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Promoting Inclusion on a National and International Scale

Promoting Inclusion on a National and International Scale
ACPA: College Student Educators International hosts 81st annual conference

According to Gregory Roberts, executive director and senior operating officer of the American College Personnel Association, now known as ACPA: College Student Educators International, people must step out of their own comfort zones in order to create and cultivate welcoming environments in higher education.

“You’ve got to believe that people are people, regardless of their color, their orientation, all the labels we can put on people,” Roberts says. “I feel blessed that I have been able to embrace all those differences.”

Roberts, who has been in the student personnel administration business for more than 30 years and has served as ACPA executive director for well over a year, seems to personify the notion of inclusion. Throughout his career, this former Indiana University business major has addressed the issues of the marginalized. He has reached out to every category of minority group — students of color, international students, GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual) students, students with disabilities and others. Roberts has spent the past 12 years as vice president for student affairs at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.

Creating a centralized body for student affairs and inclusion issues in higher education is an important part of the mission of ACPA. As a part of that goal, the Washington-based organization hosted its 81st annual convention in Nashville, Tenn., earlier this month. The conference brought together student affairs professionals, college administrators, faculty members and graduate students. The theme “Advancing Student Affairs: Enhancing Learning” was expanded on through featured keynote speakers, workshops, discussions and presentations.

Among the conference sessions were panels assessing the ways in which the college experience might best serve students and preparing student affairs professionals to make significant contributions in improving campus climates of learning.

ACPA has always figured significantly for Roberts and helped to shape his career decisions. A long-time member, Roberts is also past-president of the organization and was the 2003 individual recipient of the ACPA Voice of Inclusion Medallion, which is awarded annually in recognition of exemplary work in higher education and student affairs.

“It was just clear that this is what I wanted to do — totally,” he says about his career choice. “(The) beauty of higher education and working particularly in student affairs is you get to see people at their best and their worst.”

Roberts adds that when he was invited to head the organization in Washington, D.C., it was an attractive prospect and one he was delighted to take. “It was quite an honor to come here and move this organization forward,” he says.

— By Crystal L. Keels

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