Andy MacCracken is cofounder and executive director of the National Campus Leadership Council.
At NCLC, our work has never been about who is in political office; it has always been about who is leading on America’s college campuses. Although we had a unique relationship with the Obama Administration, we have been planning ahead for the 2017 transition for some time. Here are some reflections and updates for you about where we are heading in the upcoming year.
1. Updating our strategic vision
Our first strategic plan wrapped up at the end of 2016, and we are working with our board of directors to finalize a new plan through 2021. Overall, this new strategic plan will put us on a clear path toward organizational growth that focuses on how to better empower individual student leaders, as well as make the case to the country that student leadership matters. Period.
That is why we are excited to release a new website that focuses more squarely on you and your stories. It is a fresh look and content oriented so you can more easily learn about what other student leaders are doing. It is part of a new communications and organizing strategy that prioritizes sharing stories and developing resources that you can access and benefit from. In the coming weeks, we will also release a suite of policy toolkits and a forum where you can post ideas and more directly connect with NCLC’s robust network of student body leaders.
Our work is about you and your leadership on campus and in the policy arena. Our core purpose is to strengthen student leadership by empowering you with the expertise, skills, and opportunities to be the most effective advocates you can be. Each of you holds your own set of beliefs and ideologies, which all weave together and strengthen NCLC’s work through the exchange of ideas. NCLC is blessed to work with an incredibly diverse set of institutions, representing the full range of political thought in the country. We want NCLC to continue to be a place for you to come together and advance shared goals.
2. Federal policy engagement moving forward
It is no secret that NCLC worked closely with the Obama White House on a range of important issues, from championing college affordability to helping build the It’s On Us campaign. At every point, our goal was to ensure students had a seat at the table as the country addressed serious challenges and that goal was received graciously by former President Obama’s team (heck, they even hosted us each year for PLS!).
NCLC is not a traditional policy advocacy organization. We do not have a legislative agenda, but we have been and always will be committed to elevating and advancing your perspectives nationally. This mission inherently requires us to reach out to anyone who is President, Education Secretary, or any other official who wields significant authority over the future of education policy. We fully recognize that any engagement with the Trump administration will be disappointing for some student leaders and celebrated by others. At face value, educating those offices about your experiences and ideas is not an endorsement of those offices’ policy stances or rhetoric.
The truth is we do not yet know how the Trump White House will approach youth engagement or even how it will structure its Office of Public Engagement, which was the hub of external outreach and organizing for the past eight years. We are open to opportunities that elevate student voices and bring student leaders to the table as the country grapples with substantive policy questions. As mentioned in our post-election statement, we have serious concerns over how campaign rhetoric may preview how the new administration may approach higher education; ultimately our purpose as an organization is to make sure student leadership is a part of the process and we will pursue opportunities to realize that over the years ahead.
3. Focus on the states and institutional decision-making
As uncertainty looms in federal higher education policy, it is abundantly clear that states and institutions may very well drive the policy and programmatic innovations that will solve some of the most vexing issues facing students today. Students are already well positioned to be meaningful stakeholders in institutional and state-level decision-making, and our programs will adapt to that needed shift in support. This past fall, we hosted statewide convenings in three states and will look to grow those types of programs across the country in the months and years to come.
NCLC only works when students are engaged, so from the bottom of our hearts, thank you for being the leaders you are. What you do today will shape the future of our country at a time when we need student leadership the most. Our pledge to you is to make sure that your work lives on in your successors and in our programs.
Here are three things you can do to move these efforts forward:
- Share a story! We want to write about what you are doing and learning this year. Reach out if you want to write an article or have us cover something happening on your campus.
- Register for the Presidential Leadership Summit! PLS is where we build institutional memory year to year and devise a strategy for engagement for the year ahead. We need your participation more than ever, so be sure to learn more and register today. It will be June 3-5, 2017 in Washington, D.C.
- Get more leaders involved! By now, student government election season is on the horizon or underway nationwide. Tell other SGA members to subscribe to our newsletter and make sure your presidential candidates know that NCLC is a resource to them.
Thanks for your leadership! Let’s get to work.