Highlights from the 2019 National Conference
The 2019 National Conference was a landmark event for the association. More than 6,600 college admission professionals attended the 75th National Conference in Louisville last week to learn, collaborate, and network with one another.
The annual conference kicked off Thursday with Johnnie Johnson, the president of Kentucky ACAC, offering a land acknowledgement and a welcome to his home state. Now-Immediate Past President Stefanie Niles also took the stage, taking time to reflect on the year’s biggest challenges, which included reimaging the association’s membership model, launching the search for a new CEO, navigating budget challenges, and responding to the college bribery scandal.
Changemakers within the college admission profession were also recognized during the opening session. Over the course of the conference, a total of seven individuals and three programs received awards, including NACAC CEO Joyce E. Smith, who was honored with the Excellence in Education award. Smith, who will retire in 2020, is the association’s longest-serving chief executive and the first African American woman to serve in the position. Starting with the 2020 conference, the award will be renamed as the Joyce E. Smith Excellence in Education Award in her honor.
Following the opening session, attendees had a wide-array of educational offerings to choose from during the three-day conference. This year was an especially eventful year for the profession and sessions in every educational session block at the 2019 National Conference tackled tough topics such as the Varsity Blues bribery scandal, federal policy and legal developments associated with higher education, mental health, and challenges facing marginalized populations such as the LGBTQIA+ community and Asian-Americans. (Recordings of all 2019 conference sessions are available for purchase through PlaybackNow.)
This year also introduced a Financial Aid Stage to focus on college access and college cost sessions, as well as Wisdom Exchanges where an expert could facilitate small group discussions on topics such as empowering women in admission, understanding financial aid award letters, and mitigating anxiety in parents and students. And for the first time, the national conference included a Special Interest Group (SIG) Fair during the Welcome Reception, offering attendees the chance to learn more about NACAC’s 32 Special Interest Groups.
As always, the national conference also offered attendees opportunities to build their professional networks and connect with colleagues on all sides of the desk. On Friday, attendees had the chance to learn more about 36 different college access organizations during the Access College Fair. In the afternoon, counselors were able to meet with representatives from 543 colleges and universities during the always popular Counselors’ College Fair.
Most of Saturday was devoted to governance meetings and educational sessions, but the conference’s final day also offered attendees a chance to come together to be inspired. Closing Keynote Speaker Jabari Sellars challenged attendees to think differently about the concept of “fit” and the difference between access and inclusion. A standing ovation followed his impassioned speech.
Report of the 2019 Assembly
Assembly delegates cast a series of votes on matters of critical importance to the future of our association during the 2019 Assembly.
Todd Rinehart, vice chancellor for enrollment at the University of Denver (CO), was selected as the association’s new president-elect. Assembly delegates also elected three new board directors—Cornell LeSane, vice president for enrollment and dean of admissions at Allegheny College (PA); Angelica Melendez, college and financial aid specialist at South San Antonio High School (TX); and Delorean Menifee, director of admission at Butler University (IN). Those individuals—along with David Antoniewicz, director of college counseling at the Perkiomen School (PA) and coordinator of the NACAC Affiliate Presidents Council—attended their first meeting as board directors later in the day.
In addition, the Assembly approved the following special actions:
- A moratorium on enforcement of NACAC’s Code of Ethics and Professional Practices (CEPP) was approved, effective immediately, for a period of up to one year or until legal review with the DOJ is resolved.
- Three CEPP provisions, as well as some introductory language included in one section of our code of ethics, were removed from the document, also effective immediately. The provisions were items that the US Department of Justice believes inhibit, to some extent, competition among colleges for students. The statements addressed offering exclusive incentives for Early Decision, recruiting first-year undergraduates who have committed elsewhere, and recruiting transfer students.
Report from the NACAC Annual Membership Meeting
This year’s Annual Membership Meeting drew some of the largest participation numbers in association history, with more than 1,400 members taking part in the meeting through in-person and proxy voting.
Highlights from the meeting include:
- Approval of Bylaws that will enable a new membership structure that will open NACAC membership to a wider audience was approved. Institutions will no longer have to choose which staff members can take advantage of NACAC membership. Under the new model, institutional membership will include all staff. The structure also offers increased membership options for individuals. The new structure will become effective in membership year 2021.
- NACAC’s Bylaws were amended, giving the association’s Board of Directors special authority to act in extraordinary legal circumstances should any additional changes in the CEPP or association bylaws become necessary.
- A motion presented from the floor during the Open Forum that recommended the NACAC Board of Directors work with the NACAC staff to explore and implement an alternative voting method for use at future Assembly and Annual Membership Meetings beginning at the 2020 NACAC Conference was approved. Also during the forum, members expressed concerns about accessibility and the selection process for future keynote speakers. NACAC staff will respond to both issues in the coming months.
- In her first speech as the association’s top elected leader, NACAC President Jayne Fonash addressed the role the association would play in continuing to protect student rights and interests in the college admission process. “Our commitment to protecting students throughout their transition to college will also remain a signature objective of NACAC—but there must be changes in how we make it happen,” Fonash told meeting attendees. “We will continue, I know, to share a belief that our profession is built on the pillars of trust, mutual respect, transparency, and honesty.”
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