voices of negativism who scream to keep the organizations apart win the day this time. Out future and that of the student affairs profession is too important to let this happen.

    While I have met both of you, I know neither of you well. However, your backgrounds and your perspectives are positive and demonstrate large amounts of experience and good judgment. Everything I hear and know about both of you is positive and I trust your judgment. While this cannot be said for some of the other leaders of aspects of one or more of the groups within our organizations, I think that generally people are approaching this with an open mind and with good intentions. I have worked with the executive directors of both organizations and have respect for both as well as staff within the central offices of both organizations.

    I think that the key point of the midterm report is that we cannot be taken seriously as a profession as long as we have two competing broad based professional organizations. Having taught the history of higher education I understand from whence the two organizations have come and the different management structures and focuses of each. I teach an Introduction to Student Affairs course and have my students examine the structure, ethical statements and other aspects of each organization and we have great discussions about which organization best meets their needs. The bottom line is that most young professionals cannot afford to join both and thus must choose. This, among many other things fractures our profession. Congress and the Department of Education, ACE and other general higher education organizations as well as college and university presidents see us as fractured. We MUST come together.

    I cannot tell you how many presidents I have spoken with who think student affairs is a joke. They see weak campus leaders and laugh at how fractured we are. Unlike faculty we have no standards, or common directions, except voluntary ones by which our performances can be judged. We have no common structures and very little literature or research about how our divisions should be organized, how to properly supervise our staffs and this must occur and our professional association (you will notice I used the singular) must lead us in this direction.

    I could go on for a long time but will not do so. I hope you get feedback from many voices and that you and the other leaders of both organizations wisely approach this huge issue. The midterm report is a good start. Don’t blow it!

  4. I have been a member of NASPA for several years, and I am thrilled to see that NASPA and ACPA are exploring the possibility of becoming a single association representing student affairs professionals.

    I fully support the uniting of these two great organizations and I think it is absolutely the right move to make.

  5. I would like to express my support of the unification of ACPA and NASPA into a single, stronger voice on behalf of the student affairs profession.

    I have worked in the field for about a decade, recently transitioning into full-time graduate study to pursue my doctorate in Higher Education Leadership.

    My membership in both ACPA and NASPA has been on again off again because at different times during my career, one or the other organization met my professional needs. Merging the two resources would enable a continuity of support, services, research, and even national public policy involvement which is sorely needed in our nation's higher education system given its historical evolution in a capitalist society where regulation with inadequate funding compared the the K-12 system hampers our ability to serve all of our students, as diverse as they are, to the best of our abilities.

    Thank you for requesting member feedback.

  6. I think it makes a great deal of sense for the two organizations to merge to form a new association. It has always been somewhat concerning and confusing, especially in recent years, as to why there are two separate organizations with such similar missions and philosophies. In light of the demands on our time and budgets, it was always impossible, at least in my situation to belong to both organizations, especially after joining the professional ranks and being required to pay my own membership. I am in full support of unification and I think by doing so the organizations are providing an exemplary model of cooperation, collaboration, sustainability, and wise business sense.

  7. My opinion is that NASPA and ACPA should form as one association. This will increase our professional association's resources (financial and human) and expertise. It will unify our efforts while discouraging duplication. It will give us a stronger voice if we have one association that represents us.

  8. I am looking forward to entering my 5th year of Residence Life experience. Having worked at only two institutions of higher education to date, I have been alarmed at how quickly the professional development funds have been depleted (or some of the first funding targeted to be reabsorbed to cut costs).

    I have been told that, unofficially, ACPA and NASPA have two different primary consumers. ACPA being considered more new/entry level professional and NASPA being for mid-senior student affairs staff. This has also been my personal experience being a member of ACPA in 2004-2005 and a member of NASPA in 2008.

    That being said, in the past 5 years of my professional experience, it has been rare that I have been able to afford membership to either ACPA or NASPA as professional development funds have not been available and I have always had to choose which organization I would send membership dues from my own account to. (Don't worry--this is not a "I'm poor and disgruntled letter!")

    Where I have not been able to afford national membership dues, I have been able to afford regional associations membership fees, so I am involved indirectly and have greatly appreciated whatever professional development comes my way.

    I applaud and encourage the idea of combining ACPA and NASPA for the reasons you have given. My only reservation being that if these two associations are combined, what kind of programming and information will be available to the entry level professional who has eyes set on advancing in the field of student affairs? Specifically, how will the unification impact me as an entry level professional in the event that I find the funding to join? I understand this is a broad question and one that might not have an easily given response, so I am not asking for a response. I prefer that this question be kept on the table as you consider realigning organizational structures.

    From dialogues I have engaged in with colleagues, I think our primary concern stems from the feeling that we give much of ourselves to work in student affairs, and as you have pointed out, we are expected to do more with less, so how will this unification directly benefit its members--at any level? Will we be afforded the same opportunities to network and attend conferences/workshops that directly impact us?

    Will the research opportunities be the same, or will research/journal space be limited into one publication? I have more questions along these lines but don't want to get ahead of the process.

    I am not certain that any of this feedback will be helpful... However, as a practitioner in the field of student affairs and because I am intrigued by the concept of unification, I am interested in helping out in any way that I can in this exploration.

    With appreciation.

  9. I have read the documents forwarded and I would like to commend your leadership in making this happen.

    I fully support the joining of the two organizations and urge you to not let this come to impasse again.

    I appreciate the difficulty of the task but urge you to press on to successful conclusion.

  10. I write to commend and support each of you in your leadership efforts in this delicate but important area of merging two excellent professional associations. I am a member of both ACPA (for many, many years) and NASPA (fewer years but in perhaps more active roles).

    One of the sensitive issues of which you are certainly well aware is the regional vs. state organizations. All of the reasons you mention in your statement affect these affiliated organizations as well. While I strongly encourage my colleagues and students to attend the national conferences and read the national publications, the regional and state options are financially very attractive to many. My state's higher ed budgets have never been generous, and in today's financial realities, the "local" options are increasingly attractive. They have always been a great starting place for graduate students and new professionals as well.

    As a professional preparation faculty member, I am often asked by students why there are two national associations in student affairs. I strongly support both NASPA and ACPA, but this is a tough question to answer adequately without resorting to organizational stereotypes (that I choose not to pass along). In the merger process, I encourage you to continue/expand NASPA's complimentary national conference registration that NASPA offers faculty program coordinators.

    Again, thank you both for your leadership at this challenging (yet very exciting) time for both superb organizations. I look forward to supporting your efforts in any way that I can. Your work is vitally important to the future of the profession.

  11. As a long-time member of both associations, I am so pleased (and relieved) about the progress that has been made under your leadership (and Vasti and Jan’s) towards uniting our membership. I am absolutely convinced that it is the right thing to do, but, as we know, the devil is in the details. Thank you both for being willing to do the hard work to manage the discussion, the strong opinions and, I hope, eventually, the details to make it happen. I sincerely appreciate your hard work.

  12. Given the economic climate and the need to stop duplicating efforts, I think it is time for it to happen. I have two concerns:

    1. There needs to be a knowledge community for mental health/counseling

    2. There needs to be a “home” for identity based groups such as professionals with disabilities, multicultural, etc.

  13. I am writing as an individual member with some insights as a past leader of a constituent group.

    First, I’d like to state that I am pleased to hear that unification is being actively explored and hope that, despite the structural challenges and emotional attachments members may have within each organization, we can find an effective way to move forward with a common voice. Transparency and timely communication is going to be essential through this process, as I know you are aware. It is going to be important for members and leadership to understand the “why” as well as the “how” throughout the process.

    I think foremost on everyone’s mind is how will the unification process affect constituent groups and structure, which I see as directly related to how long the unification process may take. Without some sense of how long the process might take, we don’t know how to strategically plan. How should we work with our counterpart in our sister organization and what should we be discussing at this stage in the process? How do constituent groups without counterparts in the sister organization proceed? How can constituent groups make recommendations to the governing boards that is constituent group specific? How will voices of constituent groups as well as individual members be heard? How will the new structure for the new organization be decided?

    Equally important is to answer “why” to help ease anxieties. Why will the unification take the amount of time projected? Why have some of the concrete decisions not been made about structural changes? Why are decisions being made the way they are?

    Please remember to include – as frequently as possible - the voices of your current leadership beyond the governing boards. Regional, state, international, commission, standing committee and knowledge community leaders understand their unique functional challenges and constituent needs; and can provide a lot of insightful guidance throughout the process. Communication must be a two way street, so even as you, the governing boards and task force are sharing information with us about discussions you are having at your level, also continue to actively seek the advice and guidance of the leadership at all levels of each association for they can help us all to understand what might work and what might not in practice – and each constituent group has something unique and different from other constituent groups that cannot necessarily be lumped together. Even if you have to have someone meet individually with each group, the inclusion of those voices is going to be essential to this process. Bring them to the table before decisions are made whenever possible and help them to understand what the unification process would entail in as many concrete details as you can provide with a rationale for what is happening.

    Perhaps each constituent group can be charged with providing a written “report” or “recommendation” – together with their sister organization counterpart if one exists – regarding :

    1. what they see as the current trends, issues and needs within their functional area/identity group
    2. what types of activities are necessary for the professional development, education, competency, and participation of members of that constituent group
    3. with whom they need to foster relationships outside of the new organization (other national organizations who specialize or corporate partnerships) and
    4. what type of structure may be necessary to address their constituent group activities/needs
    5. how they might move beyond current structures and perhaps unify beyond their counterpart in the sister organization, if one exists (For example, I could see ACPA’s wellness commission, substance abuse prevention commission, athletics and rec commission, counseling & psych services commission, and spirituality task force discussing with NASPAs counterparts the most effective way to address comprehensive wellness issues in a new organizational structure).

    I’m sure you will receive a range of responses to the move toward unification, and I hope the majority of it will be positive. I think you’ll find that most people are supportive of it in theory. The devil is in the details. People are going to want some idea of how long the unification might take (even if it is a loose projection) and why, as many concrete answers as possible to ease their anxieties about what it means on a functional level, and also to be included in the decision making process as often as possible.

    Thank you for your consideration and best wishes.

  14. I am writing to ask how unification would impact knowledge communities, standing committees, and commissions? I know this question has several layers, but how might leadership of these different groups meld if at all, and how might we handle divergences in missions/visions across the different groups? Though unification may happen after my tenure [in my leadership role], I would like to be able to provide those who follow with some indication of what could be expected of them during such a transition. Thank each of you very much for this opportunity to ask questions.

  15. Thank you both for the communication out to the membership regarding the question of unification between ACPA and NASPA. I fully recognize that we need to be very deliberate in how the two organizations look at this important question. As you know, however, this question has come up before and there is a common belief in the membership that we could not move forward on this question a few years back because
    although the membership may have felt strongly to unify, one or both executive boards did not support the move. There was also a lot of speculation why either of the boards did or did not support unification, all which are moot given this current activity. Though, with that belied widely held, some of us are concerned about the process outlined.

    Although it is well intentioned, we believe it may in fact be flawed. Here is the basis for this assertion, though our assertion has absolutely no bearing on any member of the review group. The process outlined states that the two organizations will look closely at this matter and based upon their findings make a decision on whether to put to the members a vote on unification. Currently, there is a strong belief in members from both groups that a vote on unification will never be put to the membership. The basis of this sentiment seems to be a belief that both organizations have leaders with such strong feelings towards their own culture and such expressed disdain for the other organization, that they will insure the body studying this question will never recommend a vote to occur. People who have strong affiliation to a group often cannot fully engage in the activity proposed here. Some of us would recommend that the body studying this question on unification (a) fully disclose its findings to the membership of both bodies (many of us are members of both organizations), including a full SWOT analysis of the findings and then (b) let the membership of both organizations decide.

    Thank you for considering this request. I look forward to the work that will occur on this important question.

  16. I applaud the work of the Task Force and fully support unification efforts and agree that there should be one voice for the profession. I believe one organization can keep the best of both ACPA and NASPA and be all the stronger for it by not competing and through realizing operating efficiencies.

    I have been a member of both NASPA and ACPA for close to 25 years (with a couple of years missing in the middle during a break in my career). Although my current role is broader than student affairs work, my roots are in the profession and it is the professional development I gained from both organizations that allowed me to grow in my career. Earlier in my career I had the opportunity to be active at the state (ACPA) and regional (NASPA) levels, volunteering and presenting at conferences, and serving on the directorate of a commission (ACPA). These experiences have been invaluable and I encourage staff to be involved as part of their professional development as well.

    I share this because I believe there are many professionals in the field who have long been members of both organizations, or who have had to chose one or the other (due to costs) even if they found value in both. It has long been a frustration to pay dues and maintain a membership in two separate professional organizations for student affairs. Because I valued both, I have done so anyway. Even when actively engaged in both organizations, I had to chose which annual convention to attend each year. It wasn't feasible to attend both (costs and time away from campus). I tried to attend each every other year, but often the decision was based on closest location and lowest total costs of travel. The resulting competition is compounded for those who are also active members of more specialized organizations such as ACUHO, AACRAO, etc...

    As the Task Force and governing bodies of both organizations move forward, I urge you to keep the following in mind:

    - Maintain multiple opportunities for active involvement of members at all levels, but especially for new professionals and graduate students to become involved - it is critical to their professional and career development.

    - Maintain publications that are high in quality of articles for both research and practice (not necessarily hard copy - online is easier to search and access, more cost effective, and green).

    - Ensure a strong state or regional structure to provide leadership opportunities and more local professional development opportunities.

    I look forward to future updates on the unification process and I look forward to an opportunity to vote in favor of it as a member of both organizations.

  17. I hope that you are both doing well. I read the midpoint report and all of the great information that has been put together on this important discussion. I chose to wrote back to this email since I am a member of both organizations and in many ways, take part in both organization differently. I very much value my membership in each organization and the opportunities it has afforded me, and many others.

    First and foremost, I think unification is something that needs to happen for our profession. Student Affairs is too vital of a piece of the college experience to not be represented by one umbrella organization. I understand there will be lots to consider, and opposition along the way, but I commend you both for taking this important step.

    I wanted to share a couple of thoughts for how I am active in each organization differently. I thought that it may be helpful as you and your committees consider the best way to consolidate efforts.

    1. Conferences. While I have actively attended both, over the past several years I have only attended the NASPA annual convention, including the joint conference in Orlando. While both are great opportunities, I have chosen NASPA primarily due in large part to the time of year (earlier March is easier to travel than April) and the placement exchange. The alignment of ACUHO-I and NASPA has created a unique placement exchange which I feel offers more candidates to view, yearly.
    2. Publications. While I have searched both sites and journals, the Journal of College Student Development by ACPA is easier to navigate and tends to offer more archival articles.
    3. Costs. Having one organization would hopefully afford all of our institutions and some of our younger professionals the opportunity to know which organization to belong to and more importantly, to do so for a little less money. Belonging to two organizations is expensive but I have always felt that I did not want to choose- both ACPA and NASPA have been voices for our profession.

    I also wanted to say that I would be very interested in being involved in any way that you feel would be helpful. I have just about completed my PhD and am ready to be more active in our organizations, besides the obvious of of presenting at conferences.

    Again, I hope these thoughts are somewhat helpful. Best wishes and thank you for the communication and progress.

  18. As a recent grad student who enters his first job in student affairs in a week, receiving the letter tonight was quite interesting. I wanted to take a few moments and respond with my initial thoughts, looking at this again from the point of view as a new person in this field.

    I'm taking a position at a community college. One thing that has struck me as a concern, is the separation in some respects of two year from four year colleges and universities. Due to the growing need for affordable and what some would call transparent education, it is my hope that the unification effort, would help to not only focus on the great things that make ACPA and NASPA what they are organizationally, but allow for some of the talent within the two organizations to reach out to other groups within higher ed that have had a smaller voice. These would naturally include community colleges around the United States and similar colleges globally who have membership within the organizations.

    While I personally was not involved greatly as a graduate student in either organization, I did attend the Job Placement Exchange at NASPA in Seattle, there are many great opportunities that I feel would be to our benefit as a profession from a united front. First, we are able to use a united voice to tell the story of what we do in higher education and provide meaningful reason to political leaders and other public interest groups, as to the need and critically important role education has played in our past, present, and future.

    Second, it allows for opportunities to be identified in terms of areas of campus life that might not have been as discussed within individual organizations and the direct impact those areas have on student affairs. When I speak of this, I'm thinking of the divide that I see on some campuses between major areas such as student affairs, financial aid, and academic departments. I can personally testify for instance, to the need to withdraw for major medical care last year from graduate school, yet there was only one day to withdraw, July 14, 2008, which was my surgery day. Any earlier and I would have had major issues with financial aid, any later and the issues were with the academic side of the university, problems that are better addressed if all units such as these are working in concert with set guidelines and practices that can be enhanced by an united student affairs profession that is not in competition with itself, much less other stakeholders. This united effort can then establish best practices with other organizations that set policies and recommendations for areas of campus that are some times outside student affairs and work with national membership from organizations that deal with financial aid, academic advising, international students, among others.

    Third, this united front allows for easier access to members around the community of higher education to bring awareness about certain critical issues that will impact everyone at some time down the road. As a person with a disability, I've noticed just on the few campuses I've visited, large differences in physical accessibility issues and being someone who is blind, technology and access to such resources is very different from one campus to another. A joint working group of professionals in the student affairs arena, will allow for a more congruent set of processes to be in place to deal with such issues.

    Ultimately in my view, a united organization has many positives and while I know there are those who are worried about their jobs due to duplication of responsibilities, I believe with the proper strategy, we can come together with a solution that prevents the loss of any job and better utilizes the existing and future talent with each organization, to better allow us to tackle even larger and unforeseen problems that we will encounter in the months and years ahead professionally.

    If I may borrow a sports analogy, the old AFL and NFL were in serious competition with one another and it was when the two leagues joined as one in 1970, that professional football and ultimately the Super Bowl became the huge cultural land mark that it is in our society today. While the ACPA and NASPA competition is not like that of the AFL and NFL, we clearly in my view have a lot more to gain working together than we lose, while doing all that can be done to maintain the unique cultures and traditions of both organizations.

    As I close, one thing that I would recommend, purely as a recent graduate who is just joining the field, is to look at a committee of current grad students and new professionals who are just entering the field or who have held a job in a related capacity for less than three years. We can bring another perspective through these critical discussions, as to what we have enjoyed and wished was different about our professional and educational experiences, providing important information that these two incredible organizations can use to better support the future members of our profession. A critical area that has been and must get continued attention is what we are doing and what can be done better in the preparation programs for professionals in our field and that is one area I believe strongly a united front could perhaps help more than ever. As a new grad two years ago, I thought there is a student affairs way, not just a ACPA way and a NASPA way and this united front is something I would gladly welcome.

  19. The name selected for your email address really says it all. It is time that student affairs professionals and their two primary professional associations present themselves with a common voice in as many areas as possible. I am an advocate for a single organization, but recognize that this may be either impossible or not immediately practical. Therefore, I support any and all steps taken to unify our efforts, reduce duplication, and draw more successfully from the power of our collective membership.

  20. I’ve thought for years that the redundancy in the two organizations has been problematic both from an access perspective as well as cost. Please unify. There are plenty of other organizations in the country that are as big as a combined organization would be. A common resource and a common voice!

  21. Having served on two committees (ACPA) over my 65 years of membership in both associations, whose purpose was to explore a possible among ACPA and NASPA, it heartens me to read of your work thus far on this same matter, and especially the systematic approach to the resolutions of problems associated with such action.

    You are to be commended for your dedication and labors in this regard and with my fervent hopes that sometime before my departure from this earth you will succeed, and in the new form of a singular association be in a better position to provide leadership to our professional field and to better serve the educational needs of American college students and their institutions.

    If you are like me, the last thing you need is more e-mail, so I will keep this brief.

    I have read with great interest the movement for possible unification of our associations, and I know such a move is fraught w/administrative land mines and pot holes – not to mention the emotional aspects of such a move – but my view is “forge ahead”. As a longtime member of both associations, I have felt this way for many years, and, should the associations want members to do work – on subcommittees, etc. – I’m willing to lend a hand. Know that I would be coming into any discussion as a proponent of unification.

    Thanks for providing the e-mail opportunity to offer thoughts. And for your leadership of our associations. I don’t know how you do it, given your jobs, families, etc. A tip o’ the chapeau to each of you…

    Good luck as we start another academic year.

  22. I am sure you are receiving many emails so I will keep it brief. I believe it is time to create a new comprehensive association that brings together the membership and programs of ACPA and NASPA. I realize that merging the two associations into a new association is a very complex process but it is one that will strengthen our voice within and beyond our student affairs community. I believe that it is unproductive to continue to operate with what often feels like a competitive relationship between the two associations. As a profession, we are frequently talking about the need for greater unification and blurring of lines between divisions on campus; maintaining the separation between our two associations does not seem to role model the type of approach we are espousing for our own campuses. In addition, it is difficult for us, from a practical and financial point of view, to pay for the membership the two associations, attend placement at both conferences, and attend/present at both conferences. We often feel the pressure to contribute to and participate as active members in both associations because we want to reach as many colleagues in student affairs as possible. One of my favorite experiences relating to professional development through ACPA/NASPA in my career thus far was the joint conference in Orlando. That conference provided the best opportunities for networking, education, and for finding top notch candidates through placement. This is what our future should be like.

    I am very much in favor of unification and sincerely hope that the leadership of both associations can reconcile differences and find a way to come together with one voice.

    Thank you and I wish you the best of luck!

  23. Having been a member of both organizations for over 25 years, I would agree that they appear more similar than not. What I have found is choice - which city do I prefer to visit for the annual conference - who has the better keynote speakers - which is cheaper - where is there an opportunity for me to easily volunteer and get involved. Although ACPA tends to be more heavily focused on diversity topics and current research, NASPA offers higher level (SSAO) topical discussion. Both are good at serving the practitioner.

    In today's economy and as higher education begins to become leaner, I don't feel having the luxury of choice will be available. With my budget trimmed significantly, I will now have to select an organization to be loyal to and make a sole commitment. For that reason, I am supportive of combining ACPA and NASPA - take the best of both organization and create the premier professional organization in higher education - the organization that is exclusively committed to student success.

    Thank you for asking for feedback from our membership.

  24. I appreciate the leadership that both of you are providing to the question of the future of student affairs associations. The present draft report is not earth-shaking; however, it does state in clear and concise ways the dilemma that we face – how to overcome a substantial history of separation and competition between ACPA and NASPA?

    I understand why it was important for the Task Force to back up to establish a vision for Student Affairs before it jumped into the issue of associations. I am pleased that the vision recognized the 1937 SPPV and its contemporary relevance. The bullet points under “Today’s Vision” seem to me to be a combination of the learning-centered focus of ACPA and the administrative focus of NASPA. Combining these perspectives into the points is a good way to demonstrate that both ACPA and NASPA perspectives are valued and necessary. However, the vision statement and the bullet points don’t really establish a new “Future of Student Affairs.” I hope that, as you move forward, that the vision is not portrayed as new but simply a combination of views that have been important to us from the start; let’s build on our solid foundation rather than spinning the vision as if it is a new and improved perspective.

    In my estimation, the only thing holding ACPA and NASPA back from joining forces is the inertia of past perspective and stake-holder pride in both associations. I am a “senior” in the field and hope that all of us, regardless of number of years of experience, can move on to form one voice for the field. A completely new name should be chosen for this new association and both ACPA’s and NASPA’s historical contributions to Student Affairs should be affirmed as we make our way to the new organization. I hope that decisions can be made and transition plans established to create the new comprehensive student affairs association for 2012. Three years is plenty of time to figure this out and there’s a nice symmetry to the 75th anniversary of the SPPV being marked by one unified professional association that will secure the role of student affairs in higher education’s future.

    I look forward to watching as your work continues. Let me know if I can help in any way.

  25. It makes sense for the two organizations to merge. Additionally, with a merger taking place and having a unified and larger membership base it would be nice if this one unified organization could sponsor two separate conventions. An east coast and a west coast. I feel that each might get a larger attendance than having them both in the same geographic region of the country. This is especially true due to the current state of the economy and the costs of travel. It's easier to travel a short distance than to have to buy a flight across the country, and makes our a major part of our organization's professional development component more accessible to a broader audience.

  26. Good to get your letter and to read the mid-point report. A quick email as I get ready to greet arriving student staff this evening:

    I am so pleased to know that we are – as a profession – setting aside some of the competition and pettiness that has long been harbored and moving forward to what we collectively believe will be best for our future and our students.

    Know that there are several voices from here in [the midwest] who are thrilled that headway is being made by Vasti and Jan and the TF – and that the staffs of both highly valued organizations are cooperating. I hope that the collective spirit and goodwill doesn’t get drown in the details that are bound to emerge.

    As a loyal dual-member and on behalf of my staff, I send my thanks, encouragement, and support for these efforts.

    Best to you both.

  27. My good friends, simply, thank you.

  28. Greetings from from a current member of both ACPA and NASPA.

    I am a student affairs faculty member, and I enjoy membership benefits in both. I think unifying your organizations would be A WONDERFUL THING. It makes perfect sense. Both of your annual conferences are typically held in March, and I can only attend one conference. I know that many of my colleagues are opting to only join one of your organizations, especially in these tight budgetary times. The mission and good works that you do are very similar and it is time to present one strong voice for student affairs.

    It would be great to combine your resources and make an organization that is bigger, better and stronger as you move forward into the 21st century. Please unite!

  29. I love the idea of the unification of ACPA and NASPA into one organization! Since I started graduate school (1996) I have been a member of ACPA because I felt more of an identification with that organization, however, each of the three universities I have worked at since then have been NASPA members (or at least placed an emphasis on NASPA). The purpose and mission of the two groups are so similar that it only makes sense to go forward with this plan. It would eliminate the confusion new professionals have as two which of the two groups to join, what are the advantages of one over the other, how to afford to attend placement at both conferences, etc. I like the idea of all of us nationwide being united under the umbrella of one major organization. The only concern I have is the size of the joint meeting each ten years is so large we only seem to be able to consider venues that are extremely expensive for members to attend and stay at (Gaylord in Orlando). With the way our budgets in California have been significantly cut the last two fiscal years in a row now, the more limited our professional development funds will be to attend these important gatherings.

  30. Best news I’ve heard since entering the profession.

  31. It's really quite simple to explain why I do not support unification. I have attended both conferences, and I fear that the openness and celebratory feeling that comes with ACPA as well as the openness to graduate and undergraduate students that is part of ACPA will both disappear if unification occurs. I do not find these to be important climate elements in NASPA.

  32. I strongly support the notion that Student Affairs should be represented by one organization. It is definitely time to unite NASPA and ACPA. Unfortunately, this should have occurred 10 years ago!

  33. This sounds like a wonderful idea. I am a new professional (in my second year in a professional position) but I enjoy seeing colleagues and mentors that are part of both ACPA and NASPA. In grad school we talked multiple times about the separate organizations and their relative merits, but it did really seem like we were giving up something to be part of only one. Similarly, I have gravitated towards ACPA, but my supervisor is heavily involved in NASPA, so I don't get to see her presentations.

    I certainly understand there will be some turmoil for folks that are heavily invested in and attached to one organization or the other, but from my corner of the world, I think a joint organization is wonderful idea I fully support.

    That is my two cents, from the bottom of the totem pole! However, if there is any meeting or board in my region (the Northeast!) that I can be a part of to assist in this decision, just let me know.

  34. Although there could be many challenges with unification---I'm thrilled that there is such support for this brave, bold step. Shoot we've been discussing substantive associational collaboration since I've been in the profession---which is more than a few decades!!

    From a process perspective, I'm a little concerned that if some assurances about containing costs, retaining services, and respecting the current associational cultures are absent, some of our colleagues will begin to envision the worst. I'm wondering if the associations could borrow from a business model and hire a consulting firm from outside student affairs to do a thorough assessment of what services and programs are essential. Further, there are many in our profession who are not members of either ACPA or NASPA. If these perspectives are also addressed, we may find important emphases for future marketing of a unified association.

    You may ask why I think it's important to have assessment done by outsiders---I think those of us who've been around for decades often make assumptions that lack validity. I know that universities and colleges who want to "rebrand" themselves often look to outside marketing firms for data-driven suggestions. I think it would be helpful for us to think about this type of best practice.

    THANKS for all of your diligent and courageous work.

  35. I cannot think of two better people to be serving as presidents of ACPA and NASPA and to be providing leadership in this venture. I appreciated [others] comments and have the same difficulty responding to the same questions from our graduate students and young professionals. It is time that the two organizations come together as one. We need a single voice for student affairs in higher education in Washington and the world. Keep up the outstanding work and know that I support all your efforts.

  36. Very nice message…it is good to be connected with you!!!!

  37. Thanks to both of you for your leadership and courage on this issue. I understand this is a complex issue and difficult discussion, but a necessary one. I truly hope we can work out the issues and details to facilitate a smooth merger of the two organizations.

  38. After more than 20 years being torn between both professional organizations, this Task Force and its discussion of unification of the two organizations is more than a breath of fresh air - it's a full blown wind!

    Thank you for being the two leaders who resist the temptation to see the task as too monumental and the two organizations as too different historically and culturally to be able to find common ground. You must be the right people in the right place at the right time. As someone who cannot personally or as a leader of my department afford to send staff to both organizational conferences and for our department in particular - to both ACPA and NASPA's assessment institutes - we see discussions about unification as imperative for the profession and practical for professionals.

    Thank you again for endorsing and leading the effort.

  39. Please do it! I look forward to the unification of the associations!

  40. I feel you are just the right 2 guys at the right juncture in these 2 orgs development to lead this discussion. I really appreciate your leadership in bringing forward this issue and giving it the proper vetting at the leadership level as well as certainly the member level.

  41. Already member of NASPA and AHEAD. Just thought you would like to know I just joined ACPA too, per my suggestion at the AHEAD meeting we had with ACPA and AHEAD execs. Now will look for professional opportunities to continue to link our groups together. Would love to be involved in scholarly pursuits like the AHEAD JPED.

  42. AMEN! This is long overdue. As a graduate student in College Student Personnel 30+ years ago, there was actually a discernible difference between the two organizations. NASPA was perceived as being a little more stuff shirt and less progressive while ACPA seemed to have a larger umbrella that readily embraced a more diverse constituency that included the rank and file. Over the decades, those distinctions gradually faded and it truly is difficult to justify maintaining two separate organizational structures.

    As a University Ombuds, I am a member of the International Ombudsman Association ( which was formed by a merger of the The Ombudsman Association (TOA) with the University and College Ombuds Association (UCOA). Suffice to say, the challenges presented by that merger were definitely more formidable than those presented by a marriage of ACPA and NASPA. (TOA had more of an international flavor from business and government while UCOA was academic primarily from North America.) If they could do it in relatively short order, we can too! Here’s one emphatic vote to keep this initiative and unification proposal on track!

  43. Thank you for your openness to considering a unification of ACPA and NASPA. After being a member of both organizations, I see a number of benefits to having one comprehensive student affairs association. These have been articulated well in the Task Force report from July 2009 so I will not duplicate them here.

    I am simply writing to affirm that I believe one association is in the best interest of student affairs, the best interest of student affairs educators, and most importantly, in the best interest of our students.

    Thank you for making this issue a priority and establishing methods for members to provide their input and thoughts.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

ACPA and NASPA: Exploring a Common Voice by NASPA and ACPA presidents (joint letter)

For decades, ACPA and NASPA have both existed to serve the student affairs profession with research, professional development opportunities, public policy information, and services for campuses and members. Both associations are proud of this legacy of meeting the needs of our shared profession.

In 2008, the leadership of both associations charged the Task Force on the Future of Student Affairs to envision the future of the profession and recommend how to strategically achieve that future. In the first year, the Task Force members focused on creating a Vision and Principles statement that could help unite the profession. Once that task was completed, the Task Force then focused on how the profession could effectively achieve that shared vision.

As the Task Force engaged in this process, it became clear to them that it was difficult to complete their charge without researching the infrastructure issues that come with two comprehensive student affairs associations. Thus, the Task Force recommended that the governing bodies of both associations charge the executive directors to explore the opportunities for structural alignment. In their respective spring meetings, the governing boards so charged the executive directors. The executive directors reported at the recent summer leadership meetings that they were able to identify many areas of potential structural alignment and financial efficiencies.

The executive directors and Task Force Chairs also had informal conversations with sister student affairs associations and received favorable responses from these colleagues regarding the work of the Task Force. The observation was made often regarding the potential strength of "one common voice" for the profession. It is in this context that the Task Force provided a mid-point report this summer to the leadership bodies that provided a preview of their work and recommendations. At the heart of their report is a draft of a statement of Vision and Principles for Student Affairs and a set of recommendations that endorse the concept of one organization that coordinates and represents the student affairs profession; and articulates the governing bodies' responsibility to drive this process to explore unification.

In response to this mid-point report, both governing bodies acted upon the following motion:

"The Board received, and considered favorably, the initial recommendations of the Mid-Point Report of the Task Force for the Future of Student Affairs and commends it to the membership for further discussion."

Both associations are now at the point where we will engage in open dialogue with our respective memberships to consider the Task Force's report and especially the question of whether or not to bring unification to a vote. This fall will be used to seek member feedback on this topic. As both associations discuss the future of the profession and the question of the unification of ACPA and NASPA, we want to hear your voices. We invite each of you to review the Mid-point Report from the Task Force for the Future of Student Affairs. The report is located online at: and

After reviewing this document, we want to hear what you have to say. Please direct your comments to one of the three emails listed below: - (read by both Tom and Mike) - (read by Mike) - (read by Tom)

NASPA members also have the option of participating in an online dialogue with colleagues within the members-only section of the NASPA website. Simply log in, click on "Discussions," and view the "Current Issues" discussion area.

The governing bodies of ACPA and NASPA have taken unprecedented steps to openly discuss the future of the profession and a possible unification of the two comprehensive student affairs associations. However, this is just one step in a complex and consultative process. The respective governing bodies also endorsed the establishment of a unification exploration team (consisting of the current, past, and incoming presidents, and executive directors of both associations), as well as the selection of a consultant to work with the team and legal counsel through this current process to explore unification. In the coming weeks we will work diligently to keep you informed as this process unfolds. There is much to do as we deliberately design a process to hear your voices and explore the future of our profession and associations. We look forward to hearing your perspectives on this important topic.

Written by Mike Segawa (NASPA President 2009-10 and Tom Jackson, ACPA President 2009-10