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Professional associations exist within every field. These organizations are typically nonprofits that offer members sources of professional development, advocacy, and networking.

In Student Affairs and Higher Education, two associations include ACPA (formerly known as the 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 a Clippers fan. Associations require 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 and holding a number of volunteer leadership roles. I have developed personal and professional connections that have led to jobs, collaborations, friendships, and mentors. Being around my NASPA colleagues feels like being around kindred spirits who speak my work language.

But tomorrow I leave for my first ACPA conference.  A couple of years ago, the conflict between NASPA and ACPA membership came to a head as a vote was taken to merge the two organizations.  It pitted many student affairs professionals for or against them and stirred 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 give ACPA a try finally.  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.

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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