From the President's Desk

On behalf of the Leadership Pathways Working Group and the Governing Board, we are pleased to share the draft report of the Leadership Pathways Working Group. We invite all members of ACPA-College Student Educators International to read, reflect, and share thoughts on the report. The report will be open for public comment until Friday, 4 September, 2015. We look forward to your feedback!

Gavin Henning
ACPA President


Draft Report #1, 6/28/15

July 2015


This report summarizes work and recommendations of the ACPA Leadership Pathways Working Group. The purpose of the Working Group, as charged by the ACPA Governing Board at the June 2014 Leadership Meeting, was to:

  • Assess the current practices for encouraging/supporting members to move in to leadership roles. Note any that encourage a more diverse representation as well as any that may in advertently not advance ACPA goals of equity and inclusion.
  • Areas to explore include Governing Board, Assembly Leadership and Entity Group Leadership, Editors, Foundation Board, Convention Planning Teams, Appointments to Presidential Task Forces and similar groups, etc.
  • Identify effective practices that result in a more diverse representation among leaders.
  • Identify current practices that may, unintentionally, result in a more homogeneous group of leaders.
  • Develop recommendations for changes and new practices, as needed.

The Working Group first convened in October 2014 chaired by Drs. Kathy Obear and Kathleen Kerr. Membership over the course of the last ten months included:

Danielle Morgan Acosta, Laura Bayless, Paul Brown, Jason Cottrell, Jennifer Ferrell, John Garland, Ebelia Hernandez, Leilani Kupo, Victoria Livingston, Allyson Logie-Eustace, Heather Lou, Cindi Love, Karol Martinez-Doane, Amanda Mollet, Jenny Small, Susan Sullivan, Chandar Supersad.

The rationale for the working group was as follows:

  • ACPA has long been committed to preparing college student educators to support the academic and personal success of the increasingly diverse student population served by college campuses.
  • ACPA has a long legacy of both valuing and working to create greater equity and inclusion within the organization and higher education.
  • As ACPA continues to be an association that is responsive to the expressed needs of members for professional growth and development, advocacy and informed decision-making, it is essential that ACPA leaders reflect the demographics of the membership for several reasons:
    • Members may be more likely to believe that ACPA is an accessible, transparent organization.
    • Members may be more likely to feel their perspectives will be represented and considered during planning and decision-making processes.
    • Members may be more likely to believe they can serve as a leader in ACPA if they “see themselves” in the current leadership.
    • Members may be more likely to believe that they can find a “home” in ACPA as they anticipate that programs and services will continue to shift and change to better meet the increasingly complex, diverse needs among all members.
    • Potential new members may choose to join ACPA if they view the association as a place where people across group identities are successful leaders and contributors to the organization.


Conversations were held with various ACPA leaders in advance of the ACPA 2015 Convention in Tampa FL, USA to better understand access to leadership opportunities.  Leadership representing the following ACPA entities were interviewed: Equity & Inclusion Advisory Committee, ACPA Foundation, 2015 & 2016 Convention Teams, SCW, SCGSNP/Ambassadors, CMA, SCLGBTA, SSAO Advisory Board, External Relations Advisory Board, Books and Media Board, Faculty at Large/Research & Scholarship Advisory Group, International Divisions, ACPA Sustainability Advisory Committee, Developments, Involvement Team, Awards Committee, About Campus, Commissions, California CPA, ACPA Task Forces & Working Groups.

Conversations were also facilitated at the ACPA 2015 Convention with:

State Presidents, Commission Chairs, and Standing Committee Chairs.

Questions asked during these conversations included:

  1. How does your group currently recruit and engage members to become leaders in your group? What are your current formal/informal processes?
  2. Do you intentionally recruit members who reflect the diversity of ACPA members? If so, how? If not, why not?
  3. Do you intentionally recruit members who have a high level of cultural competence and/or competence around issues of equity and inclusion? If so, how is competence measured?  How do you recruit?
  4. How would you describe your current leaders with respect to depth of cultural competence and/or competence around issues of equity and inclusion?
  5. How would you describe your current leaders with respect to how their group identities reflect the breadth of diversity among ACPA members?
  6. Do you intentionally train members on increasing their cultural competence and/or competence around issues of equity and inclusion? If so, how?
  7. As you think about your group’s recruitment and engagement practices for leadership, have there been any identified unintentional barriers for members of marginalized groups? What are they? How have you worked to mitigate these barriers?
  8. What are you thinking about that might help open up your processes to increase the chances of engaging people who are more culturally competent and/or better reflective the full diversity of identities among the ACPA membership?

The notes from these conversations, as well as the minutes from the Working Group’s multiple meetings were then analyzed for themes, and the following recommendations emerged.


  1. Require all leaders to attend and participate in training that advances their cultural competence.
  2. Provide education to leaders in order to reduce how frequently the presence of diversity with is conflated with cultural competence. While the Working Group recognizes the importance of heterogeneity in our leaders and entity groups, this cannot be the sole measure used to determine if the Association is living its values as they relate to diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice education.
  3. Systemically infuse cultural competence expectations into positions via application processes, leadership position descriptions, performance reviews, etc.
  4. Find ways to encourage and empower members and leaders to move away from measuring the diversity of the Association, Association leadership, and Association entity groups in a personal, subjective way. For example, currently it seems as though many leaders personally “measure” the diversity of their entity groups in terms of every identity (visible or otherwise) against the diversity of ACPA as a whole. Instead, ACPA should develop an objective way to measure/evaluate cultural competence in leaders. Leaders desire this. We believe that the ACPA Governing Board will be well served by the:
    • A.   Development or adoption of a formal tool for assessment to guide strategy and measure progress in managing diversity, creating equity, fostering inclusion, cultural competence and promulgation of social justice education.
    • B.   Use of benchmarking with other organizations with similar commitments to cultural competence, diversity, equity, inclusion, social justice (outside higher education/student affairs and within).
    • C.   Regular scheduling of training for all elected and non-elected leaders that is accessible and competency based (ACPA Video On Demand can provide a 24/7, 365 day per year platform).
    • D.   Proactive encouragement/incentivizing of ACPA Grow, Ambassador, NextGen, New Professional Institute (NPI) and Mid-Level Management Institute cohorts to attend a “Leadership at ACPA” session on ACPA Video On Demand.
  5. Adopt, perhaps via a by-law change, a process for an open call for nominations and applications for every leadership opportunity that exists within the Association, and articulate a standard and transparent process for selection (if not election) of leaders by a representative body which includes Coalition Chairs and the Director of Equity and Inclusion, among others.
  6. Similarly, develop an “appeal” process to be utilized by those not appointed to leadership positions when they have concerns about process and/or decision-making, perhaps utilizing the ACPA Ethics Committee, so that concerns are addressed in a fair, objective, and transparent manner. Additional training and competency will need to be provided to the Ethics Committee if it is to assume this role.
  7. Publish on the webpage and in other prominent locations how leadership roles require and utilize concepts of cultural competence – what this looks like may differ depending on the function of the role. Reiterate ACPA’s commitment to attract, retain and develop leaders whose group memberships reflect those of the association members
  8. Review entity group best practices and member recommendations for additional next steps.
  9. Conduct focus groups with individuals who have membership in various identity groups to gain a better understanding of the experience of the general membership. The interviews of this Working Group were conducted exclusively with those who were already (at some level) part of the organization’s leadership.


The ACPA Governing Board will be asked review as a “first read” this report at the 2015 ACPA July Leadership Meeting in Montreal. With their permission, the draft report will then be posted on the ACPA website and call for membership comment will be issued.  Our hope is that this important step will offer additional opportunities for input and suggestions, and provide membership with necessary transparency and an update on the Working Group’s progress. Following the period of membership review, a second draft of this report, incorporating comments and suggestions, will be submitted to the Governing Board in time for their October meeting. At that meeting, the Governing Board will be asked to vote to accept the report and appoint an implementation team to move forward with the accepted recommendations.

In addition, at the 2015 ACPA July Leadership Meeting in Montreal, Cindi Love, Executive Director, will introduce the Governing Board and all elected/appointed leaders to information about evolving international standards/benchmarking for diversity, equity inclusion and cultural competence. 


Diversity and Inclusion have emerged as a worldwide practice. As such, (they) require standards to help ensure that the work is done at the highest quality level possible.[1]

We submit this report to the ACPA Governing Board with:

(1) Key findings regarding current ACPA practices for encouraging/supporting diverse representation of members in all leadership roles

(2) Recommendations for adoption of standards and changes to ensure greater access and participation in leadership by all members

(3) An expression of confidence that ACPA represents and serves members who care deeply about the values of cultural competence, diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice. And, our process provided evidence that current practices and caring about our values do not seamlessly translate into equity and inclusion in leadership.  By extension, we do not create greater diversity or catalyze justice for all members.


Within our membership and leadership, we have varying levels of understanding and interpretation of the basic definitions of diversity, equity, inclusion, social justice education, activism and advocacy. 

Our members and leaders are passionate about affirming and asserting these values in student affairs and higher education and our members do not always feel empowered or competent to do so on our campuses or in our Association.  Or, they feel rebuffed or excluded.

Some believe that they are not “chosen” for positions on campuses or in ACPA because they are too “out there” for the “expected demeanor of student affairs professionals in leadership in ACPA.”  Some feel our nominations process closes doors rather than opening them.

Some are deeply frustrated with what they perceive as inaction by ACPA, Student Affairs and higher education campus leaders on issues of justice, particularly in areas of white supremacy, whiteness, power & privilege, Anti-Blackness and racism as well as trans*, gender non-conforming, gender queer, Asian-Pacific Islander (API) and native/indigenous people. 

What to do?  What to say?

We will not always agree on the best tactics or even the language that should describe what we want to do or who we are. These all change over time. And, we will be immune to change unless we agree on what we need to do as first actions and intentionally take those actions.

One key finding is that ACPA needs to consider adoption of a formal framework for assessment with benchmarks that correspond to our stated philosophy about change agency, its role as an Association, core values, mission and vision.

We hope that the recommendations of our team are embraced by the ACPA Governing Board and infused into our work as a collective community. 

We have an opportunity to offer thought leadership to higher education around the world about inclusion and social justice and model inclusion in leadership roles in unprecedented ways.

We can amplify the voices of those who feel they have no voice as well as those who understand how to translate our best research into practice. 

We can mobilize members of our community to make meaningful change in campus climates where white supremacy and hegemony prevail.

We have an extraordinary opportunity to change traditional partnerships/alliances in higher education from those engrained in white power and privilege to those that affirm and lift up leadership by the “rest of us.”

Thank you for this opportunity to serve our members.

[1]O’Mara, J. & Richter, A. (2014) Global Diversity and Inclusion Benchmarks: Standards for Organizations Around the