Expanding the ecosphere of NASPA’s leadership with the SERVE Academy

To date, my best professional development experience has been the opportunity to interact with 11 other future Association Executives through the Diversity Executive Leadership Program (DELP). (Yes, we here at NASPA also participate in professional development, and yes, there is an association for association professionals, and yes, we do have an annual meeting to discuss annual meetings). Through DELP, I’ve found another family, a community of association leaders who are my sounding board that understand what I do professionally and also understand me personally. Naturally when I was invited to help develop a similar program here at NASPA, I was ecstatic. I know the value of a program like DELP, and I’m so glad to bring this experience to NASPA members through the Supporting, Expanding, and Recruiting Volunteer Excellence Academy, also known as SERVE.

The SERVE Academy is the brain-child of past board chair Lori White, and it is an intentional program to diversify and broaden the ecosphere of NASPA leadership and address some identified issues. Long-standing volunteers, let alone those new to the organization, are not aware of all the intricacies of NASPA’s breadth of programming. Additionally, despite the myriad of ways to get involved, members assume you have to know someone already in the “in-crowd” for access to key volunteer opportunities and the organization struggles with the perception that NASPA only caters to those in senior-level professional roles from dominant demographic identities for these positions. 

There have been attempts to challenge these issues, including the development of the NASPA Undergraduate Fellows Programs, formerly known as the Minority Undergraduate Fellows Program and the creation of Volunteer Central, a clearing house of all volunteer opportunities within the association. But for association-wide leadership opportunities, there is not a structured program to support current leaders advancing into the ranks of leadership within NASPA. This is where SERVE comes into play.

We have a fantastic set of NASPA leaders within the inaugural 2016-2018 Cohort, and we are now looking for our next class. More information about SERVE can be found on its webpage or the overview document. Applications will be accepted until July 21.

Rather than talking more about the value of the program from NASPA’s lens, I asked the members of the 2016-2018 cohort to reflect on what the program has meant to them thus far. Although I’m not able to share all fifteen responses from this amazing group of NASPA Volunteers, I close this blog post with a few of their reflections. 

"As a student affairs practitioner, I appreciate the resources and advocacy that NASPA provides to our profession. I volunteer with NASPA because I want to inform the direction of the field, and to ensure that many voices and perspectives are included in decisions made by NASPA within the association and on behalf of the student affairs profession. I am especially concerned with issues of equity and social justice within NASPA, student affairs, and higher education."

Alina Wong, Associate Dean of Student Life, Barnard College

"At this time, there are three main areas that stand out to me in terms of ways I’ve been impacted by participation in SERVE:  1) being able to meet and connect with a fabulous group of student affairs professionals from diverse backgrounds and institutions; 2) learning more about NASPA as an institution and ways of being involved that were not on my radar prior to SERVE; 3) being connected to a mentor who has been a fabulous resource in taking what I’m exposed to in SERVE and really drilling down and thinking about how it applies to me and my professional development in the area of service to NASPA."

Melinda Stoops, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs, Framingham State University

"Through the SERVE program I have experienced powerful mentoring, strong connections with new colleagues and a feeling of fulfillment in that our work as a cohort will contribute positively to the association." 

Jacob Diaz, Dean of Students, University of South Florida, St. Petersburg

"Being in service to NASPA, to me, begins and ends with the people. The caliber of professional and quality of people who do this work continue to awe me, continue to drive me. And, even more so in my involvement with the SERVE Academy Cohort and NASPA Leadership supporting and guiding this initiative. Seeing the impact these individuals have and continue to have on the lives of others and on campuses and communities around the world is what drew me in to this profession, helps sustain me, and pushes me towards higher ambitions. It’s about those we help transform (individually, collectively, in community) who help transform us in the process."

Tim Burkhalter, Associate Director of Student Life, Loyola University Maryland