With Thanks and Celebration for NACAC National Conference 2021!


October 1, 2021

Dear Members,

I write with gratitude to everyone who attended National Conference in Seattle last week and to all who worked to make it a reality. It was incredibly moving to reunite in person with so many of you and to reconnect—whether in person or remotely—and recommit to the meaningful and important work of advancing the college admission counseling profession. It’s a great privilege to lead NACAC and to work with such committed, passionate individuals across the association. With such engagement and so many important conversations and occasions to learn together throughout the conference, I am more energized and inspired than ever about NACAC and the work we will do to create an accessible, equitable future for higher education.

After not being able to meet in person last year, it was tremendously exciting to gather in Seattle. Some 3,380 of you attended in person, and another 1,643 joined us remotely. It wasn’t exactly like old times, of course; the pandemic required public health protocols and proof of vaccinations and, as has now become standard operating procedure, an ability to adapt and adjust to changing circumstances and conditions. Thank you all for your understanding and assistance in helping us navigate the pandemic. Without your cooperation, the event could not have happened. It was apt, indeed, that our conference theme this year was Leading Change!

It was an emotional time for all of us, being apart for two years. Countless hugs and tears of joy were common, symbolizing the deep bond that we share as humans and as members of this profession. In this way, the NACAC conference was more than just a yearly gathering. It was a time for us to reaffirm our cherished friendships, grieve for those we lost, and stand united in our shared resilience.

I’m happy to share with you here some highlights and important updates from our time together. All attendees will have complimentary on-demand access to the livestream recordings from the conference for two weeks (additional packages are available for purchase).​​​​​

New Mission & Vision

Whether or not you were able to attend, I hope you’ve seen the new mission and vision statements developed by NACAC’s Board of Directors in collaboration with membership over the past year. The work grew from the Ad Hoc Committee on Leadership in College Admission in 2019 and results in our new guiding mission and vision statements, which we shared for the first time during Thursday’s Main Stage session. My thanks to the board for leading this effort and developing these inspiring statements that declare so clearly and boldly who we are, what we do, and why it matters.

NACAC’s new mission statement: 
Empowering college admission counseling professionals through education, advocacy, and community.

NACAC’s new vision statement: 
The transformative power of postsecondary education is accessible to all.

I hope those statements resonate with you and stir renewed pride in your work and that of our entire profession. I invite you to share those statements far and wide and encourage others in your network to join NACAC if they haven’t already. You can learn more about them on our website and in this video we produced for the occasion as well; Inside Higher Ed also featured our new mission and vision statements in its coverage of National Conference. As I wrote in a newly published piece in Higher Ed Dive, our mission and vision matter because the work of our members matters. We see ourselves and the profession as path-making, not gatekeeping, and we are driven by a fundamental belief that expanding opportunity and removing barriers to postsecondary education advances equity and benefits everyone.

Awards, Keynote Speakers & Session Highlights

The conference schedule was jam-packed with preconference workshops and seminars, Affiliate meetings, education sessions, the annual Meeting of the Delegates, Membership Meeting and State of the Association update, meetings of Special Interest Groups, over 100 exhibitors and sponsors, the new broadcast studio, and a college fair with more than 200 participating colleges and universities!

During its meeting, the Board of Directors welcomed four new board members and NACAC’s first board chair, Ffiona Rees. The board also honored the service of outgoing president Todd Rinehart and past-president Jayne Fonash. You’ll hear more about the board meeting in a future message, but I wanted to take a moment here to thank the board for its leadership and dedication and, especially, to thank Todd for his work to keep NACAC’s momentum going strong during an incredibly challenging time. I look forward to Todd and Jayne’s continued engagement with NACAC and to a wonderful tenure for the association under Ffiona’s leadership! 

Todd had the pleasure of recognizing the outstanding service and achievement of several individuals and organizations whose work improved the profession, the field of education, and lives of students whom we serve. This year’s awardees: 

  • Margaret E. Addis Service to NACAC Award: NACAC Admission Practices Committee (chair, Aaron Salesak)
  • Joyce E. Smith Award: Nepal Justice League
  • Gayle C. Wilson Award: Thomas Butler, director of Advancement and Operations of the Philadelphia College Prep Roundtable, and Sean Callaway, director of college placement at the Center for Urban Education at Pace University
  • Government Relations Award: Ashley Young, college counselor at Charles R. Drew Charter School
  • Inclusion, Access, and Success Award: Yvonne Espinoza, owner and founder of Yvonne Espinoza College Counseling Services
  • John B. Muir Editor Award: Ken Anselment, vice president for enrollment & communication at Lawrence University (WI) and the creator, producer, and host of his Admission Leadership Podcast
  • NACAC Rising Star Awards: Jonathan Gowin, assistant director of admission at Carnegie Mellon University (PA), and Noor Hadad, associate director of college counseling, The Bishop’s School (CA)
  • Program Awards: Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling’s “Elevate:  Women in Enrollment Management Seminar Series”Pennsylvania Association for College Admission Counseling’s “Promoting Inclusivity & Equity Lunch and Learn Series”, and Texas Association for College Admission Counseling for the Member Relief Fund

​​We launched the conference with a panel of Seattle educators who offered their perspectives around helping students navigate their postsecondary options, including the mental health challenges more students are facing today and how to solve them. Many thanks to Lisa ChinSigrid BataraPercy L. Abram, and our own David Hawkins who moderated the panel.

Our keynote sessions were a special highlight. Shaun Harper, founder and executive director of the Race and Equity Center at the University of Southern California, challenged and inspired us to create anti-racist campus climates. “Equity is possible, but it requires strategy, intentionality, skill-building, and it requires us not just to declare that we’re anti-racist but to actually be anti-racist,” he said. 

I was privileged to share a conversation with journalist, documentarian, author, and philanthropist Soledad O’Brien, whose perspectives on social justice, the role of mentorship, and building trust within an organization were insightful and thoughtful. And for our final conference session, we all were treated to “A Peek Behind the Media Curtain,” with higher education reporters Jeremy Bauer-WulfMelissa Korn, and Teresa Watanabe, moderated by Queens University President and NACAC board member Daniel Lugo.  

Through it all, we managed to stay active and social (always social!) with on-site receptions and a closing social event at the spectacular Seattle Art Museum. Our local members were terrific hosts; I hope all who attended in person were able to get out and enjoy beautiful Seattle.

I would like to make a correction to membership data that I presented during the State of the Association presentation. The data was not adequately disaggregated to reflect the diversity of NACAC’s membership. I regret this oversight and have included the updated information below. Please know that our data changes on nearly a daily basis but will be updated regularly on our website.

Race & Ethnicity



American Indian or Alaskan Native






Black or African American



Hispanic or Latino






Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander






Prefer not to disclose






White or Caucasian



Grand Total






In the months ahead, NACAC plans to conduct a member needs assessment to better understand our members, their passions, and their diverse interests. We want to hear from you about how we can better address and define our demographic information to ensure that NACAC is representative of all voices. Further, more than 45 percent of our membership do not report their race and ethnicity. Please take a moment to login and update your demographic information today. Doing so ensures our ability to serve the great diversity of our membership.

Leadership Circle 

At a breakfast with past NACAC presidents, we announced the creation of a NACAC Leadership Circle, which represents a new way to engage some of NACAC’s most trusted experts in support of the association and its mission and vision. 

Comprising former elected NACAC leaders, the Leadership Circle will serve in an important advisory capacity to the Board of Directors and NACAC’s CEO. While not part of the official governance structure of the association, the Leadership Circle will convene in person annually at National Conference and virtually as needed throughout the year, and it will receive pertinent information from the board and CEO as it relates to advice and guidance sought from the Leadership Circle. 

This group, whose members possess deep experience in the field of college admission counseling, as well as in leading NACAC, can provide valuable support to NACAC as it engages the wider membership in serving on ad-hoc committees and in other ways that address pressing topics in the field of college admission counseling. As the Leadership Circle’s members are among some of the most influential voices in the sector, they also can help to raise the profile of NACAC in support of the profession and shape the public narrative around college admission to more accurately and positively convey higher education as a public good.

My thanks to those who have accepted our invitation to join the Leadership Circle. Stay tuned for more on the work of this new group of longtime NACAC supporters. 

Looking Ahead 

In the end, I could not have asked for more from Seattle, our wonderful local hosts and conference sponsors, or NACAC’s amazing staff. 

Thank you to all who helped us reunite, and to all who participated, whether in person or remotely. Your dedication and passion for the work of our profession were evident in every conference session and conversation. The future of college admission is bright thanks to all of you!

Angel B. Pérez, CEO

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