A Year of Opportunity and Accomplishment

By Jayne Caflin Fonash, NACAC President

Headshot of Jayne Caflin Fonash, NACAC President

I have been honored to lead NACAC this past year. This is exactly where I wanted to be, immersed with all of you in the energy and the optimism that each of us still bring to work every day, in support of the objectives of higher education access, inclusivity, equity, and affordability.  

While it has been a year of crisis it has also been a year of opportunity and accomplishment, in particular the onboarding of our new CEO. Angel Pérez, who assumed his leadership role at a time of great challenge in NACAC’s history brings to his position his lifelong dedication to expanding diversity, equity, and access. Angel is unafraid to make bold decisions, secure partnerships with organizations in the college access and enrollment sphere, and at the same time protect and grow our financial resources. Knowing that our future is in good hands, I’d like to speak with you briefly about the work of the association and NACAC Board of Directors this past year to prepare for that future.

Recognizing that this was the year to finally address challenges that had been percolating for years, NACAC’s leadership has embraced pivotal opportunities to change and strengthen the future of our association. We left Louisville last year anticipating a resolution to the DOJ inquiry after over two long years of investigation. With the recent review by the assembly of the new ethics document, that chapter is behind us, but it has also propelled us to consider who and what we are as an association.

I announced in Louisville the formation of the Ad Hoc Committee on Leadership in College Admission. The members of this Ad Hoc did not shrink from their assigned task given the challenges faced by our association last fall and winter. They embraced the opportunity to re-envision post-secondary enrollment as our world was entirely disrupted by COVID-19 and civil unrest. Their findings and white paper are even more urgent and imperative as we shape a post-secondary education landscape that is accessible, inclusive, equitable and affordable for all. Their report tells us that NACAC has an opportunity right now to develop and leverage the talent, energy, and resources within our organization to become the most credible voice with policy makers and the media; to create greater avenues of access to education; and to collaborate with other organizations to affect positive change.

We are reinventing ourselves during a time of disruption for both the college admissions profession and associations. A new strategic vision, mission, and values will certainly ensure our organization becomes a cutting-edge influencer, leading and supporting the transformation of the college admissions profession. With the blueprint of the recently released Ad-Hoc Report as a north star, I hope you will join me as we look for forthcoming mission and vision statements and an organizational restructure as just two examples that NACAC is moving in new and exciting directions. All of this will occur with continuous, broad input from our membership through events like Angel’s recent Listening Tour and Membership Town Hall.

As the COVID-19 crisis escalated this spring, it highlighted NACAC’s responsibility to raise legitimate questions about long-standing inequities in testing opportunities and conditions for students particularly amid pandemic conditions. In addition to correspondence with the testing organizations concerning inequities, NACAC called on our member colleges and universities to reassess their admission criteria in light of the overwhelming challenges faced by many students, including low-income, first-generation, and other vulnerable students who are already facing increased threats to their physical, emotional, and economic well-being. Over 1,400 institutions have moved to test-optional policies for at least the 2020-21 admission cycle. In addition, over 500 colleges and universities with test-optional policies in place took an even more public stand and signed our NACAC statement that they have affirmed that they will not penalize students for the absence of a standardized test score. Their strong endorsement insures a student-centered, holistic approach to admission that will not disadvantage any student without a test score.

NACAC also released a report Ensuring All Students Have Access to Higher Education: The Role of Standardized Testing in the Time of COVID-19 and Beyond, a much-needed call to colleges and universities to examine their ACT and SAT policies and practices, and to reexamine any mandatory use of testing as part of enrollment operations for both practical and ethical reasons. Authored by NACAC members who formed our Task Force on Standardized Admission Testing for International and US Students, the report examines the inequities associated with standardized testing for college-bound students and calls for solutions that can help bring about needed change to the admission process.
Throughout the year, we have sought  to demonstrate to you not just by our words but our actions, that NACAC condemns racism in all its forms and is dedicated to advancing efforts to address the systemic inequities and ongoing injustices within education and the nation at large. With diversity, equity, and inclusion as one of the five strategic drivers identified in the Ad Hoc White Paper, you will continue to see  NACAC initiatives that  seek justice in all forms by working to eliminate institutional discrimination, prejudice, and exclusion in our association and our education system. I am certain that NACAC members will carefully scrutinize our actions to ensure outcomes consistent with our shared mission in support of equity and access.

All of these developments confirm a belief I shared in Louisville last September - we do have control over our future. As we continue to consider the greater good, under Angel’s leadership and with all of us actively engaged, we will prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion in our membership and our leadership, be proactive about NACAC’s financial health, and continue to respond to the impact of the pandemic and civil unrest.

I am reminded as I conclude that the people we love are the foundation of all else. Even with pandemic restrictions, my family has seen less of me in the past year and generously supported my commitment to contribute to the greater good. Truly, each in their own way contributes to the greater good through their own professions and volunteer efforts. I am blessed to call them my family.

None of us work in isolation, and I have been fortunate to take this journey with the 14 amazing professionals who comprise the NACAC Board of Directors. We have lived through a great deal in the past 12 months, and with each decision we have made together my respect for their integrity, their commitment to NACAC, and their dedication to our profession has only grown. We will be saying goodbye to Jack Steinberg, Stefanie Niles, Derek DuBose, Elise Rodriquez, Ffiona Rees, and David Antoniewicz, and will be welcoming three new board directors, a new president-elect, and an Affiliate Presidents Coordinator at the conclusion of this conference. 

As Todd Rinehart assumes the role of NACAC president, I hope you will join me in supporting his efforts in the year ahead. It is an exciting time to step into this role, working with the Board and the CEO on our next steps into the future. I have every confidence in Todd’s ability to provide leadership, energy, and transparency to an increasingly diverse NACAC membership, as well as to instill each member with a sense of ownership, possibility, and inclusion in our organization.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve in this role, and thank you for reading and talking and listening all year... many of you have made contributions to our overall efforts and are perhaps unaware of your influence as we’ve moved forward.  Positive and thought-provoking voices are important as are actions undertaken to support each other and our mission.  I am proud to say that I am a member of NACAC and hope you share my pride in your own engagement.















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