Dr. Elizabeth True
Region I Director-Elect
Vice President for Student Affairs & Enrollment Management
Maine Maritime Academy
NASPA has been my professional home since 1996. I have never needed this vast resource of programs, resources, advice and support from colleagues as much as I have in 2020 when dealing with the pandemic, a polarizing election, the needs of our BIPOC students and staff, and the change in Title IX procedures. As SSAO of a small college in a rural state, my NASPA membership provided me with the tools and support I needed to forge new ways to keep our institution open and our students safe and engaged.
I realized early in my career that our organization could not provide all the professional development opportunities it does without the tireless service of volunteers. The benefits of these opportunities were invaluable, and I began working on conference committees and discovered a talent for organizing the necessary details. Through that work, I met many wonderful mentors and friends. These colleagues asked me to lead both the Vermont College Student Personnel Association and the Maine NASPA board as well as the ACE-NNWL networks in Vermont and Massachusetts.
As higher education transitioned to remote learning this spring, we learned that we had to find new ways to support our students as they grappled with financial, academic and emotional challenges. Student Affairs professionals’ ability to pivot and embrace new modes of working with students was a model for other divisions, and I was amazed as I saw brilliant ideas and creativity shared on social media. That this occurred while we were dealing with our own fears, losses, and financial concerns is a measure of the strength and dedication of our profession.
Meanwhile, the murders of so many young black men and women suddenly, finally captured the attention of the privileged, and the Black Lives Matter movement took on new life and energy that I truly hope will finally lead to necessary change in our society. Several NASPA friends and I undertook the 21 Day Racial Equity Challenge in hopes of developing the habit of activism to create change. On my campus, the critical need for dedicated resources and personnel to lead and expand our Diversity, Equity and Inclusiveness initiatives became abundantly clear early in the semester. I turned to my NASPA colleagues for advice and resources, and am thrilled that Maine Maritime will be the first maritime college to participate in the Culture of Respect Collective, as just one of several new strategies to improve our campus climate for all underrepresented groups.
Research and scholarship has never been more critical, as we seek to find our way through this global crisis and meet the needs of our students. We have looked to science and research to help us understand the virus and how to manage it, to predict enrollment trends, and to design new ways to build community and engagement in a socially-distanced time.
Most of all, NASPA and our profession have continued, despite our overwhelming workloads and social-distancing requirements, to provide ways for us to connect and grow. I am so grateful to the volunteers who quickly learned new technology to provide us with so many professional development opportunities. As we sought to craft our reopening plans for an unprecedented new situation, we were able to share ideas and strategies. I am so grateful for my witty and sage friends on social media who provided validation, support and clever memes which have sustained me since March.
As I reflect upon this past year, with the hope that we will return to some kind of normalcy by the time my tenure as Regional Director would begin, I have set the following goals:
- Continue to provide opportunities to support our BIPOC members and challenge our white members to become accomplices in disrupting systemic inequality.
- Incorporate the lessons learned from our response to the pandemic to improve our service to students through virtual means, flexibility, and new modes of interacting with each other.
- Utilize virtual technology to expand access to professional development for all, including under-represented populations, and professionals with geographic and financial challenges to participation.
- Reinvent the financial model of the region after the long-term impacts of the pandemic are better known, while exploring options for virtual meetings and conferences to reduce food, travel, and lodging costs.
- Continue to progress as a region in the four strategic areas of:
- Advocacy for Student Success
- Equality, Inclusion and Social Justice
- Research and Scholarship
- Professional Development and Engagement
It would be my honor to serve the region as Director, to share the expertise and connections I have gained from my thirty year career as a Student Affairs professional in New England, and to give back to the organization that has provided me with so many resources, mentors, job opportunities, transferable skills, and cherished friends.