ACPA Presidential Address by Keith Humphrey • March 27, 2012 in Louisville, Kentucky, USA • Download a PDF
Thank you so much. Thank you for that moving introduction, Jonathan Poullard and Patty Perillo. I am grateful to you both for your leadership, counsel, mentorship, but most importantly your lasting friendship.
Before I go any further with my prepared remarks, I would like to invite all to participate in a brief moment of silence for Trayvon Martin and his family. While we do not know all the details of what happened last week, we do know that the tragic events are emblematic of the important work that all of us still have left to do for our children.
No one gets to this point in this wonderful association without the support of many…and I am fortunate to have many people in my corner. Heck, even Susan Komives friended ME on facebook after I was elected…that’s how you know you have arrived my friends….
First, thank you to my Vice President at The University of Arizona, Dr. Melissa Vito, one of the strongest professional advocates in my career and a professional AND personal role model. I thank you for trusting me to take this opportunity with ACPA, AND for trusting me on campus.
Thank you to my faculty colleagues and our talented graduate students in the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Arizona, especially Dr. Jeffrey Milem, for their longstanding support of my work (and for allowing me to take a year off teaching to do this!)
And a special thank you to my staff, past and present, who have been excellent leaders that have afforded me the opportunity to leave campus knowing our students were well cared for.
To Dr. Teresa Gonzalez, my informal advisor in graduate school at James Madison University, for kicking my posterior when I got back from that summer internship in LA with blonde hair, an earring and all of the energy of someone just out of the closet. None of that matched with the demands of the second year of a graduate program in rural western Virginia …she made sure I graduated…thank you T, for a friendship that has brought our families together.
To my ACPA family….and there are so many of you….we have laughed together, cried together, changed jobs together, defended dissertations together, roomed in hotels across this country together (and a few of those nights I may give back)….but most importantly we have always come together around our shared love of our profession and this marvelous association, ACPA, which plays such a pivotal role in advancing student affairs work. I am glad we get to do this together.
Lastly, to my husband Brett and our two beautiful children – Isaiah and Robby. Here’s a photo of my family.
I am forever indebted to them for accepting the time away from home…all that time away. As an educator I love the first day of school photos…here’s one of Robby on his first day of preschool. Look at that face…he was ready with all the excitement and energy we see in our freshmen each fall.
Three hours after that photo I was getting a call that he had punched a teacher and needed to be picked up early. So let me be your national role model for the year! Don’t be afraid.
Brett’s at home in Tucson today, even though I really wanted him to be here….but for the safety of the greater Louisville area and these wonderful hotels, we are keeping the boys at home. I promise – before all of you – that I am going to use all those American Airlines AAdvantage Miles I have earned flying back and forth across this country for a fabulous trip for Brett when I leave office. I figure the airplane is strong enough to stand up to a three and five year old….
I have benefitted in the past year from the leadership and guidance of many. First, Susan Salvador and Heidi Levine. They both said the best gift they could give me as President was a strong Governing Board – and they have, but the best gift they have given me is their wisdom, counsel and friendship. Thank you in advance to Kathleen Kerr for her partnership in the coming year. Most of all I get to work daily with a focused and committed Governing Board and a talented International Office staff team led by Gregory Roberts.
I am also grateful for the leadership of Karen Warren Coleman, 2013 Convention Chair, and her entire planning team, for leading our collaboration with the National Intramural Recreational Sports Association for our co-located convention next March in Las Vegas, where we WILL inspire communities of wellbeing.
ACPA is proud to partner with other associations in ways like these, as opening our doors to others broadens the perspective of our members. And that helps our students.
Efforts like intentionally reaching out to another association to share our annual convention is just one reason why I love ACPA. I love our size. We are big enough to bring together professionals from all aspects of student affairs, and small enough to ensure that opportunities for involvement, leadership and presenting at annual or state conventions are plentiful.
I love our prominent history of bringing together faculty scholars and practitioners to solve the challenges students and our campuses face. We will honor that history at our 2013 Convention with reserved programming sessions that highlight joint faculty-practitioner efforts.
I love how we can take the interests of a few, like our profession-leading efforts on globalization and turn them into critical agendas that capture the imagination of all student affairs professionals. We will expand our efforts this summer as Gregory Roberts and I travel with some of our profession’s leaders to visit 7 campuses in 5 Chinese cities to exchange ideas that will shape student affairs globally.
ACPA’s strength is in the depth and the quality of each experience – at all levels.
I stand here today as someone who will focus my time as President to maximize ACPA’s values in support of all student affairs professionals. But my lens has changed from that of the bleached blonde that Jonathan Poullard sent back to Virginia.
Four years ago I became a parent when our oldest son Isaiah moved into our house. That day my frame of reference changed from what was good for me to what was good for the future and my children.
It has changed the type of leader I am on my campus and certainly has changed the way I want to apply my leadership to the profession.
Somewhere out there, there are ACPA members who are hall directors that aspire to be Deans and Vice Presidents. Two of them will be “lucky” enough to have the Humphrey boys on their campus.
Today I speak to them about what I hope for the future as strongly as I speak to all Deans and Vice Presidents around the country who have the positional authority to bring about change today that will make college a better experience for my sons.
Quite simply, the change begins by thinking beyond oneself.
We have a long history as an association of doing what is best for the profession, even if it is not the best for ACPA. For nearly 90 years, ACPA has maintained a steadfast commitment to the same set of core values – the development of the whole student, advancement and dissemination of knowledge, diversity and human dignity, the free and open exchange of ideas, and professional development and advocacy on issues of student life and learning.
These values are at the center of my agenda during my term as your President.
In the coming year we will highlight three of these values by addressing critical issues facing the profession and professionals. We will think critically about these issues, discuss them in respectful and inclusive ways, and present real solutions that the profession can adopt. We will act decisively, not reactively, in ways that support the student learning that we value.
ACPA has the highest commitment to social justice of any professional association of our kind. The worth and dignity of all people has been our hallmark since our beginning. The answers to the critical issues that face student affairs professionals are grounded in the principles of social justice, equity and fairness.
There is no greater laboratory for individuals – students, faculty and staff – to investigate, test and inculcate a belief system and code of personal behavior than on a college campus. I believe our responsibility to advance our society is more informed by our commitment to social justice than by any other framework.
As such, our first goal is to maximize ACPA’s strength in advancing practice through scholarly research by studying ways to produce graduates ready to lead society in challenging times.
Our society is experiencing a rise in behaviors, individual, group, and organizational, that are patently uncivil. We need not look further than the debate of our own political leaders as example. The fear created by an ever-shifting economy has polarized our dialogue. We need a society in which all perspectives, even the ones we disagree with, are afforded equal airtime. We must develop citizens who yearn for balanced and factual information who can engage in rational and thoughtful debate about clear and compelling ideas.
There is much discussion about the academy’s role in producing students who can lead in these times and create productive educational environments for my children. Where is student affairs’ seat at the table in these critical discussions?
In the next year, ACPA will produce groundbreaking educational resources that will help practitioners promote difficult dialogues among our students in ways that demand the free, respectful and civil exchange of ideas that our evolving society craves.
Today, I am announcing the creation of the student affairs think tank, led by Dr. Stephen Quaye, to ensure that ACPA and student affairs lead a national effort to model civil discourse. Dr. Quaye and the colleagues he invites to join the think tank will engage the profession in the discourse in the coming year and will present their findings when we gather in Las Vegas at next year’s Convention.
Second, we will maximize ACPA’s focus on our values around inclusion by concentrating on access and success for members of underrepresented groups.
A cornerstone of civility is inclusion. Access to, and success in higher education for all, is one clear path toward a more informed and responsible citizenry. We need to decrypt the factors of student and institutional success rather than study why individuals and organizations fail. And once we understand them, we need to replicate them.
Our partnership with academic affairs administrators is key. What are the structural impediments in our campus organizations that inhibit our success in these partnerships? The 2012 Presidential Symposium, held this May at Kingsborough Community College in New York City, will converge on the role that student affairs plays in focusing the entire academy on student success. You are all invited to join the conversation on May 18th in the big apple. (I’m sure ACPA will only send you one or two emails about this great event!)
I am told that I am ACPA’s first openly gay male president. In an association that leads the profession in equity and inclusion, this moment for LGBT student affairs professionals is long overdue.
And while I am the first, I am certain that I will not be the last. Student Affairs strives to be a welcoming profession for those that bring diverse social identities to work. Yet, rising to leadership positions is often a challenge as individual identity can be suppressed by institutional identity. These are complexities that many individuals must resolve to advance in their career while living a full and authentic life.
ACPA will explore the relationships between identity, leadership and professional advancement in a new professional development institute for aspiring senior student affairs leaders from diverse backgrounds. Led by Dwayne Todd, Vice President for Student Affairs at Columbus College of Art and Design – an individual who has successfully navigated that complex relationship - this institute will ensure that ACPA is making every effort to promote access and success for our members to rise to the top of the organizational chart.
Third and finally, ACPA’s hallmark of innovation and forward thinking will be applied to explore Student Affairs’ role in the Transformation of Higher Education.
It is no secret that Higher Education must undergo radical transformation. There is pressure from business and industry, government and parents to produce candidates for well-paying jobs, and to reduce the costly time to degree. I believe, however, that the current conversation is missing key aspects of the discourse.
It is not just about how fast we can produce college graduates and what they will do when they leave our campuses, but what kind of graduates will they be? In the rush to produce more faster, critical student development experiences are at risk. Now, more than ever, we know that where we work is not as important as how we work.
What is the role of student affairs as this national transformation discussion advances? ACPA will pair its unique knowledge base with other higher education associations to ensure that the values we hold around all aspects of student development are upheld and that the student experience is not shortchanged. I want to make sure that the experience my son’s have in 10-15 years exceeds the experience that I had and that I provide my students today.
I am not simply talking about traditional undergraduate experiences. Delivery systems, schedules and curricula are far from traditional any more.
ACPA has inaugurated its Institutional Leadership Councils at this convention. These year-round forums bring senior leaders together by institution type to address challenges and I can think of no better groups than these to grapple with this issue.
These sage professionals, from the full range of post-secondary institutions, honor the experiences of all students, no matter how they access and participate in the educational process. I call upon our newly formed councils to rise to the occasion and offer a new direction for the profession that ensures that the student is not lost as our enterprise evolves. I ask that they make recommendations to us for the profession before we convene next year in Las Vegas, so that we may use our time together in a place known for being bold and taking risks, to do the same for the future wellbeing of our profession.
I believe the answers that our profession needs are within the members of ACPA.
If you hold these values, and are committed to the issues I have raised….be with us this year.
And the year after that.
And throughout your leadership in student affairs.
Be with the conversation, the research, the practice and the experiences that advance our role as student affairs leaders in higher education.
We ARE united, as ACPA members – the leaders in student affairs - to ensure that students are gaining access to the higher education arena, developing into future global leaders through our nurturing efforts, earning the degrees that our society desperately needs to advance our economy, and promoting purposeful and just quality of life for all in society.
Today I issue a call to action to all in student affairs to put aside the decisions that ONLY solve short-term problems. I challenge each of us in the profession to move beyond what is best for us in the moment, and look beyond ourselves to create the environments that will sustain society long after we have moved on.
My children are depending on us.
Your children are depending on us.
The children to be of your current students are depending on us.
My best to each of you and your students for the coming year.