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APPA Message Following September 17, 2021 Member Connection Webcast

September 20, 2021

headshot of Lander Medlin

An occasional blogpost from Lander Medlin, APPA’s President and CEO

Member Connection – Transitioning for the Future: Your Association…Your Opportunity…Your Engagement!

September 20, 2021 — Last Friday, we welcomed several panelists who shared their passion and stories about what why they got engaged in APPA, and the benefits they have derived for themselves and their institutions.  We hope they spark the same interest in each of you.  This Member Connection webinar reflected how we are transitioning for the future by expanding the number of engagement opportunities for you!  Indeed, it’s your association.  Let’s make it so and have it come alive to meet your needs now.  During this webinar, we engaged in a lively panel discussion to help APPA members find new ways to participate in areas that match their specific expertise and passion.  That’s what makes ours such a special community.

Coming off a successful governance transition by the International APPA Board, regions, and chapters, we held this 2nd Member Connection webinar to explore volunteerism.  You’re the reason we exist.  You’re the reason we have such quality content and programming.  You’re the key to APPA’s success.

Dave Irvin, APPA’s Board Chair and Associate Vice President for Facilities at Florida State University, facilitated our discussion.  Our panelists are long-time APPA members with different perspectives from different institutional types and at differing stages in their career journey.  They each gave voice to the value of APPA and its rich network of educational facilities professionals, the impact on their careers, contributions they have made, and benefits they have derived through their professional engagement in various APPA groups, teams, and activities.  We were extremely fortunate to have such an enthusiastic group of volunteers who provided their perspectives and insights.

Panel Members:

  • MJ (Maryjane) Thompson, Facilities Manager, Salt Lake Community College, who’s been involved in our Community College Engagement Group
  • Stephen Harris, Assistant Vice Chancellor, Office of Capital Projects, University of Texas System Administration, concerning the TCO Work Group
  • Markus Hogue, Geospatial Information and Drones, University of Texas at Austin, who will focus on our Informatics Work Group
  • Rich Davis, Retired from Evergreen State College, who spoke about his experience as a VFS (Virtual Facilities Summit) Reviewer & Evaluator
  • Steve Glazner, Director of Knowledge Management, APPA Staff, regarding the BOK (Body of Knowledge) Advisory Team
  • Dave Irvin, APPA Board Chair, Associate Vice President, Facilities, Florida State University, Webinar Facilitator, and Communication Strategies Team

We’re at an inflection point in our profession and organizations.  Our newly gained relevance and/or “seat at the table” has been incredibly challenging but equally rewarding.  APPA’s continued support of the facilities profession through all of this is what APPA is all about.  In fact, our strategic framework of Preparing for Every Future provides more opportunities for you to be involved, regardless of your passion, time available to devote, how you want to engage, and the associated benefit(s). 

The recent governance restructure moves APPA to a smaller, more strategic Board of Directors that can pivot and focus on the things needed by the profession from APPA so you can remain in service to your institution’s mission and needs.  That’s what APPA’s strategic framework is allowing us to do.  There’s surely some things we haven’t even thought of yet, so we’re encouraging you to share your ideas and talents for other areas of engagement.

Frankly, we are quite blessed to have such talent on our Board.  As a matter of fact, this Board just recently approved two strategic Project Task Forces that focus on several key issues needed to support the profession.  We define those as “Groups that sunset with an explicit written charge or purpose outlining its responsibilities, set of milestones, and deliverables, and an expected date of completion.”  The first Project Task Force is:

  • Healthy, Smart Buildings – formed to establish tools regardless of institutional size and resources to support the institutional question, “Are our buildings healthy?” The task force presently comprises both technically oriented and strategically focused leadership from higher education institutions and our business partner community, along with input from several real estate/commercial facilities industry coalition partners.  The group will be working on tools to analyze our buildings and determine where we invest for the greatest return on investment to ensure our buildings are healthy for the physical and emotional well-being of our occupants (students, faculty, staff, etc.).

The second Project Task Force is:

  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) – we are just now constituting this task force seeking diversity from both a demographic and institutional/school type. This topic is a concern for every campus.  We must maximize every individual staff member’s talents and abilities and ensure that their voices are heard.  The research shows that the more diverse we are, the more we include those various voices, the better we are as a group; the better we are at solving problems; the better we are at supporting our campus.  The bottom line:  Making sure our folks are supported, embraced, and enhanced.  Otherwise we’re not going to survive as an organization or as a profession.  We will not be answering the challenges nor addressing the needs of our institutions and our teams, and they will go somewhere else.  We can’t afford to let that happen.  It’s critical that diversity and inclusion is an intentional focus in the association’s presentations, educational sessions, team/group composition, and volunteer outreach. 

The next organizational entity we explored was Stakeholder Groups, which we have defined as  “Constituency groups that are narrowly established and tied to the strategic plan and further aligned with the strategic direction of the Association.”  These groups provide a myriad of opportunities both short and long term to connect with colleagues on similar issues or concerns.  Each are doing some amazing work providing and enhancing tools, expanding best practices, and developing ideas and insights that improve the overall profession.

MJ Thompson aptly said, “By participating on the Community College Engagement Group, we are able to keep up with targeted topics, current issues and emerging technologies with like-minded individuals who can discuss specific facilities needs for our community colleges.”  The camaraderie, networking, and experience exchange is fantastic.  They’ve got each other on speed dial!  These connections occur face-to-face when possible but primarily occur on monthly Zoom calls.  In the past, they have prepared tools, spreadsheets, and other resources that help them respond to their specific needs accurately and in a timely manner.

The TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) Work Group continues to explore topics that are highly technical to further develop a TCO principle-based model that helps institutions solve long-term facilities problems, apply APPA guidelines, and/or align with standards-setting bodies to meet the needs of facilities professionals, senior institutional officers, and/or boards and legislatures.  Stephen Harris reinforced, “You don’t have to be ‘The Expert’.  You need to have a desire, a passion for the work, a willingness to provide information, learn a little, and steer the profession as a whole with better practices.”  For those engaged in these activities, it has proven to be a great opportunity to connect with incredible folks that work together collaboratively as a team.  Recognize, there are so many people experiencing the exact same thing.  There are a lot of good resources and helpful people in this profession.  In fact, you’re never alone!  Being part of a work group like this is not an overly intimidating process.  Participation gives you a chance to broaden your network, create something together that you will all be proud of, and offer broad industry value.  Stephen said, “If you are naturally curious and have a hard time saying ‘no’, you’ll find a wealth of knowledge and information to explore.” 

Markus Hogue from the Informatics Work Group said, “One thing that I love about APPA is that they listen to its membership.”  To that point, the Informatics Work Group actually started at a Thought Leaders symposium where Markus and Chris Smeds of University of Virginia presented the idea of informatics and APPA supported it.  The work group has since prepared a whitepaper on the topic and is now working on a few articles.  Markus emphasized that if we pool our data collectively into meaningful dashboards, just imagine the impact.  Markus further stated, “It’s allowed me to progress in my career by making strong network connections, better understanding critical issues, and ways to share information internally with my institution and externally with the APPA community as a whole.

MJ and Markus got involved with APPA early on in their careers.  Now they have a wealth of people with whom to network, ask questions at every single level of the organization, and reach out to them with any issue.  That’s been invaluable.  So, if you have an idea or concept, you can bring it to APPA so the entire profession improves.  By engaging folks from all different levels of the organization, the opportunity for growth and development, increased access, and a broader perspective of institutional need is invaluable.  That’s what these groups and teams are all about.

Next are Operational Functions which we defined as “Groups or functions that are led by the Association Staff under the direction and authority of the President & CEO.”  However, staff cannot and should not do these things alone.  We need the knowledge and expertise of our volunteers to assist staff to ensure a quality program or product.  We have one example of that type of opportunity, but there are and will be many more of these opportunities for volunteers.  Yes, we need YOU!  The VFS (Virtual Facilities Summit) Reviewers & Evaluators is that example and pertains to retired facilities professionals equally as well.  Many retirees express missing their professional contacts, especially APPA colleagues who really understand problem-solving, which is quite enjoyable.  Rich said, “The APPA work has provided a great continuation of some of the best aspects of my professional life, which is really appreciated.  You can enter at any level of the organization with any level of knowledge and you can still help.”  The commitment is short term with tight deadlines but a lot of fun.  As reviewer and evaluator, Rich actually provided his comments to the applicants as a way to give back and provide a helping hand.  As a retiree, it’s a great link to the good things from your career.  It keeps you attuned and sharp long into retirement.  APPA is wonderful about saying “thank you” in so many ways.  They are always appreciative of volunteer’s efforts.

We certainly thank our program reviewers and evaluators who made sure that those presentations are on topic, on point, and give us the kind of talent, expertise, and critical content we need.

This notion of how we work together in facilities is so true, and that’s what APPA does.  We learn from each other.  We learn what the common problems are in higher education versus those unique to our own institution, and that’s a great value to us.  As a matter of fact, the latest addition to our suite of services is APPA Advisors – a service offering customized, scaled organization assessments and solutions to targeted institutional issues.  For more information, please visit the APPA Advisors website.

This last type of organizational entity, the Standing Activity, is defined as “activities deemed to serve an ongoing and/or long-term activity in support of the strategic plan and in direct relation to Members’ needs and expectations. Group makeup will include a regional board-designated appointment in addition to members chosen from an APPA open call for service requests.”  With respect to these ongoing, long-term, strategic activities, we want your input to better define our long-term goals and deliverables that will best serve the profession and the association.  The question is how you can best provide your unique talents and abilities, yet balance all the things you’re dealing with for your institution/organization.

One Standing Activity in particular is the BOK (Body of Knowledge) Advisory Team, which Steve Glazner identified as a searchable online database and 60-plus chapters of foundational content that is required by facilities professionals at our colleges, universities, schools, museums, and other educational organizations.  There are corresponding shorter abstracts (open to the public) that one can browse before diving into the full chapters (a members-only benefit).  There are also 26 short content videos from APPA subject matter experts on various topics of interest (all located on APPA’s website  This is a resource for students, researchers, faculty, administrators, credential seekers (APPA’s CEFP-Certified Educational Facilities Professional), new employees on your staff, and as a refresher for current facilities management staff.  Steve said, “You’re never too old to gain more knowledge.  Your work comprises so many comprehensive components of facilities management, even with your expertise and education, you cannot cover it all.  So, the BOK is a good go-to resource when needed.”  It’s one of the reasons we created a new professional development program called P2P (Pathway to Professionalism), which uses these concepts and materials as its foundation.  With all this content, consider its use for “lunch & learns” with your staff. 

Staff absolutely need BOK reviewers for the ongoing, updating of BOK sections and chapters.  We need help from authors, subject matter experts, and content readers to peer review current content and advise us on the improvement of the chapters.  We think this is a great opportunity for targeted involvement.

Finally, our newest addition to the complement of Standing Activities is a team called Communications Strategies.  We would love to have your talent to develop tools for us to better communicate with the wider educational facilities community.  How we tell our story is incredibly important.  As facilities professionals, we don’t make or take the time to truly tell our story in proactive ways that can prove productive and beneficial.  That requires a communications strategy.  We must use different types of communication mediums (short videos, social media communiques, etc.) to provide information in an actionable and engaging way.  This Standing Activity is a key part of our strategic framework.  Maybe you have skills, abilities, and talents to serve in this capacity.

The current Call for Volunteers sent on September 13 for Member Engagement, Continuous Learning, and Communications Strategies closes on Friday, September 24.  We urge you to sign up if you’re interested in any of those particular areas.  There is more detail on the website.

Hopefully there are some things here that excited you to become more involved with your APPA colleagues.  Have a new idea for a potential work team, stakeholder group, or project task force focus?  We would love to hear your thoughts.  Clearly, you don’t need to wait for another call.  If you’re interested, contact any of us and we can get you connected.  Now is the perfect time. Please join us.

E. Lander Medlin
APAPPA President and CEO

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