Greetings from Framingham State University in Massachusetts. It was wonderful to reconnect with old colleagues and to make new friends and strategic connections at the 77th Annual Conference and Meeting in St Louis. I would like to extend a personal thank you and congratulations for an outstanding conference to Dr. Regis M. Gilman, ACHE’s 2015 president; the conference co-chairs Pam Collins and Tina Marie Coolidge; and the entire 2015 Conference Planning Committee. I found the content this year to be outstanding, with the speakers and presenters some of the most knowledgeable in the field.
And so we begin preparing for our 2016 Conference, which will take place October 17-19 at the historic Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans. One of the first responsibilities for a new ACHE president is to decide on the theme for the upcoming year and annual conference. For me, this was not a difficult task. I am excited to announce that next year’s theme will be: "Innovation, Transformation and Service in Continuing Higher Education: Creating Pathways to the Future." The 2016 conference will demonstrate the many ways that continuing higher education professionals are leading initiatives within their institutions and responding to rapid technological changes, the demands of a knowledge-based economy, and the disruptive shifts of changing demographics and learner needs.
Teaching, Research, and Service are the three primary functions for most universities. Service is the function that so often has to compete for attention and resources. We should not ignore the value and significant role that continuing education can play within our institutions in contributing to the well-being and improvement of the campus, community, state, nation, and even the world. For this reason, “Service” is included in the conference theme as we focus on how continuing education is responding to and meeting public service needs in the 21st century institution.
It is evident to all of us working in higher education that “Innovation” has become the catchphrase for 21st century academic institutions. Nationally and globally, innovation drives productivity, economic growth, and job creation, and creates a need for individuals who possess both intellectual knowledge and the skills to put this knowledge to work. Alongside this is an emerging cross-generational demand for customized education experiences together with a desire to integrate life and workplace experience and education into a tailored learning process. Included in this is the need to validate learning that is occurring in the non-credit environment.
Where is continuing education’s role in all of this? Increasingly we see our role and value being questioned within our institutions. Continuing to do what most of us are already doing is not going to work and may in fact result in our work being increasingly devalued. But if we can recognize and respond to the expanding and diverse knowledge needs that are emerging in this era of rapid technology gains and disruptive shifts in global markets, we will not only have a continuing role but a real opportunity for leadership. However, to be effective leaders within our organizations, we need to embrace new concepts, employ new tools, and form partnerships more appropriate for 21st century economies and societies.
Mark October 17-19, 2016 on your calendar now, and then take the first step in joining us in New Orleans by submitting a proposal to present. Click here for details and guidelines for this year’s Call for Proposals, or visit our website at www.acheinc.org and look for the Call for Proposals announcement under the "Take Note" section on our homepage. As one St. Louis conference attendee shared with us, our 2015 Annual Conference was one of the most informative and well-run conferences she’d attended in years, so don’t miss out on this top-notch professional development opportunity.
I am honored to represent the Association for Continuing Higher Education for the next year. If there‘s anything I can do to help you in your job or in your career, feel free to call me at 508-626-4034 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to meeting you at your regional conferences this coming spring to continue this conversation and to hear your thoughts on how ACHE can help you to continue to make a difference within our institutions, our communities, and to the lives of those we serve.
I wish you and your loved ones a safe, peaceful, and joyous holiday season.
ACHE President, 2016