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The Evolution of the Atlantic Association of College and University Student Services

The Atlantic Association of College and University Student Services was officially recognized in February 1975 by its membership during its firstannual business meeting. AACUSS, as it is affectionately known, evolved from the Association of Atlantic Universities Deans of Men and Women which had been formed in 1956. The Deans of Men and Women met twice per year to discuss issues of mutual concern as well as to renew friendships and enjoy each other's company. As early as October 1970 discussion was held regarding regional meetings involving Deans, Directors, Chaplains, Counsellors, Health Officers and Housing Officers. Consensus at this time seemed to indicate that a group this size would be "too unwieldy.'' However, it was agreed that an informal invitation would be extended to these interest groups and whoever chose to attend could do so.

In November of 1972 Nelson Ferguson (Nova Scotia Technical College) again initiated a general discussion on the future of the Deans of Men and Women, the role they should play, and the role its members should play within the Atlantic region. Debate ranged from format to philosophy. Rev. Douglas MacEachern (Nova Scotia Agricultural College), James Griffith (University of Prince Edward Island), Elizabeth Chard (Saint Mary's University), Sister Marie Gillan (Mount Saint Vincent University), Gilles Nadeau (University of Moncton), Ken Bendelier (Saint Mary's University) and Douglas Eaton (Memorial University), were all prominent speakers to these issues. 

The Deans of Men and Women certainly had style as indicated by a motion to hold its 1972 spring meeting in Bermuda. Nelson Ferguson, Christine Irvine and Elizabeth Chard reluctantly agreed to investigate the matter. Jim Griffith went so far as to write the University of West Indies regarding use of its residence facilities. In the end it was decided not to pursue the Bermuda meeting. However, AACUSS' commitment to innovation is most definitely one characteristic it inherited from its founding members. 

In May of 1973 the executive was given authority to pursue changing the name of the organization and drafting a new constitution. Discussion continued at the November 1973 meeting of the Deans of Men and Women at the University of Prince Edward Island. This was a significant meeting for some general principles and guidelines were discussed that have had a lasting impact on AACUSS:

1. There was a common desire to proceed toward a useful program of activities. 

2. There was a common desire to continue to meet and share information with colleagues in the field of Student Services. 

3. There was a common desire to retain the informality of the organization. 

4. There was a common desire not to confuse informality with the need for a formal structure. 

The positive feelings expressed at the April 1974 Mount Saint Vincent meeting, which included the various interest groups in Student Services, convinced everyone a larger association was necessary. A motion by Ken Bandelier (Saint Mary's University), seconded by Joe Johnson (Dalhousie University), instructed the executive to prepare for an annual conference in 1975. It was reasoned that an annual regional meeting would provide an opportunity to: 

1. discuss regional issues; 

2. stimulate interaction with various student service interest groups; and

3. provide a less expensive meeting than a national affiliation. 

During the summer of 1974, Sister Marie Gillan and Diane Tinkham (Mount Saint Vincent University) were given the task of drafting a constitution. The Atlantic Association of Universities were consulted by Jim Griffith and gave their support to the formation of the Atlantic Association of College and University Student Services. 

The original draft constitution referred to the organization as the Atlantic Association of College and University Student Personnel Services (AACUSPS). A motion by Ted Marriot (Dalhousie University) called for the deletion of the word 'personnel'. Gilles Nadeau moved the addition of Article VIII "the association shall recognize English and French as the two official languages". Nelson Ferguson moved the acceptance of the constitution. All motions were approved unanimously. 

And so, on February 28, 1975, AACUSS was officially recognized by a constitution which set out as its objectives: 

1. to evaluate the needs of Atlantic Colleges and Universities as they relate to Student Services; 

2. to provide a medium for exchange, review and evaluation of information among members, students and other interested groups;

3. to interpret the role of Student Services in universities and colleges; 

4. to encourage and develop programs directed at the professional enhancement of its members; 

5. to develop, encourage and support professional and ethical standards in Student Services; and

6. to serve as an effective arm of the Atlantic Association of Universities. 

Since its beginning, AACUSS has provided a medium for exchange, review, and evaluation. It has encouraged the development of programs ranging from Alcohol Awareness to Studentship. It has set high standards for Student Service professionals in the Atlantic region. AACUSS has also sponsored the development of helpful resource materials, special interest workshops and annual conferences. Despite these accomplishments, the association has remained informal, welcoming new members and encouraging a relaxed interaction among its various interest groups. The key ingredient in any organization is its people and AACUSS is no different. During the years many Student Service professionals have given their time and expertise to the development of AACUSS and Student Services. It is those individuals of the past and those who will follow in the future who exemplify the true meaning of AACUSS with its commitment to professional development, to establishing standards in Student Services personnel, to discussion of regional concerns, and to provide a medium for informal interaction and the developing of friendships.

(with files from Dr. Donna Hardy-Cox)

Atlantic Association of College & University Student Services

C/O Jaclyn Borden
UPEI (Dalton Hall 113)
550 University Ave.
Charlottetown, PEI
C1A 4P3

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