May 29, 2020
Katie Winstead Reichner, Ph.D. & Kendrick Durham
NACA Board of Directors
For 60 years, NACA has been grounded in its role as an organization that brings together education and entertainment to help improve the college experience. While the way this looks has shifted and changed over time, we continue to pride ourselves on being the experts in creating exceptional activities for students.
So when the opportunity arose to take a hard look at both the mission and vision statements for the Association, the NACA Board of Directors had to ask ourselves some hard questions. Who are we now, 60 years into our history, and who do we want to be in the future? This proved to be a difficult task, and one that we approached with care. Over the past year, a small group of board members and office staff have been trying to answer that question, and as our conversations developed, we quickly realized that there were two main concepts we wanted to explore.
First, what makes us unique? What is the thing that NACA does that is different and special from our peers and competitors? For a long time, our answer has always been "entertainment," but we knew that it went far beyond that. Second, what do we value? This was different from core values. What we value isn't just about the qualities that we aspire to, but focused instead on what functions we aspire to excel at. What we value is our "why."
To answer these questions, we collected a lot of feedback. Members took surveys at NACA® Live, we met with members of our Associate Advisory Group and other volunteers, and we collected feedback from members at our seven regional events in fall 2019. In all of these conversations, three major themes were clear:
Inclusive Learning opportunities that go beyond a traditional webinar or educational session. NACA members learn in a broad variety of ways - not only in the traditional formats, but through the mentorship, volunteer opportunities, and professional training we provide. NACA is uniquely positioned to use their live events as learning laboratories. When you are part of the NACA® Institutes, access a resource in ENCORE, participate in a webinar, volunteer, or attend a conference or NACA® Live, you see programming, industry trends, and events in action. Our learning opportunities reach across membership groups and approach education in a different way, and is inclusive of our efforts to increase accessibility and to infuse diversity and inclusion into our work.
The Association provides environments that create
Meaningful Relationships. This is a theme that appeared over and over in our conversations with various constituent groups. Members value the ability to create connections with colleagues, customers, peers, and more. This is certainly true at live events, but extends to channels like the NACA® Connect community or at opportunities for online dialogue like our recent Coffee & Conversations series. These relationships have been especially important and evident as we navigate the effects of COVID-19 on our students, our industry, and the world around us. Now, more than ever, NACA should emphasize the important role we play in connecting people.
Engaging Entertainment to connect artists to schools, students to their campus experience, and members to each other. The roots of the Association are based in entertainment, and our purpose is grounded in this work. For some this has been a point of contention, as if entertainment has no value in higher education, or somehow is not on par with some standard of scholarship in the field. However, it has become increasingly evident in recent months that entertainment and social engagement are vital parts of the college experience. What NACA does, and has done successfully for many years, is to use entertainment as a tool for learning and dialogue. NACA, like no other organization, can provide the expertise, connections, and scholarship to equip members to provide the engaging entertainment that is important on college campuses.
When considering NACA's "why," we found a connection point between the themes that have been discussed – they all contribute to a sense of
Belonging. Whether that be the sense of belonging that members and volunteers feel within the Association, or the sense of belonging we create through learning, relationships, and entertainment in our campus environments, the Association is important because we empower members to find community and create community.
As our workgroup discussed and wordsmithed these concepts, we spent a great deal of time and attention considering how these themes and how the concept of belonging were reflected in each of our membership constituencies. NACA is unique in that our membership is unique. We're made up of a broad range of institutions, and our users at those institutions range from students, to graduate students, to new professionals all the way up to vice presidents. We're made up of agencies, self-represented artists, and small businesses that rely on our organization to introduce their services to nearly 900 member schools. And after considering all that, the NACA Board of Directors believes that this is who we are, and who we want to be:
Mission: NACA empowers members to amplify the campus experience through inclusive learning, meaningful connections, and engaging entertainment that transforms college communities.
Vision: To create college communities where everyone belongs.
NACA has a responsibility to be a vanguard for campus activities, sharing best practices for the field, connecting leaders, and showing the value of campus activities to the college experience. As we continue to navigate uncertain times, these commitments will help guide us forward.
Katie Winstead Reichner, Ph.D. is the associate director of Student Activities at Christopher Newport University (VA) and Kendrick Durham is the associate dean of Student Life at Centre College (KY). Winstead Reichner and Durham serve as general board members of the NACA Board of Directors.