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Thoughts from members about #NASPACPA
April 10, 2011 - 9:30pm

I've written extensively about #NASPACPA. Voting concludes this week. While we won't know right away whether or not consolidation has passed, one thing is certain. We will have an answer to one of the biggest questions for student affairs professionals: Are we going to consolidate ACPA and NASPA into a unified association?

The interest levels on the topic of consolidations remain relatively high. While many have already voted, it was apparent during last week's episode of Student Affairs Live, which included former ACPA President Tom Jackson, that several are still making up their mind about consolidation.

A lot of folks have written me to let me know of their thoughts surrounding NASPACPA (trust me, we will have a better acronym if consolidation happens!).

Without further ado, I present thoughts, concerns and wisdom from current ACPA / NASPA members:

Robyn Kaplan
Associate Director for Office of Student Leadership & Activities at Hofstra University

What are some of your concerns regarding consolidation?

I'm concerned that consolidating the two associations will make the conference experience overwhelming. National conferences typically have around 5,000 attendees. I was not able to attend the ACPA-NASPA joint conference in Orlando, but the feedback I heard from colleagues was overly negative. Some complaints were people missing sessions because they had to take shuttle buses from one hotel to the other, there was little to no community "feel", and the experience was reportedly overwhelming for most. I'm also concerned that consolidating would eliminate opportunities for involvement and leadership within the organization. Would the same people be picked every time for presentations, for chair positions, to present? How would new professionals get involved in such a massive community? I have no doubt that NASPA and ACPA leadership will do their best to ease many of these concerns, however, I'm trying to balance my big picture thinking with my individual assessment of how this change could both positively and negatively impact my experience and the experience of those future professionals who do not yet have a vote.

Have you voted yet? If no, are you waiting to learn more about a particular issue/question?

No, I have not voted yet. I'm trying to read up and discuss with colleagues more about the pros and cons of each option. I'm hoping to get clarity on what will happen to regions (including their conferences, volunteer opportunities, defined areas of belonging?), how overwhelming nationals will be, how the communication amongst members and the leadership of the organization will work. Furthermore, I wonder what will happen to institutional professional development opportunities. Will the conferences be more expensive, forcing schools to refuse employee reimbursements? If there's one massive conference every year, clearly an entire department or division of student affairs can't all attend at once, so I wonder what individual institutions will do to ensure that everyone is being developed and given the chance to be active in the professional association.

Why (or why not) should consolidation occur?

I am still torn on the question, and to be honest, I don't know that there's a perfect solution regardless of the outcome of the vote. I think consolidation would enhance each professionals ability to see each other all at once, to connect in person (since people aren't choosing conferences to attend but rather will all be in one place). I think it would be great to get the opportunity to look at the constitutions and the governing rules of these organizations and re-define what is best suited for our profession today. The missions of the organizations do overlap in some areas, despite each association having different personalities, and so are we being superfluous in our efforts by splitting the same field by two different alliances? That being said, I do worry about what will happen to the individual experience by consolidating. Will individuals get lost in the masses? Will it be too overwhelming and expensive for professionals and their institutions to participate or support?

These are all questions that I still have at this point and are the reasons that I find myself torn. With about a week left to vote, I look forward to hearing from mentors, colleagues, and peers about their reasoning in either direction while I work to form my own opinion. I do believe, however, that despite what happens - I am excited to be a member of a community that is willing to ask the questions, challenge the status quo, and let its members have a say in the decision and future of our association(s).

Pete Pereira
Coordinator of Campus Activities, LBJ Student Center at Texas State University-San Marcos

You mentioned that consolidation would decrease opportunities for involvement?

The consolidation of learning communities/commissions/knowledge communities. Also, journals comes to mind and the opportunity to present (at least nationally). I think you're forgetting about things that are deemed “redundant”. That’s a bi-product of mergers.

Lisa Endersby
Student Experience Advisor at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT)

What are your thoughts about the proposed consolidation between ACPA and NASPA?

My original reaction, as a 'NASPA newbie' (copyright pending) was divided. On the one hand, it made perfect sense to me to combine the resources and expertise of two organizations that were working toward, in my opinion, almost identical goals to best serve the needs of student affairs professionals. If the spirit of our profession is grounded in sharing and collaboration (as almost every interaction with colleagues I've met both in person and over social media has modeled), it would be remiss of the organizations that represent us to not model the same virtues. While I haven't yet seen any obvious outward signs of competition, I can only imagine that two large, international (I'm including us Canucks in there) organizations that overlap in their audience and overall purpose must engage in competition over resources, conference attendees or even influence. Just like my professional philosophy, I truly feel we would be 'better together'.

However, this talk of consolidation brings up an important point of concern for me around bringing together two associations that are already massive, both in scope and actual size. While my first trip to NASPA was ultimately very rewarding, it was also incredibly intimidating. If the sheer size of the conference was intimidating for this extrovert, I can only imagine what it might be like for others. I'm also a big fan of engagement, and larger conferences can often be so focused on the one way transfer of information (information dump) that they can overlook amazing opportunities for dialouge and discussion. Once again, if the spirit of our profession is also grounded in the belief in ongoing conversation and dialouge (see the #sachat as a prime example) a (much) larger association made from combining NASPA and ACPA could result in an even more intimidating conference that, if not managed properly, could result in less engaging conferences.

So that's my $0.02. Ultimately, if our profession and the organizations that represent it value collaboration and conversation, we must model that in both these consolidation discussions and how we move forward, whatever the outcome of the vote is.

Jason Cottrell
Doctoral Candidate at the University of Virginia

Why should we consolidate?

I want one voice to hear me and speak for me.

We have learned so much about who we are as a profession during this process that we can now allow one organization lobby for our values.

I am tired of the us versus them mentality! We talk about unity to our students, we need to be a unified profession! The debates about NASPA vs ACPA is childish.

I wish I could attend 2 conferences, but it is cost prohibitive! The back-to-back conferences are also hard for campuses right around Spring Break.

We should save money! Less cost at national level means less cost for individuals!

We can be louder at the national level for the profession when we are united. During this dangerous fiscal time, we are are seeing attacks on our areas but the learning that we provide is critical for students! One voice will provide that message louder compared to two broken voices!

Annette Martel
Associate Vice President, Career Development at United Tribes Technical College

Thoughts from a NASPA member who cannot vote due to their membership classification.

I saw that you are going to be writing another post on the consolidation on IHE. I wanted to let you know about something that I haven't seen much talk about. This affects me personally, because I work at a small tribal college that is not an institutional member of NASPA, so I am not eligible to vote in the consolidation election, because I am somehow a "lesser" member, since I am an "associate affiliate."

Although I have worked at institutions that were not members of NASPA ever since graduating from OSU, I have maintained NASPA membership, mostly with my own money to stay connected. Needless to say, I'm feeling a bit on the margins here.

Anyway, I feel very strongly about the consolidation, because I feel like the little folks like me way out in the middle of nowhere are way on the margins already, because the way the regions are mapped, our "local" regional conferences always end up a thousand plus miles away. Anyway, I've accepted the fact that I cannot vote, but it still irks me a little, because I feel like I (and I'm sure countless others) have been put on the margins in what is arguably the most important vote for NASPA ever.

My stance on consolidation is pretty clear. However, when I was interviewing Tom Jackson on #SAlive, I read a tweet that gave me pause. Christopher Conzen pointed out that I wasn't doing a good job of validating views that might not be in favor of consolidation. I hope that by posting some of the above thoughts / concerns that I have at least provided some space for the multitude of views surrounding NASPACPA.

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