My service as the Vice President of State Chapter Affairs on the Southeastern Region (SRAPPA) Board began in October 2019 at the regional conference in Covington, Kentucky. I am appreciative of the trust that the SRAPPA membership has placed in me and the support I receive from my institution (Wake Forest University), my direct supervisor, and my colleagues so that I may fulfill the duties of this position.
The main responsibility of the person in this role is to engage with the state chapters, including as a liaison to the regional and international levels of APPA. This has traditionally been accomplished through the coordination of SRAPPA Board representation at the state conferences, in order to support and fulfill official business to the extent requested by the chapter boards. Quarterly calls with the state chapter presidents have been the main way of engagement to learn about the plans for each state conference, to learn of and assist with challenges faced by the state boards and the state membership, and to relay information from the SRAPPA and APPA levels. I am grateful to the fellow SRAPPA Board members who join on these calls to provide updates on relevant actions and upcoming educational opportunities.
Status of State Chapter Conferences
In the SRAPPA region, the annual state chapter conferences are normally held for two to three days in the spring, the earliest one at the end of February and the latest one at the end of May. In 2020, only a few of the eight scheduled conferences were held prior to the pandemic shutdown, which canceled the rest. In North Carolina, the state chapter conference was to be hosted by Wake Forest University. I witnessed the disappointment experienced by many of my colleagues who had been involved on the conference committees as the effort of numerous months was abandoned. Of course, this is now a common experience shared by many planning committees in the past year.
The decision to cancel the state chapter conferences this year was made independently by each respective state board well in advance of an investment of resources. Some of the SRAPPA state boards considered the possibility of holding a virtual conference; all but one ultimately decided against this, mainly due to the limitations of the platform to deliver networking opportunities for the members and the business partners. The North Carolina chapter (NCAPPA) will hold a virtual conference offering five tracks of sessions over a five-week period beginning on June 2.
Current Challenges for State Chapters
What have I learned about the SRAPPA state chapters during our quarterly virtual meetings? We are all facing similar challenges that affect our regional and state involvement in professional associations and professional training. The financial impact of the pandemic on our member institutions has been great, and many universities are restricting travel and professional development budgets as a result. Participation in virtual offerings is limited for many of our members, not only because of cost (though this cost is certainly less than that of a conference involving travel) but because of work demands on our colleagues, the essential workers maintaining the campus. Participation on state boards and committees is lean, but recruiting members to serve in these roles is especially difficult when networking is nearly nonexistent.
Let’s Prepare for the Opportunities
This spring is the fifth quarterly season of cancellations of in-person events, but despite this, there are signs that this is a season of transition and a turning point. The value of the service that the facilities personnel provide is indeed essential, and this has been recognized throughout the pandemic. Let’s capitalize on this visibility to continue to develop the profession by various means that do not involve cost but do require the support of the institution: Get involved in your state chapter by serving on the board or in planning the conference for 2022 by serving on a committee. Serving in these roles can often facilitate gaining the financial commitment to attend conferences. Also, seek out scholarships from your region for professional development and apply early.
As our campuses transition to being fully engaged with the return of all students, staff, and faculty, let’s stay at the forefront. I look forward to seeing you in person soon.
Rosalba Ledezma is senior advisor in Facilities and Campus Services at Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, and serves as SRAPPA’s First Vice President. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is her first article for Facilities Manager.