Within every field there exists professional associations.  These organizations are typically nonprofits that offer sources of professional development, advocacy and networking for its membership.

In the world of Student Affairs and Higher Education, two associations include ACPA (formally known as American College Personnel Association, now branded as College Student Educators International) and NASPA (National Association of Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education).  There are a number of other associations in student affairs for areas like new student orientation, campus activities, recreation and career development.  However NASPA and ACPA are the largest.

Because there are two, it does tend to require professionals to choose.  Just like living in Los Angeles, you are either a Lakers fan or you are Clippers fan.  Associations take money and time to commit to, including membership fees and conference attendance.

For almost the last ten years I have been a loyal NASPA member, attending as many regional and national conferences as possible, in addition to holding a number of volunteer leadership roles.  I have developed personal and professional connections that have lead to jobs, collaborations, friendships and mentors.  Being around my NASPA colleagues feels like kindred spirits, whom speak my work language.

But tomorrow I leave for my first ACPA conference.  A couple years ago, the conflict between NASPA and ACPA membership came to a head, as a vote came forth to merge the two organizations.  It pitted many student affairs professionals for or against and stirred a competition between the two organizations.  In the end, the two associations voted to remain separate.

Perhaps the competition between these two associations will make them stronger.  I am ready to finally give ACPA a try.  I am going to the national conference in Vegas with an open and curious mind of what I have been missing out on.

In the end, I don’t want to have to choose.  I hope each association offers something so strong and relevant that as aspiring leaders in higher education we can’t help but be part of both.  I believe the last thing we need in education is compeition amongst ourselves.  We are not the Lakers nor the Clippers.  We are on the same team, serving our students.


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