Excerpts from NACAC President Nancy Beane's remarks at NACAC's 72nd National Conference in Columbus.
I am honored to be your new president of NACAC and look forward to our work together. As I think back on my long teaching career at almost every grade level in many different types of schools and to my 25 years in SACAC and NACAC, I am simply grateful.
The issues we face are large—still far too many students who don’t have opportunities, don’t finish high school or college, take on massive debt, or experience personal problems. The focus on inner city students is critical, but so is the focus on those in rural areas. We live in a complex society that is so full of promise but has so many challenges. Figuring out how to meet the needs of every student and every professional so that hopefully all are included at the table is vitally important now and in the future.
This past year has been deeply troubling and painfully raw on so many fronts—politically, socio-economically, and personally. So deeply troubling and painfully raw that I believe with every fiber of my being that we have to stay committed. We have to continue to believe in what we do and to give our best. Commitment calls for working through the difficult times. We’ve had them in the past, we have them now, and we will continue to have them, but we can’t give up! It’s important to say, “Black Lives Matter” because they do. Racism has been so deeply embedded within the fabric of this country from its early days, and it is a cancer, which we cannot seem to eradicate.
I feel strongly that this is a crucial time in our country and for our organization. While we can’t control or fix everything in the world, imagine with me what we can do. As we transition into a new strategic plan by 2017-18 and figure out how, while maintaining the ethical principles on which we were founded, to make our Statements of Principles of Good Practice (SPGP) more in line with the realities of our profession and the needs of our members, here are several areas where we can make a significant difference right now.
First, the Imagine Fund. I’ve been amazed over the last few years at what has been accomplished with the focus on public school counselors, community colleges and the transfer process, the growth of advocacy at the affiliate level, the focus on international issues, and so many more areas of importance. Imagine with me what $500,000 in donations from you could do? This is a powerful way for us to collectively support the professionals who need such resources. I believe this goal is critically important in order for us to achieve success in many of the areas you have identified as important.
Second, new ways of working together and providing educational opportunities. As I traveled domestically and globally this year on behalf of NACAC, I was impressed by the remarkable work being done with engaging young, diverse professionals in deep, thoughtful ways in our shared profession. We need to continue finding new ways to meet our students’ needs. When I first entered this field, there seemed to be a basic trust among us as professionals. Times have changed, but while the collegiality of long ago often seems to have diminished, social media has played a huge role in keeping us in closer touch with each other. Some of the most meaningful dialogue I’ve seen has been through different conferences and social media sites. As First Lady Michelle Obama says, we need to “reach higher,” to believe we can be successful. Through collaboration on so many fronts, we need to listen and then act boldly if it is appropriate.
Third, I voiced serious concerns last year about mental health issues and the emotional well-being of our students. I spoke with the new dean of students at a small liberal arts college last week, and she said mental health concerns are the greatest challenge they face now. Clearly, college is important for intellectual and personal growth, but our students arrive there with backgrounds that at times can be troubling, and we have to find ways to address this arena as well.
Finally, you have spoken clearly in our 2014 Member Survey about the challenges that are most pressing for you in your day to day work. A few that were mentioned most: How do we dispel the myths that spread throughout the public about the college admission process? What do we do about the cost of college? How do we explain financial aid and paying for college to students and families and how do we help them to understand the true costs? How do we keep pace with the changing landscape of admission and recruitment? There are many more areas on which we need to focus, including how to respond not only as professionals in education but as human beings to that pain and marginalization we see every day on so many fronts. Each of us can play a critical role in delving down to examine root causes of issues we face and finding ways to establish true equity and mutual respect.
As many of the Baby Boomers retire, the torch is being passed on to new generations of leaders. Don’t doubt yourselves. You have all the tools—you’re bright, passionate, and incredible individuals. Watching you all grow has been one of the highlights of my years in this profession. Together we can accomplish much, and I hope you will join me in believing that we can and acting in ways that will help us achieve our goals.
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