Over the past few years, the American Counseling Association has been very fortunate in realizing a significant increase in the number of students who have joined our ranks. This is a positive sign that those coming into the profession realize that ACA has services, benefits and networking opportunities for them as they make their way through graduate school. I want to thank everyone who has been responsible for growing our student member population. I am hopeful that our student members and those of you who encouraged them to join will never be disappointed in what we provide.
What keeps me up at night, however, is wondering what will happen when these very enthusiastic, engaged and committed students graduate from their counselor education programs. Will we still be able to count on them to maintain their membership in ACA? Can we compete against the limited dollars new graduates make at entry-level counseling jobs? Will we be able to compete against the mountain of student loans coming due? After so many years of studying, reading and perfecting their craft, will recent graduates think the benefits of an ACA membership are still meaningful?
As noted, this worries me.
Although I believe ACA does offer services, resources and other benefits for those who carry the title "New Professional," I am not sure these recent graduates will feel the same way. We want ACA to be the professional home for all counselors, regardless of specialty or training. We want to make sure students know they are welcome, but we also want them to know they are valued for what they bring to the table while they are in graduate school, as well as when they begin their careers.
Occasionally, I ask readers to share their ideas and suggestions. This month, I am asking for your input regarding how we can best serve the New Professional. Don’t worry about the cost or the practicality; just send me your thoughts. You can e-mail or call me (see my contact information at the end of this column), or you can communicate the "old-fashioned" way with a letter sent to: Richard Yep, ACA, 5999 Stevenson Ave., Alexandria, VA 22304.
I know I will appear biased, but I really do believe that the opportunities and resources ACA provides to students and new professionals constitute an incredible set of benefits at a very affordable price. And when a student or new professional adds a division membership, the deal is even better. I congratulate the volunteer leadership for their ongoing support of those who are new to the profession. Our leaders have been steadfast in ensuring that students and new professionals have a voice in the association and in making the opportunity for membership affordable.
I also want to share something that will impact students and all other ACA members this year. When we can do something to hold down costs, that is a good thing. When we can "go green" and be more attentive to conserving our natural resources, that is also good. When we can do both simultaneously, the benefits are even better. I am pleased to tell you that ACA has made the decision to move to an online voting system this year. This means that rather than sending out 42,000-plus paper ballots and providing a postage-paid return envelope to everyone, members will have the opportunity to go to a secure voting site and cast their votes. Biographical information about the candidates, including their qualifications, will be linked to the online election site so you can decide whom you want to vote for and then take care of this process online.
We want to see as many members vote as possible, so we will still make paper ballots available by request this year for those who would prefer to vote in that manner. The bottom line is that online voting will reduce the amount of paper, printing and postage that we consume. In addition, we think it will be more convenient for members to simply go online and cast their ballots. I will be interested in receiving your feedback.
As always, I hope you will contact me with any comments, questions or suggestions that you might have. Please contact me via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 800.347.6647 ext. 231.
Thanks and be well.