Title: Vice President for Student Life/Dean of Students
College / University / Organization: Agnes Scott College
Position for which you are applying: Vice President
In the space below, please describe your involvement with ACPA, including any leadership positions you have held.
I entered the profession in 1995 after serving in the U.S. Army for 9 years. As a new Student Affairs professional, my “arsenal” in the field was comprised of my experience as an undergraduate resident assistant, the 3rd Edition of the “Green Book,” purchased second hand at a local college bookstore, and my life experience. ACPA quickly became for me a source of knowledge, resource, and connection. I took advantage of the many institutes and workshops offered, presented at conferences, and as I grew as a professional, I became interested and actively involved in initiatives that have served to shape and inform the profession – the African American Summit, Next Generation, Ethics Committee, Donna M. Bourassa Mid-Level Management Institute. I have been privileged with the opportunity to serve on the Governing Board over the past two years, an opportunity to work collaboratively with colleagues in living out our core values and furthering our mission as an organization. In each of my leadership experiences, not only have I felt that I have contributed to the profession, but in each experience, I have learned and grown as a professional and as a person.
Please describe how you will work to advance ACPA’s Core Values if elected/appointed to this position.
The core values of ACPA lift up students and their learning. Our work as professionals and educators intentionally engages students in programs and experiences that enable them to develop the knowledge, skills, and abilities that promote an understanding and discovery of self and a knowledge of and appreciation for diverse others. They are immersed in experiences that are transformative, enabling them to develop their full capacities. They are empowered to assume active leadership roles, with an understanding for and a sense of responsibility and commitment to contribute to their community in the pursuit of positive social change in the world. In this learning process, we work intentionally and collaboratively with others to reach the mission of our institutions, valuing unity, embracing healthy self-discovery, striving for sustainability, balancing tradition and innovation, and modeling stewardship of our local and global communities. The collective work of our profession illuminates involvement, leadership, wellness, and holistic growth of all students, providing them with the ability to find and use their unique voices in local, national, and global communities. The ever-evolving campus community, continually informed by our understanding and knowledge of the learning process, holds great promise for enhanced student learning, enhanced student engagement, enhanced retention. ACPA provides leadership in this endeavor…and is positioned to take on even a larger role in shaping the educational agenda. Realizing the full benefit of this depends upon collaborative efforts between and among the membership constituencies and entities throughout the organization, harnessing the collective energies, expertise, wisdom, perspectives, and voices that make our organization a cornerstone in the profession. It requires the commitment and action by our members, groups, partners to ensure that the mission of the organization is achieved and our core values advanced. I am committed to providing leadership and working collaboratively with others to move forward to this end.
Also at our core is community…the strength of ACPA is its community…the interconnections among us, the importance of turning to one another to discover what we might create together, how we might help each other, how we might strengthen one another. We can only persevere and grow when we truly work together. Yet sometimes we may forget the power of community and do not take the time to nourish strong relationships with the people in our communities – our most valuable resource. We can learn from the past…the root meaning of community is derived from the Latin word, communitatus, meaning “the changes or exchanges that connect people.” The earliest and most primitive form of connection among groups of people was the tribe. Kinship was at the center of this organization, and there was a distinct sense of identity and belonging, a sense that strengthened its members’ ability to bond and survive. Tribal life was profoundly egalitarian. Hierarchies, dominant groups, class structures, and other status systems did not exist. Leaders needed to be modest, generous, and selfless; leadership was transient and situational. The process of making decisions was open to all as all voices were welcomed and valued. Honor, respect, pride, dignity, and responsibility were core values. Behaviors not aligned with these values were confronted quickly. There was an emphasis on communal sharing, caring, and taking care of each other. There was a spirit of cooperation and a genuine compassion for others. There was an underlying ethic of reciprocity…you did not take something from another member without giving something in return. Tribal life was cooperative and reciprocal. This is the same understanding behind the meaning of community: the changes that we go through, the exchanges we experience with others, the connections we make with one another, the ethic of care are the very things that nurture us, teach us, bond us, heal us. If we are to create community, real community, we need to covenant with one another. We need to work together. We need to commit to an honorable reciprocity, never taking from one another without giving something of substance in return. At the core of a strong community is a genuine compassion for the welfare of others…a collective responsibility for the common good. ACPA is our community…I am committed to leadership that keeps this at the center of who we are.
After reviewing the qualifications of the position for which you are applying, please describe briefly below how you believe you meet each qualification.
My passion for my work and my interest in this position are fueled by the affinity I have for students and their learning. At the core of who I am as an educator is a passion for creating spaces and opportunities for students to find, raise, and place their unique voices in the world in ways that are transformative and towards an end goal of social justice. As a senior level professional, I coach, mentor, support, and empower individuals and teams, opening doors, creatively providing resources, eliminating barriers, creating structures and systems that all facilitate student learning and development. Over the past 18 years, I have served in positions of increasing responsibility, positions that have enabled me to develop and hone my skills as an educator and as a Student Affairs professional. My professional journey has placed me in positions that have allowed me to do this critical work from a variety of platforms. I recognize that the platform from which I now work is much more sizable, my sphere of influence and my ability to impact positive change magnified. Our profession is a dynamic one, one that requires us to be flexible, nimble, visionary, and responsive as our institutions adapt to new realities and trends in higher education, new understandings about how students learn, and the shifts requisite in the profession as we make indelible contributions to the educational mission of our current century. I am very much interested in working collaboratively with others in planning for our profession, shaping the vision and direction and charting a course that sets our work on a continued upward trajectory of success.
As a leader, how will you contribute to the work of the Association?
I do not feel as though I possess a special wisdom, knowledge, or power that makes me any more qualified for this position than the next person. But I can say that my calling, my responsibility in life is to make the world a better place and I have found a vocation that enables me to use my gifts and abilities to touch the lives of others in ways that are transformative. I have embraced who I am - and the people, experiences, and encounters that have shaped and defined me. My most profound experiences, experiences in which I believe I was able to use my skills and gifts, include the facilitation of Next Gen, where I was privileged to be a part of shaping a new generation of educators and MMI, where I have been a part of creating a learning experience for professionals that is transformative. I thrive in spaces where I have the opportunity to make a difference, to create change, to see new possibilities, and to encourage others to recognize and embrace their agency, beauty, and power.
I do not try to triumph over life, but I realize the mistakes, hardships, and struggles are all learning experiences from which I continue to grow. I have developed a trust in myself and a capacity to stay grounded even as the current threatens to pull me off course. I have had to cultivate this ground…nurturing my convictions, reflecting and learning from my experiences, and trusting not just in myself, but in my fellow beings. Recognizing the power of community, and my responsibility to do my part in creating positive change, I nourish relationships with the people around me. The challenge I give to myself is to live a life of kindness and care, caring not just for others, but also for myself; that I approach all of my interactions with a positive spirit and a lightness of touch; that I listen with an ear to understand and to learn; that I take the time to celebrate even just the smallest of successes. My conversations demonstrate my commitments; my behaviors validate my values. I step forward for what I care about…for what we stand for. And as I continue to learn, grow, and evolve over the course of my journey, I am motivated by what is in my heart. I move through my fears toward what is good and right. I take time to breathe and pause, staying in my present, yet with an eye to the future, focused on taking one step at a time. I am buoyed by the work, words, acts, and deeds of the fellow colleagues and friends that have come before me and supported by the outstretched arms and hands of the people around me. And with each step I continually ready my back and shoulders, making them strong for the next generation of leaders to stand on.
After reading the introductory statement about the ACPA Leader Selection Process, take a moment to reflect on your own experiences at the intersections of equity, inclusion and diversity. How will your experiences help you in our work to champion equity, inclusion and diversity within and outside the ACPA community?
I am inspired by the words of American archeologist, Howard Winters, who defines civilization as “the process in which one gradually increases the number of people included in the term ‘we’ or ‘us’ and at the same time decreases those labeled ‘you’ or ‘them’ until that category has no one left in it.” Throughout our history as a professional organization, ACPA has endeavored to open spaces and create possibilities for those who may historically not been included at the table. Inclusion is a pillar of our organization and we strive to create spaces in which all members experience a sense of belonging, feel valued, respected, feel heard, and there is a positive level of energy among the members that allows each to do their best work. We work towards fostering an inclusive community that maximizes the contribution of every individual and allows us to infuse diversity as a natural part of the way we work, create, innovate. I am grateful for all those before me who challenged norms and shattered glass ceilings, trailblazing a path for me – a woman, a woman of color – to have a place at the table. Who I have become as a Student Affairs professional is due in great part to the enriching, illuminating, and defining learning experiences in which I have had the privilege of immersing myself through ACPA. As I have moved through my career and been included at the table, I have been able to find my voice, raise my voice, and place my voice within a community – a professional organization – that respects, values, supports, and is committed to who I am…a professional organization that enables me to do my best work. And my hope is that I can pay it forward as my voice becomes part of a history of inclusion that creates possibilities for others to find, raise, and place their voices, supporting them in being their best selves. This is a process and a journey, a journey that requires constant self-assessment and recommitment. It requires the cultivation of an open, supportive, and responsive environment and a genuine commitment to multiple perspectives, intercultural engagement, intergenerational dialogue, diverse representation, all within the context of an ever-evolving, multicultural, global community. Our journey has been a long one, and there is still much work to do, but the authenticity and willingness with which we have engaged in difficult dialogues, processed tough issues, critically examined our behaviors and actions, inspires and motivates me to do my part in championing and fostering inclusivity. We will not always get it right, but with a commitment to learning, unwavering perseverance, a spirit of humility, the courage to challenge, a willingness to forgive, and the recognition that our diversity and inclusion efforts are not a finite goal, there does exist the possibility that we will “gradually increase the number of people included in the term ‘we’ or ‘us’ and decrease the number of those labeled ‘you” or ‘them” until that category has no one left in it.”