In 2016, I’m going to eat more leafy greens. I’ll do yoga twice a week. I’ll finally ask for that promotion. – The turning of the calendar year is a natural opportunity to assess progress and commit to new goals.
At AACRAO, the executive staff is feeling the same excitement—using the momentum from the recently-held Leadership Meeting and guidance from the AACRAO Board of Directors to set forth 2016 objectives across association departments.
“The more engaged AACRAO members are with our services the more successful we are as an association.,” said AACRAO Executive Director Mike Reilly. “Many of the efforts of the AACRAO staff are aimed at turning our strategic goals into accessible information and services. We are also very focused on maximizing the benefits of AACRAO membership and ensuring that there are multiple ways for our members to get what they need to make them more successful in their work—whether that is attending one of our meetings, participating in a webinar, or visiting our web site.”
AACRAO Deputy Director Melanie Gottlieb (Communications and International Education Services) and Associate Executive Directors Janie Barnett (Association Services) and Tom Green (Consulting and SEM) discussed their overarching plans for the coming year, which included:
1. Deliver timely, useful messages to members.
“In 2016, we’ll explore new and better ways to communicate with our members,” said Gottlieb. From improving member emails and newsletters like Connect and Transcript to exploring blogs and increasing social media presence and relevance, AACRAO will cater to members’ professional needs better than ever before--while respecting their limited time. On AACRAO’s social media platforms, members can expect more engaging and varied content, such as instructional videos and insightful blogs, thanks in part to the help of two member volunteers—one registrar and one admissions professional. [Join AACRAO on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.]
AACRAO Consulting will also be increasing its content creation and distribution to keep members abreast of the latest strategic thinking in their professional areas. “We’ve always written white papers and articles,” Green said. “This year we’re looking to expand our reach by sharing information through social media, blogging, and our new website, which should be ready early this year.”
2. Raise AACRAO’s profile with nonmembers.
“We’d like to grow our prestige with nonmembers, peer organizations and institutions,” Gottlieb said. “Overall, we’re going to strengthen our position as the leader in the professional areas we represent so we can be stronger advocates for members, which will, in turn, help our members do their jobs better.”
“We’re the leading SEM organization in the world,” Green added. “We’re not the only experts but we are the biggest organization providing expertise and content—and it’s important to maintain and build on that.” Building AACRAO’s reputation among higher education professionals who aren’t “in the know” will support the cause of AACRAO members who already refer to and rely on AACRAO for expertise.
Green also want to increase the visibility of AACRAO Consulting in 2016, “so people know why we exist and how we’re different.” AACRAO Consulting is a “solution-neutral” nonprofit alternative to the many for-profit higher education consulting firms, rather than trying to sell a particular product. “We’re going to recommend the best possible solution—no matter who makes it,” Green said. “We aim to leave institutions stronger than we find them—not create a dependency on consultancy.” A robust consulting arm also helps AACRAO have a diversified revenue stream, so the organization isn’t solely dependent on meetings and membership fees.
3. Improve the breadth, depth and accessibility of professional development offerings.
“Our biggest goal this year is to connect our training, publications and workshops to the professional competencies the board and task force are developing,” Barnett said. “We’re developing an assessment tool for each profession – admissions, international admissions, enrollment management, registrar and technical positions – and we’re starting to identify and evolve each of the training opportunities to line them up with competencies and proficiencies.”
When that tool is ready, AACRAO members will be able to accurately assess their skill sets and discover where to invest their professional development resources. And AACRAO will have those resources at the ready –- whether in-person or online. “We’re also growing online course offerings and webinars for people who can’t attend live meetings,” Barnett said.
4. Expand international training and resources.
“The AACRAO strategic framework emphasizes expanding professional development opportunities in the international arena, as members have expressed a desire for more international training,” Gottlieb said.
The overwhelmingly popular IES Winter and Summer Institutes offer one opportunity to expand training, and AACRAO is exploring the possibility of hosting institutes regionally or including them as part of one of the larger professional development meetings.
AACRAO is also making improvements to the EDGE subscription. An indispensable resource for international credential evaluators across the country, the Electronic Database for Global Education (EDGE) makes weekly updates to add content and improve responsivity.
This year will see the launch of an exciting new international education research opportunity. “We’re currently working on a plan to bring a set of members to Cuba,” Gottlieb said. “It’s part of AACRAO’s strategic plan to lead research efforts related to global education systems, and we’re hoping to do at least one trip a year.”
5. Strengthen partnerships.
AACRAO is working to develop stronger ties with international associations. “We see a lot of benefit from partnering with both U.S. and international associations that share our goals,” Barnett added. “Together we can have a broader understanding of issues and a greater impact on the conversation and more strength as legislative advocates.”
“In addition, smart corporate partnerships support meetings and workshops through sponsorships, which helps keep prices low and increase member access to products that help them do their jobs,” Barnett said. “Corporate partners also help AACRAO by sharing information with us about what they are learning from campuses across the country. They’re out there working with institutions and really have their ear to the ground, which complements the information we get from members and helps us to have a good picture about what’s happening on campuses.”
Finally, one of AACRAO’s biggest projects in 2015—the partnership with NASPA to secure a grant to develop and pilot models for a comprehensive student record—underscores the significance of partnerships with other higher education associations.
“Where we overlap or complement other organizations, AACRAO find ways to join forces to do something bigger than we could have done separately,” Green said. “It’s more important than ever to recognize our interconnectedness with other organizations and work together to serve higher education.”