t would be a bit of an understatement to say that my ACUHO-I presidency did not play out as I envisioned it. I had completed five-and-a-half years on the Executive Board before this year. While learning from other presidents, I felt I was appropriately prepared to serve the Association. Things started out great, with an outstanding State of the Profession event and continued work on the Association’s strategic plan. We assembled a diverse and thoughtful board and had some great discussions on a variety of topics.
Then COVID began to spread, and it quickly became a new world. Everyone was in crisis mode, responding to issues on their own campuses. Meanwhile, the ACUHO-I staff monitored the situation and made adjustments as needed. Then George Floyd was killed, and it sent our country, already in a crisis mode from the pandemic, further into pandemonium. Protests and counter-protests ensued around the globe. Adding insult to injury, much of our world and many of our campuses also had to contend with Mother Nature, with fires, hurricanes, floods, and even a derecho in the Upper Midwest. (If you don’t know what a derecho is, Google it.)
Though we all certainly were tested by our circumstances, I am proud of the response and the work of our Association volunteers. When we solicited interested people for the Future of Housing workgroup, more than 200 applied! The selected volunteers strategized and provided information to our members that would allow their campuses to make informed decisions in response to the pandemic. We also solicited volunteers for the ACUHO-I Anti-Racism Task Force, and, again, we garnered more than 200 volunteers. This ongoing task force brings members together to discuss ways we can help dismantle racism on campuses and in campus housing. Finally, by the time you read this, we will have approved the new Association strategic plan that will guide us for the next three years.
Still, I have a sense of disappointment because there were things that didn’t get done. I didn’t get as far as I wanted in our efforts to support small college and university housing operations. The pandemic hit small colleges and universities hard and resulted in some campuses not being able to renew their membership to ACUHO-I. They, perhaps more than any membership group, count on the support and resources of our Association. We lost the chance to have a face-to-face annual conference, though I believe that the Virtual Summit was an effective alternative. The Mid-Level Leadership Institute and James C. Grimm National Housing Training Institute both had to be canceled, and the October conference series went virtual. In short, we did a lot, but I wish we could have done more.
Though we all certainly were tested by our circumstances, I am proud of the response and the work of our Association volunteers.
I want to thank the incredible Executive Board that I worked with this year. Though we were denied most of our chances for long conversations over meals and after hours, I consider these people among my most cherished friends and am proud to have spent this year listening to them as we discussed the important issues ACUHO-I was facing. The contributions of each member of the Board provided context and personal perspective to our discussions. I am a wiser person for having participated in those conversations. In addition, the ACUHO-I home office staff did a fantastic job in less than ideal circumstances. They picked up a lot of work as we had to focus our efforts on our home campuses and prioritized it over the Association’s work. From the numerous virtual roundtables to the creation and implementation of the Virtual Summit and October series, the staff kept us in the know and in the news for all the right reasons. One will never know how much work they do until you are in the position to work with them on a regular basis.
As I bid adieu to 2020, I want to thank all of you who had the confidence in me to be your president and for your support and good wishes during the year. The notes and emails from you were both comforting and inspiring at a time when I needed both. I look forward to the opportunity to thank you all in person. Here’s hoping 2021 brings us new hope, new opportunities, and new friendships.
— Von Stange, ACUHO-I Presidentvonemail@example.com
Talking Stick magazine takes its name from the symbol of international friendship presented to ACUHO-I in 1973 by the Ohiat Band of the British Columbia Indian Nation. The talking stick, or speaker’s staff, is hand-carved, and the inscription explains, “It is a sign of authority carried when proclamations are to be made or a meeting of chiefs is in session. It is a token of common heritage both to Canadians and Americans.”