As association CEOs face many of the issues that affect higher education and the greater world around us (health care, job creation, technology improvements, recruitment, retention, etc.), the least talked about topic seems to be the challenge of how to make our associations more appealing to an international audience.
The role and value of auxiliary/ancillary services in higher education is not a landscape limited to institutions in the United States. Indeed, many of the advances in programs and services to support students and increase revenue opportunities have come from our colleagues in other countries. The higher education landscape is filled with examples of international partnerships and collaborations that have resulted in a more global perspective of research, teaching, and learning.
Last month NACAS held its annual conference in Montréal, Québec, Canada, and it was a great event for learning and renewing connections to improve business outcomes.
The success of this conference in attracting more Canadian institutions and members than ever before in the history of NACAS was not accidental or simply based on the event location. As the NACAS CEO, I worked with the CEO of the Canadian Association of University Business Officers and the NACAS Annual Conference planning team, led by our Canadian members in the development of programs and outreach efforts over the past year, to build our brand and the credibility of our message to our Canadian and U.S.-based members. We also launched new marketing messages and engaged in outreach efforts to directly reach auxiliary service-type colleagues in the U.K., France, and Australia. The message was simply this: We value what you know and respect what you do as auxiliary service operations serving your institutions.
Many of our business partners have international operations or are international corporations working in other countries, and we also solicited their participation in our conference as they have much to offer us.
I still hear questions about the challenges of holding a conference outside of the U.S. or what value it brings to an association. Even questions about what the U.S. institutions can learn from the higher education business activities in other countries. As the NACAS CEO, I respond that no one institution has the solution to every problem or opportunity. NACAS is better for its ability to attract a diversity of professional talent, business partners, and educational programs from a global perspective.
NACAS does an excellent job of working with our community college members to identify programs and services to support their uniqueness and to take advantage of their strengths in working with the most diverse landscape in our country.
A large portion of the institutional membership of NACAS comes from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, whose unique place in the education landscape also celebrates creative programs and services that not only enhance revenue opportunities, but also support educational outcomes.
NACAS is better because of the great diversity of professionals, and the business and educational talent they bring to lead our Association, chair our committees, and lead our regions.
NACAS is supported by over 80 Canadian member institutions who, for 46 years, have made NACAS better through their participation and volunteer leadership. Still the question comes, “Can we be successful having an annual conference in Canada?” The answer after our experience in Montréal is a resounding, “Yes.”
NACAS is moving decidedly in an international direction to support our members whose own institutions desire to take advantage of global expertise, global business practices, and global partnerships.
NACAS is decidedly diverse. NACAS has a rich history of valuing diversity, and the international direction will only add to that history and the new stories of achievement and recognition.
I would appreciate hearing your stories from your campuses of what value is being gained by international inclusion. I hope that we can learn from the study abroad trips, the international student populations, and the international campus partnerships, and see them as opportunities and not challenges. Sometimes becoming international is not taking a trip somewhere, it’s as simple as going beyond where you are.
Enjoy the rest of 2014, and I hope to see you very soon in 2015.