Monday, December 10, 2012

The Kitchen Table

It’s a time a year when many gather with their family to celebrate the season.  I look forward to spending time with my partner and children and our extended family.  It’s also a time of year when I spend time with the family I choose.  My ACPA family.

One of the best parts of ACPA are the relationships that we develop with colleagues around the country.  Over the years I have been fortunate to grow friendships with a key group of trusted friends.  We get together at some point each fall, around someone’s kitchen table for the weekend, to talk about the profession and our goals for each other in the coming year.  We talk about how we can support each other in achieving our goals. 

We also eat well, enjoy some wine, stay up late and talk, and get very little sleep. 

It’s rejuvenating, inspiring, empowering and surprisingly relaxing. 

This year we talked about how we want to grow personally, professionally and how to effectively balance the two.  The theme this year was clearly transitions….and I am making one.  I am moving from the family at The University of Arizona that has raised me for the last 15 years since my professional beginnings as a hall director, to my new family at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo where I will begin as their Vice President for Student Affairs in February. 

I am going to be quiet for the next six weeks or so.  I’m packing boxes, finding schools for my boys, getting acquainted with new colleagues in California and setting up a new household.  ACPA will continue to move forward towards advancing our leadership in the profession and preparing for our groundbreaking convention in Las Vegas this March.

I couldn’t get to the Vice President’s role without the support of many of my family members, especially my ACPA family and those around the kitchen table.

I cherish them, and hope that you use this season to cherish your family – those given and those you choose.

 Dr. Keith Humphrey
ACPA President, 2012-2013

Saturday, November 3, 2012

University First Responders

I’ve spent a lot of time on the phone this week.

I talked a bunch to my mom and brother, who live in Southwestern Connecticut, just outside New York City.  My mom told me about the house across the street from our family house, now crushed under the weight of a massive hundred year oak tree that fell in the storm.  Luckily, everyone made it out. 

Mom asked me what I would do if something like this happened to my university.

“This isn’t something that gets taught in graduate programs, mom,” I told her.  “Student affairs folks just do in times like these.”

Then I told her that I have also talked to many student affairs colleagues at colleges and universities in the region affected by Hurricane Sandy.  They talked about campus evacuations; closed universities with thousands of students still in the residence halls, and trying to physically and emotionally support students without electricity.

“So, you are like university first responders,” she said. 


As your ACPA President, I am grateful for the countless hours that all of our university first responders have done this past week on the east coast.  I know your work is not complete, but want you to know it is valued and we are proud of you.  I am not sure that ACPA can do anything to help with this disaster, except to let you know you are doing good work.

For those of us who don’t live in the affected region, many of us have students who likely call that area home.  And when they go back to visit over Thanksgiving or the winter holidays, they will see a region that is drastically different from the one they left when they came to campus this fall.  And many of them will need support to process what they experienced when they return to campus.

On my campus, the university first responders will be ready.  I know they will on your campus.

Thank you for all you do.

Dr. Keith Humphrey
ACPA President, 2012-2013

Monday, October 29, 2012

What Student Affairs Can Learn from Madonna

There are few things in my life that I always clear my calendar for:  a meeting with my boss, fun stuff with my kids and, of course, Madonna whenever she goes on tour.  I got to see her tour about two weeks ago (from the fifth row!!!), but that is the topic for another blog J.

Like Madonna, I have been on tour this fall.  Not singing and dancing, but meeting great student affairs professionals from around the country in places like Virginia, California, and New York.

Inspired by all that Madge has to offer the world, I shared with them a specially prepared talk titled “What Student Affairs Can Learn From Madonna.”  And there is a lot we can learn from the principles that have made her career so successful over the past three decades.

Madonna knows her audience.  How well do we know our students?  I mean really know our students.  Do our programs and services reflect them or the students that we enrolled ten or more years ago?

How often do we let old styles go?  Madonna has gone from French provincial, to country, to religious icon, to disco queen and on and on.  When was the last time we closed a department or service that wasn’t working?  Instead, we just add on to existing programs and services that bloat our administration.

Madonna is in improbable places like the Super Bowl halftime show.  She surprises people, sometimes with a kiss of Brittany Spears at the MTV awards.  And she has unlikely collaborators, like the latest efforts with Nikki Minaj and M.I.A.  What are the improbable places that student affairs work can be found on your campus?  When was the last time your work surprised people?  Who are your unlikely collaborators?

Finally, Madonna is a super businesswoman.  It is time for student affairs professionals to recognize that we are part of an industry and that we need to match our student development acumen with equally strong business skills if we are going to survive.

So, go inside for your finest inspiration.  Your dreams will open the door.

Dr. Keith Humphrey
ACPA President, 2012-2013

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Groundbreaking Speaker for a Groundbreaking Convention

By now you know the ACPA and NIRSA 2013 Convention Teams announced our keynote speaker for our groundbreaking co-located convention in Las Vegas last week.  We are honored and excited to have Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry open our annual convention. 

Let me tell you why we chose this thoughtful leader to speak to you.

ACPA always looks for someone who is “on the rise” to address our members.  Remember Cory Booker?  Van Jones?  These folks are now household names and you saw them first at ACPA.  Melissa Harris-Perry is someone who is on this rise, with her own Saturday morning show on MSNBC and the guest host spot on The Rachel Maddow Show, we are certain to hear more from her in the future.  Why bring someone who is a known quantity with a speech given in hundreds of other places?  That’s not special and it’s boring, in my opinion.

Dr. Harris-Perry, also a faculty member at Tulane University, brings the substance to the opening session that ACPA has long been known for delivering and that our members crave.  Her words will challenge your mind and expand your heart….and move you to action on your campus and in your life.

Finally, and most importantly, Melissa Harris-Perry speaks to the values we hold as an association and a profession.  Her work is all about intersectionality and how we can hold multiple identities and truths at the same time.   Like ACPA, she is a champion for the marginalized.

Your can explore more about Melissa Harris-Perry at

Make your plans now to be with us in Las Vegas, Nevada – March 4-7, 2013.  You don’t want to miss this!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Our Work for Society…and Penguins

“Welcome to Eugene!  We’re glad you’re here!” were comments that I heard time and time again from people this weekend as I traveled with my university’s football team for an away game at the University of Oregon. 

When I first heard this, I figured that they were trying to soften the blow that they knew was coming on the football field for my team.  (We ended up losing 49-0).  But I kept hearing it.

“Good luck – we hope you have a great time at the U of O!” said others.  They came up to shake my hand like I was a celebrity.  Comments like that went on and on.

I was part of a delegation of maybe 40 people wearing Arizona red in a sea of 60,000 displaying their Oregon green.  We stood out like sore thumbs, but people went out of their way to make us feel welcome.  I mean, out of their way.  People got up and offered us their seats at the tailgate and told us about their travels to Tucson and how beautiful they found our campus.

For a reality check, we did get harassed throughout the game by a fan in the seats nearby.  He was attempting to be dressed like an Oregon Duck, but he was actually in a penguin costume.  And, it was clear that he had overindulged at his pre-game tailgate.  I’m not sure he knew he was a penguin.

But he was the anomaly in a sea of civility.

Why can’t everything in life be like this, I thought.  It wasn’t that hard.  We entered the day with opposite goals, but were able to be friends throughout the process regardless of the outcome.

Promoting a civil society is key to our work as student affairs professionals.  This is why I convened the first ever ACPA Think Tank to offer recommendations to the profession on our role in producing students ready to advance civil discourse.  We will hear their thoughts by the time we convene for our annual convention in Las Vegas.

I’m even more excited than before to hear what they have to say, and will be sure to send a copy of their thoughts to the south pole so that our penguin friend can take note.

Dr. Keith Humphrey
ACPA President, 2012-2013 

Monday, September 3, 2012

A View From the Heights

Last week I did something that I never thought I would do.

I testified against a student organization at a university hearing where the question of their official recognition was at stake.  The fraternity in question had been on probation for almost two years before this point.  While on probation their behavior represented a flagrant disregard for previous decision and for the care of those in their organization.

I sat there and answered questions from the hearing board defending my office’s decision to remove recognition.  I talked about the inability of the students to rehabilitate themselves and their organization.  I spoke of our university’s attempts to help the fraternity through organizational and membership reviews.

Most of all, I was arguing to get rid of an involvement opportunity for our students and how that is counter-intuitive to everything that we do in student affairs. 

But is it?

When I began my career as a Hall Director I was all about connecting with students, providing them with opportunities to engage with the university and each other, and to find leadership opportunities. 

Fifteen years later as the Dean of Students on that same campus, I still am.  But my perch requires me to see more.

It’s about health and safety.  And getting students to graduation.  And then sending them off into society to make life better for those that come behind them.  And, if we can’t keep students healthy and safe, they can’t be leaders, can’t succeed in their classes, and can’t make it to that fantastic moment of tossing their caps in the air at graduation.

I feel good about what I did.  And I am sure I will have to do it again.  It’s the responsibility I have accepted as a leader on my campus.

Dr. Keith Humphrey
ACPA President, 2012-2013