Six months ago, I received the news that I was elected to serve on the NACAC Board of Directors. And while the process was different than in years past, I was happy to have undergone the exercise to serve more intimately the profession I love. I do feel slighted about not being able to enjoy the fellowship of my board colleagues in a more tactile way, however, I am still humbled to be in the (Zoom) room where some important decisions are being made to push NACAC forward and steady the ship as we emerge from the Department of Justice investigation and this global pandemic.
We have announced some fundamental shifts in the ways in which we engage with our membership, and though there are still some unknowns, I remain hopeful that these changes will allow NACAC to be more thoughtful and responsive to the vast diversity represented in our professional community.
As a former delegate and affiliate board member, I thought I understood the general premise of being a NACAC board member. However, I am learning that NACAC can be an organization that has a tendency to cut off its nose to spite its face, and there is some distancing that occurs amongst the board, the membership, and the organization. My expectation as a board member was to be an extension of the membership; a representative at the big table to communicate the challenges we see in practice, rather than a supervisor providing oversight of NACAC organization at-large. This, I reckon, might make for some very tough decision-making moving forward.
My short-sighted understanding of the board’s work might be attributed to the general lack of knowledge I, and many members have, about the role of the board. Can I still function similarly on the board to how I would as a member? Would my advocacy be restrained behind my board role? I grew up in the trenches of membership, working side-by-side with problem-solvers and change agents, and I do not want to lose this aspect of myself while serving in this elevated capacity.
To the credit of our CEO and NACAC president, we have gone through several healthy dialogues and discussions of best practices to determine what constitutes successful, sustainable, and ethical board service within the context of our member-driven organization. As roles become more clearly defined, we are seeing a sharper focus on what our duties are and how to marry our passion for our membership with the weighted responsibilities of board work. What I have learned, and what I hope will continue to be a commitment of this board, is that there is a desire for the intersection of the macro challenges of fiscal management, solvency, and organizational growth, with the merits of engaging on the front lines and upholding institutional accountability.
NACAC does not belong to an elite crop of self-appointed or permanently (re)elected stewards; it belongs to our members, and it is my fervent hope that we create an organization that encourages members to feel like they each have ownership and a say in its direction.
To that end, I am both excited and nervous about the road ahead for NACAC and my time on the board. The most recent ballot is a great example of this mixed emotion. The shift in how we elect our leaders will provide a starting point for many who want to engage but do not know how. The opportunity for all members to have a voice in how we elect our future leaders is one way to lift the veil on what can sometimes be a very cloaked process. While the current practice served a need at one point in time, it would be narrow-minded of us to turn a deaf ear to a growing membership that rightfully asks about NACAC’s purpose or if their voices matter. NACAC does not belong to a relatively small selection of individuals; it belongs to all our members, and it is my fervent hope that we create an organization that encourages members to feel like they each have ownership and a say in its direction.
As I continue in my board service, I know that we have the ability as a unified body to move to the other side of this moment stronger and more committed to our practice and to our members. I look forward to the day when we can gather, toast, and cheer for our profession and for NACAC, the centrifugal force that binds us together in this work.
Sanjay K. Mitchell is director of college & alumni programs at Thurgood Marshall Academy PCHS (DC) and a NACAC board director.
Contribute in a meaningful way to new NACAC programs and policies
NACAC members are invited to apply to serve on four new ad hoc committees:
We welcome the contribution of your knowledge, experiences, and skills on short-term, high-impact committees that will help set the future direction of the association.
Please complete the committee application at nacacnet.org/ad-hoc-committees by May 11.
Committee members and chairs will be approved by the NACAC president in consultation with the NACAC Board of Directors. Selected committee members will be notified in May.