Elements of Excellence History

Dennis Heitzmann, then President of AUCCCD, convened a task force at Penn State University in July 1995, for the purpose of addressing the threat to college and university counseling centers from managed care organizations. Many directors were concerned about the growing interest among student affairs administrators in outsourcing or privatizing the counseling function on campuses, and wanted to anticipate these issues on their campuses. The group of AUCCCD members who met named this group the Managed Care Task force, and set out to develop strategies that could be used by directors. Subcommittees were formed to student relevant topics and to develop programs to be presented at the Newport Beach conference that year. The programs to be presented by the task force members drew large audiences, and reinforced the idea that directors wanted and needed this kind of information. It was decided that subsequent annual meetings of the task force would be sponsored by the immediate past presidents of AUCCCD at their home institutions.

At the next meeting of the task force sponsored by Kathy Hotelling at Northern Illinois University in April 1996, members renamed the group the Elements of Excellence Task Force. This reflected a change in focus away from addressing managed care issues to assisting directors in developing management practices that would strengthen their centers. It was also apparent that the membership of the task force changed from the previous year and that this shift affected the direction of the group. Subcommittees were formed and programs were developed for presentation at the next Directors' conference in Seattle , and again these programs generated considerable interest.

When the Elements of Excellence Task Force convened at the University of Georgia in April 1997, questions were raised about the direction of the task force and the shifts that occurred with changes in membership. While the group went about forming subcommittees and tasks, it was agreed that the AUCCCD board would be asked for direction. The board addressed the issue at the Williamsburg meeting, and decided to establish a core group among the directors who had consistently attended the task force meetings. Because only minimal financial support was available to the task force, it was expected that membership would shift from year to year. Thus the core group was needed for continuity and for communication to the board. Core group members were to be responsible for developing agendae and working with the attendees at meetings to continue the work of the task force. President Pat Larsen named immediate past president Steve Brown and Jeanne Miller as facilitators of the core group for the Denver meeting and named Jack Corazzini, Kathy Hotelling, Dennis Heitzmann, Delores Mack, and Jonathan Perry as members of the core group.

The meeting of the task force in Denver on April 24-26, 1998 focused on both new and ongoing projects. President Larsen had invited all members of AUCCCD to consider joining the group and consequently several new members joined the Denver effort in pursuing the slate of initiatives that had emerged from earlier meetings. To date the task force had tackled managed care issues, developed benchmarks and comparator standards of quality, began to unify a national data collection system, and promoted management practices to assist counseling center directors in maintaining their center's viability and relevance. Once again several programs for the annual conference were generated as a result of the discussions.

In December of 1998 AUCCCD President Jack Corazzini suggested that for continuity, the leadership of the task force would be detached from the presidency and, for the time being, membership would be limited to past participants until a membership policy is established. This would give the group the opportunity to expeditiously pursue tasks, eliminating the need to orient and educate new members. Past AUCCCD presidents Hotelling and Heitzmann were asked to chair the task force for the next three years. Moreover it was agreed that future task force meetings would be held at airport hotels to facilitate access for attendees.

At the Chicago meeting of the task force on April 16-18, 1999 participants forged a mission statement which is the following: The elements of Excellence Task force is an AUCCCD supported effort. The mission of the task force is to provide impetus and structure for the organization to address leadership development, management skill development, and creative thinking about current and future issues affecting counseling centers in a coordinated, consistent and collaborative fashion. In addition to writing a mission statement, task force members agreed to send all descriptions of E of E program presentations at the annual conference to the AUCCCD document bank. In addition, at each conference AUCCCD members would be offered an informational meeting to orient participants and recruit new members in advance of the next task force meeting. Finally, several conference program ideas were generated, and coordinating presenters assigned, in each of the following three areas: leadership development, management skills development and "thinking creatively", in addition to a full day pre-conference workshop on leadership.

The Y2K meeting of the task force was held in Pittsburgh on April 14-15, 2000 . In addition to its continuing pursuit of projects outlined above, the major new initiative to come from the meeting was the development of a working plan for a full-day Administrative Institute to be held in conjunction with the annual spring E of E task force meeting. The institute would target AUCCCD members and non-member directors interested in leadership development, management skills, and creative visioning. Plans for the institute would be presented to the AUCCCD board at the Snowbird conference to seek board endorsement. This presentation did in fact occur at Snowbird, and the board enthusiastically endorsed the task force's plans for the institute.

The following April, a group of 30+ counseling center directors and administrators gathered in western Chicago at the Hoffman Estates campus of Northern Illinois University for the first Elements of Excellence Administrative Institute. Institute topics included leadership development; situational leadership; conflict management; budgeting; and creative visioning. Though intended primarily for "new" directors (less than 5 years experience), several more senior directors attended as well. Following the institute, the task force convened and focused on three primary issues: program planning for the 2001 AUCCCD meeting in Toronto ; evaluation of the institute and planning for the second institute, tentatively scheduled for April 2002 in either Baltimore or Las Vegas ; and identifying ways to encourage participation in the task force by members of AUCCCD. The final action of the task force meeting was the transfer of leadership from the able hands of Kathy Hotelling and Dennis Heitzmann to rookies Rosa Ament of Pace University , Westchester Campuses, and Jonathan Perry of the University of Arkansas.

Unfortunately, due to transition/succession issues and family emergencies, it was not possible to schedule the second administrative institute during spring 2002. The task force meeting, once again in Hoffman Estates, was held April 19-20 and focused on solidifying the institute for 2003 as well as planning conference programs to be offered at the AUCCCD conference in Hawaii, fall 2002. The attending directors discussed some of the logistical problems that had come up in institute planning, and dates for the Baltimore administrative institute and task force meeting were set (April 3-5, 2003). Hotel sites for the institute were also tentatively identified. Program ideas were generated for the Hawaii conference, along with names of directors who might be tapped to participate in those programs, and there was a return to the issue of identifying ways to encourage participation in the task force by AUCCCD members.

Discussion among members of the task force during the summer and fall forwarded planning for the Baltimore institute and meeting, with revised dates (April 24-26) and location (the Holiday Inn BWI). At the Hawaii AUCCCD meeting, the institute was publicized through fliers and during one of the business meetings, and a full array of task force-sponsored programs was presented by members of the task force and other directors. Drs. Ament and Perry discussed task force efforts with members of the AUCCCD board, which continued to express support for task force initiatives and extended financial and administrative support for the institute and the spring task force meeting.

As planned, the second Administrative Institute took place in April 2003, attended by about 30 directors and director aspirants. Their evaluations of the institute were generally favorable but also provided the faculty with ideas for improving the program for the third institute next spring. Following the institute was the E of E organizational and planning meeting, and after the work of identifying program ideas for the next AUCCCD conference in New Orleans in November, the task force turned its attention to an assessment of the "state of the task force", in a sense. A spirited and far-ranging discussion produced a number of observations about the task force, many constructively critical of its current shape and function. Among these included recognition of a gradual change in the work of the task force from its origin as an attempt to respond to the threat of managed care and outsourcing in the mid 1990's to its current focus on the administrative institute and on producing high quality programs for the annual AUCCCD meeting; the amount of time required for these planning activities at the expense of other task force functions (e.g., pure "think tank" work); the resulting time pressures at the mid-year planning meeting; difficulties in recruiting and retaining a diverse group of members and participants; as a result, unsolved problems in continuity of membership and leadership within the task force; and uncertainty among the general membership of AUCCCD about the openness of the task force and the level of interest, experience, and expertise required for task force participation. The result of this discussion was a proposal to restructure the task force to address some of these issues. This proposal will be presented to the AUCCCD Board at the New Orleans meeting, where Drs. Ament and Perry will also continue E of E recruiting efforts and will market the next administrative institute, planned for San Diego in April 2004.

However, in the spirit of "best laid plans", things did not work out exactly that way. In New Orleans Dr. Ament and Dr. Perry did in fact discuss with the Board the Baltimore assessment of the task force's current state of affairs and included candid remarks about their own challenges in serving as E of E co-chairs. This conversation, which carried across two meetings with the Board and separate discussions with President Greg Snodgrass and other Board members, combined with the E of E informational breakfast meeting and a Wednesday morning task force work session to arrive at decisions to revamp the near-term plans for the task force's activities. Summarized briefly, these consisted of decisions to cancel the planned San Diego administrative institute and to replace it with a preconference administrative institute at the AUCCCD annual meeting in at Lake Tahoe in fall 2004; to convene the spring planning meeting in Chicago in April 2004; and to restructure the funding support offered the task force by the Board. The overall intention of these decisions was to support efforts by the task force to reconfigure its efforts in ways that would recapture its original "think tank" activities and to attract broader participation in the task force by AUCCCD members. (It is perhaps worth noting that the E of E conference programs have continued to be some of the best attended and evaluated offerings at the annual meetings.) In April the task force convened once again at the NIU Hoffman Estates campus for a full two days. During this meeting, we consolidated plans for the preconference administrative institute at the Lake Tahoe conference, worked out the details for a proposal to the Board outlining our thoughts about the structure, direction, and composition of the task force and describing the level of financial support we believe necessary for the task force's continuing work; developed a roster of program offerings for the Tahoe conference; and considered succession plans after Drs. Ament and Perry complete their terms as co-chairs at the Tahoe meeting.