Expanding Your Worldview through Board Service

I was asked to spend a few minutes and reflect on my time on the Board as well as give my candidate perspective running for National Board Service. In a nutshell, the three-year presidential cycle—President-elect, President, Past President—was one of the most rewarding periods of my professional life. It was also most certainly one of the fastest periods in my professional history.

When initially approached to consider running for Executive Board service, I remember my reaction being something to the effect of, “You’re kidding, right?” They were not kidding. At the time, I agonized over this decision. People can come up with all kinds of excuses not to do something, right? Am I too old? Could I really see myself in a position of leadership, when, in reality, I felt far more comfortable interacting daily with prospective students?

After a candid and honest heart-to-heart conversation with my mentor, who spent many years at DePaul University before recently moving on to Oregon State, I said yes. His exact words to me were profound. “Mark, why don’t you just jump on the Iowa ACAC train and enjoy the ride?”

I will never forget his timely words, for they still carry a lot of meaning to me today. His words served as a reminder that I was not jumping into something I knew nothing about, that I was not reinventing the wheel, that Iowa ACAC has always been strong and that Iowa’s executive board momentum has always been going in the right direction and positive. I jumped on the Iowa ACAC train, and I loved every minute of it!

On a national level, the experience was eye-opening. I’ve worked in college admission offices for over thirty years; all of my experience is from three Iowa institutions. A significant benefit of being in the presidential cycle was the opportunity to get together twice a year with all affiliate presidents and receive specialized Leadership Development training with NACAC professional staff. These meetings were intense, eye-opening and rewarding. Overnight I developed friendships with presidents from all twenty-three affiliates. 

I thought then, and I still believe now, that I have a good understanding of the workings of our association. Exposure to the other affiliates added another rich layer of perspective that enhanced my overall understanding. Most, but not all, of the exposure was positive. As an example, Iowa has always been a single state affiliate; the same with most of our surrounding affiliates. This has been my worldview. 

Try to imagine working in the Southern affiliate….9 states. As a member, one might be fortunate to get together as an exec board once a year? The New England affiliate is comprised of 6 heavily populated states. Can you imagine being a part of International ACAC? Their members represent 141 different countries! Clearly, one significant privilege of running for NACAC Board Service was exposure to the higher education landscape from the 30,000-foot level.

As mentioned earlier, not all exposure was positive; some of the affiliates have drama. Several affiliates are experiencing real financial hardship, while others are experiencing challenges with personnel. Unfortunately, I learned that the transition between incoming and outgoing presidents is not always seamless and smooth. Fortunately, I would return from every national meeting and training session with an even deeper appreciation for Iowa ACAC and for all of our members.

There is no denying that my year as a candidate for national board service was stressful. During any given year, the process is stressful; during my candidacy, the nation was deep into the pandemic and formats were pivoting to Zoom. While I deliberated long and hard before serving at the affiliate level, I wasted little time in agreeing to run for the national board. I threw my name in the hat because I was asked to. Not unlike some of the students we serve, sometimes they just need a little nudge, and a bit of encouragement to give them some confidence.

I was under no illusions and understood that my candidacy would be a longshot, for I witnessed a number of incredibly talented people not get voted in the year before. Doubt began to creep back in and made me second-guess my choice. Could I truly be a representative for all NACAC members, when my experiences and world view come from a single Midwest state affiliate?  Like you, I have reviewed this year’s candidate biographies and videos; they all mention their desire to give back to the association that gave so much to them. I concur. Thankful and appreciative of what Iowa ACAC has done for me, I felt that the best use of my time would be to pay it forward. 

Iowa’s Executive Board has made strides toward our work with transfer students, and I believe the proverbial needle is beginning to move with respect to this important audience. Frankly, I had aspirations of moving the needle on community college students and giving the national board more Midwestern representation. The process was humbling, made me uncomfortable and stretched me beyond my comfort zone….and that was a good thing. At the end of the day, I gained an even deeper appreciation for the daily work that you and I do. 

A final thought—I am trying to imagine who among our membership will step up to become the next President-Elect of Iowa ACAC. Whether you are young or young at heart, my sincere hope is that your experience with Iowa ACAC will be as rewarding and life-changing as mine has been. 

Please consider running for Board service. Should you decide to do so, you will enjoy the support of many. Reflecting on my time served, I was blessed to learn from and lean on Terri Crumley, Tom Paulsen and Tara Winter. I could not have asked for more supportive colleagues. Now, it is Jaclyn’s turn to lead our incredible affiliate. I can’t wait to see where her leadership takes us. 
Mark Ash
Past, Past President
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