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I am writing this month’s Memo after just returning home from the Nominating Committee’s meeting to nominate NASBA’s next Vice Chair (chair-elect). It is a real privilege to serve as the CEO of an organization that attracts such great leaders who aspire to serve as Chair. All the highly qualified candidates considered by the Nominating Committee would be successful chairs, and I suspect there are future chairs among them. The Committee’s nominee for 2019-2020 Vice Chair, Carlos Barrera, will be formidable and historic, as he will be the first Hispanic Chair in NASBA’s 108-year history.

Flying home to Nashville, I was thinking about the conscientious work done by the Nominating Committee and the success they have had in selecting strong leaders who have served NASBA so well, but, more specifically, how they have seriously brought diversity and balance into their deliberations. It caused me to reflect on the positive changes that have occurred since 2012 when I wrote what turned out to be a provocative President’s Memo, during my first year as President and CEO of NASBA, entitled “Photos on the Wall.” Many readers were probably not involved in NASBA when that Memo was printed, so here is an excerpt:

“Outside my office in Nashville is a wall of photos of the Chairs of NASBA who served over the past 17 years, since NASBA has been headquartered in Nashville. I walk by those photos numerous times every day and often stop to look at the faces of those fine leaders, most of whom I have gotten to know during my tenure as both a NASBA volunteer and employee. I usually point out the wall of Chair photos when I show visitors and guests around our facility. On several occasions someone will mention the lack of diversity. Not surprising. In fact, in the past 17 years, 15 of our chairs have been men…white men.”

With the redesigned Nashville offices, we were able to display 50 years of Chair photos. The new ”photos on the wall”’ revealed that in 50 years of NASBA Chairs there had been only one African-American man, one Asian-American man, and four women. As I stated in the original Memo, I was in no way trying to dissuade anyone from seeking the Chair position, nor be critical of any of the praiseworthy leaders represented. What I was challenging was the culture of NASBA and how we had failed to encourage and support women and minorities to “aspire to, seek and hold NASBA’s highest office.”

I am very pleased to report on the progress we have made. Since the “Photos on the Wall” was published in late 2012, of the seven nominated Vice Chairs (chair-elects), there were: two white men, two African-American men, two women and, now, a Hispanic man, all great leaders. Through NASBA’s regional nomination processes, we achieved diversity success in a relatively short period of time. Kudos to the Nominating Committee members and to the candidates who stepped up to run for the office, who made this happen. As I have often stated , I consider the Nominating Committee to be NASBA’s most important committee.

Supporting diversity is in no way meant to be disparaging to other demographic groups, and I would encourage anyone interested in serving as the NASBA chair to run. Recently national political candidates have essentially apologized for their being a “white male.” That is ridiculous! However, it would be disingenuous not to recognize that some of us have been given opportunities and privileges others may not have enjoyed. Great organizations like NASBA do not shirk away from challenges, and I think we are proving that. There are opportunities for leadership in NASBA for all types of individuals and we are stronger for it!

Semper ad meliora (Always toward better things).

— Ken L. Bishop
President & CEO

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