NACAC Special Interest Groups (SIGs) nurture the growing diversity in
our association by providing "micro" communities within which members
can network and add value to their NACAC membership experience.
SIGs can be created around a variety of different interests, ranging from identity to institution types or students served.
Jill Corbin, director of college and transition counseling at Denver
Academy (CO), said the idea for the Learning Differences SIG came up
while she was in Boston for the 2017 NACAC National Conference.
“I was reflecting on the events leading up to the start of the
conference, specifically, bus tours to Curry College, Dean College,
Landmark College, and Regis College, with my Denver Academy colleague
and eventual SIG co-creator, Carey Eskesen,” she said. “We couldn’t seem
to shake the sense of genuine community experienced among the fellow
high school counselors on the tours. We agreed that it had been
incredibly energizing to connect with secondary and postsecondary
professionals who counseled diverse learners from all over the world.
The number of high schools in the US dedicated to serving students with
diverse learning needs is quite small, so it felt like we were finally
meeting our peer group.”
Andrew Moe, director of admissions at Swarthmore College (PA), and
Peggy Jenkins, executive director of Palouse Pathways (ID), started
discussing the creation of a SIG about rural college access because they
were surprised one didn’t exist already.
“Rural students graduate high school at the highest rates among
urban, suburban, and rural students, yet they attend college at the
lowest rates, and we needed to change this. Because of this urgent
challenge, we wanted to gather folks in rural high schools, college
admission offices, community-based organizations serving rural students
physically and virtually, and others with an interest in rural college
access to ensure professionals were able to connect with one another to
devise strategies to increase college-going rates among rural and
small-town students,” Moe said.
For David Kamimoto, associate director of admissions at University of
California-Santa Cruz, creating the Asian American/Pacific Islander SIG
was about necessary representation within NACAC.
“After attending a NACAC conference years ago and noticing several
Special Interest Groups that were listed in the program, I began to
wonder why there was not an Asian American and Pacific Islander SIG. I
was disappointed that this group was not represented, and I brought the
question to some NACAC staff members I knew,” he said. “They greeted me
enthusiastically! They shared that they wanted to grow the SIGs and
needed people to step up and help launch them.”
The creation of a new SIG requires a proposal to be submitted to NACAC for review and approval.
The proposal must include:
“The process of creating a NACAC SIG was not overwhelming but did
require some initial legwork. After receiving initial approval and
support from NACAC leaders and the promise of a meeting room at the next
conference, my colleague Alice Tanaka and I began letting members know
of our initial meeting,” Kamimoto said.
“In those early days, we made flyers and handed them out to people we
knew and saw. A lot of the networking happened by word of mouth. During
that first meeting, we all shared reasons why we wanted to form a
special interest group and began discussions on our first mission
Corbin said the process of creating a SIG was easy and straightforward.
“Carey Eskesen, fellow LD SIG co-founder, and I drew up the proposed
mission statement while brainstorming at one of the conference hotels in
Boston. The next day I was part of a speaker panel focusing on finding
success for the LD student,” she said. “At the conclusion of the
session, I quickly polled attendees on their interest level regarding
the creation of a SIG specific to students with learning differences.
The response was overwhelmingly in favor and that day we collected far
more than the 15 necessary signatures to form a SIG.“
Moe didn’t want to wait for the national conference to create the
Rural and Small Town SIG. He was able to find the necessary signatures
in “an hour and a half after posting our SIG idea on social media.”
Once the group was created, SIG leaders worked to spread the word and keep members connected.
Growing a new group requires work, but Moe said it is definitely worth it.
“We have made a concerted effort to ensure everyone who cares about
rural college access and serves rural and small-town students knows
about our SIG,” he said.
“We post daily to social media, connect with rural education networks
and organizations, and conduct outreach to college admission offices.
Additionally, we have emailed thousands of federally designated rural
and small-town high school counselors, rural private schools, CBOs, and
independent education consultants,” Moe said. “Soon, we are launching
our 50-state strategy with members serving as state and local SIG
captains, encouraging others in their backyard to join the SIG and
spread the word among their networks. Finally, we have developed
buttons, logos, and flyers and hand these out at college admissions
conferences, such as the annual conference, ACAC conferences, GWI, and
the Rural College Access & Success Summit. Since starting in
November 2018, we have gained more than 1,500 members from all 50
states, US territories, and a dozen countries around the world.”
And while leaders of all SIGs must be NACAC members, nonmembers can join a SIG for free. Moe said this is crucial.
“Most of our counselor members are not NACAC members, and when we
asked our members why they had not joined the association, they reported
that they lacked professional development funds to do so,” he said.
“We believe SIGs serve important constituencies—those who might lack
membership funds for various reasons — and that it's vital to offer our
services and resources for free.”
Grow Your Network ... Learn more about NACAC’s Special Interest Groups at nacacnet.org/SIGs.
Ashley Dobson formerly served as NACAC’s senior manager of communications, content and social media.