Shaun Harper, professor and founder and executive director of the University of Southern California Race and Equity Center, challenged all of us in his main stage speech at the NACAC National Conference in Seattle in September 2021. At the end of his remarks, he requested, and we agreed, that he should come back to our 2025 conference as he hopes to show a collection of inspiring and instructive examples of institutions that have done antiracist work “right.”
Every one of our more than 25,000 members can contribute to making our profession better and more equitable for historically excluded students. (If you need ideas on how to make a difference, watch Harper’s presentation as he gives numerous suggestions.)
But NACAC is no different. I hope that we, too, are one of the organizations he can highlight in 2025. We can and we will continue to do better.
Over the past several years, our profession confronted unprecedented challenges including a national reckoning around systemic racism, a financial crisis, and a global pandemic. These events laid bare for all to see what many already knew to be true: that deep inequalities exist within the admission profession and that the students we serve are so often affected by circumstances beyond their control.
While all students were impacted by COVID-19, students of color and those from low socioeconomic backgrounds fared the worst. Acknowledging that is a first step, but it must also be coupled with action. The shift of many institutions to test-optional or testfree is a start. But it’s nowhere near enough. We need to be doing far more and engaging in meaningful dialogue about which students are left out in our existing process and why. And while NACAC can’t solve all of the systemic issues within our society, we do have a significant role to play.
The board began this journey last year with our new mission and vision statements. The inclusion of every word was intentional. Our mission—“empowering college admission counseling professionals through education, advocacy, and community”—is specifically designed to highlight the power of our community. We understand that our members matter and it’s only through our collective power that we will expand opportunity and break down barriers. And it’s no coincidence that “to all” is included in our vision statement: “The transformative power of postsecondary education is accessible to all.” Education should be for all, and at the moment, it’s not.
When combined together, these 20 words that comprise the mission and vision statements have power. Since their unveiling in September, the board has been using these words, and their underlying philosophies, to guide us through every conversation. They provide strategic alignment with voices and input of members. The board’s 2022 goals are also deliberate, thoughtful, and based on these 20 words. Among other actions, we must:
Words have power. We plan to use ours to help change our world.
Ffiona Rees is the chair of the NACAC Board of Directors and deputy director of undergraduate admission at the University of California, Los Angeles.