By Nate Bargar, University of Cincinnati
Each year before our Illinois team of delegates prepares for the National Association for College Admission Counseling National Conference and the Saturday morning Assembly, they are reminded that when Illinois speaks on this national stage, our colleagues from around the country listen. It seems as if year after year the Illinois delegation does not go unnoticed. We, as Illinois and the representatives of Illinois ACAC, take great pride in the fact that we act as change agents on a national level.
While it is always nice to be recognized on this national level, more often our most important work is in our own backyard. Keeping in mind that I have only inhabited our great state for a little over 36 years of its 198 years of statehood, I would argue that at no time in its recent history is our collective effort as the ILLINOIS Association for College Admission Counseling more necessary.
Illinois ACAC is not made up of local affiliates like Chicagoland ACAC, Northwestern IL ACAC, Central IL ACAC, Western IL ACAC, and “Downstate” IL ACAC. We are one group, Illinois ACAC.
We have been hearing a lot about the struggles of Chicago State University and the impact that the lack of an approved state budget has had on their day-to-day operations as an institution. We also know that our students are struggling to pay for their education due to funding for the Illinois Monetary Award Program (MAP) Grant being tied up in the budget stalemate.
However, it is imperative that we remember these struggles are not unique to Chicago State as an institution or its students. Institutions from Chicago State to Southern Illinois-Carbondale and students from Black Hawk to Lincoln Trail are feeling the same pinch.
If there were ever a time to use our collective voice as members of this organization, in an effort to wield any and all political power that it may have, that time is now. Let’s make our voice heard not only collectively as Illinois ACAC, but individually as constituents in our communities. For those not sure where to start, I would encourage you to reach out to the co-chairs of our Government Relations Committee and consider joining us for Advocacy Day in Springfield on Wednesday, April 13, as referenced in Amy Thompson’s Admission Essay post.
Our role as Illinois ACAC also requires some self-reflection within our organization. We must continue efforts to get colleagues involved from Harrisburg to Galena, and St. Anne to Nauvoo. Barriers to postsecondary planning, access, and success have many different facets and it is important that we strive to be a resource for ALL of our members, as well as use our collective influence to better represent the entire state.
In my decade as a member of IACAC, there always have been conversations and initiatives presented as to how to get our colleagues from outside Chicagoland more involved. A few of these have stuck better than others, but to be most effective as Illinois ACAC we need to continue to explore sustainable opportunities to be as inclusive as possible.
One such example is a current ad hoc committee called the Annual Conference Exploratory Committee. That committee is currently reviewing all aspects of our IACAC Annual Conference, including but not limited to, the year-to-year location of the Conference which has been held at the Westin in Itasca, IL, every year since 2006. I would encourage everyone as members, or better yet a prospective or former member, of our organization to let your voice be heard as it relates to our Annual Conference.
As a member of the Executive Board I am quite confident that I was not given this privilege only by my colleagues that work/reside north of I-80 and east of highway 47 (I am looking at you Jennifer Shaughnessy and Pat Walsh) and have always tried to remain cognizant of the challenges of our students and colleagues across the state. I look forward to reviewing the findings and suggestions of the Annual Conference Exploratory Committee with my colleagues on the Executive Board through that same lens.
Whether we are acting as change agents/advocates of change to influence public policy or in a support role with our colleagues as Illinois ACAC, we must always keep in mind that we are not solely responsible to the students in our own communities. Collectively we are responsible to all of our students and colleagues in our great Land of Lincoln.