Reflections from our 6th President – Shelly Underwood

Wow! Ten years?!?!  As the old adage goes, “time flies when you’re having fun!”  I’m excited to share with you a bit about my SoACE journey thus far and how, you – its members, continue to inspire me.

As a new professional, I was fortunate to have been encouraged and supported in my interests to get involved in SWACE.  When news of the planned merger with SACE was announced, I remember feeling a strong sense of excitement and enthusiasm for new opportunities that would be afforded given the diversity of the proposed new membership and each association’s rich history.  The extraordinary efforts of the strategic planning and merger team committees laid the foundation for the association we derive so much benefit from.

San Antonio was the destination for the inaugural SoACE Conference and “Synergy” was the theme!  I had the privilege of serving alongside three talented members, Patsy Hammett, Sue Martin and Woody Wentworth, to chair the planning of this much anticipated event.  With the support of Karen Thompson, our President, the board, and a brilliant conference committee, more than 900 SoACE members gathered in the Alamo City to network and grow within the profession we hold so dear.  In this role, I began to realize our shared challenges and opportunities and I remember thinking the “synergy” is real and we have a lot we can accomplish together.  It’s also important to note I learned a few new line dances that year and till this day, I can’t help but crack up when I hear Chubby Checker’s Twist!

Beginning in 2011, I was extremely fortunate to have the experience of serving on the SoACE board for a three-year tenure starting with President-Elect.  This was a challenging, but also exciting time, as I was making the transition professionally from career services at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio to university recruiting at Tesoro, now Andeavor.  Whether we were introducing a new web platform via SoACE Connect, reviewing by-laws to ensure they enabled our work, looking to grow membership, exploring collaborative opportunities with other regional associations, or preparing for a successful conference experience (on the magnificent beaches of St. Pete), I was continuously amazed by the commitment of our SoACE volunteers.  From board members and conference chairs, to committee leads and members, the passion they lend in addition to time and energy is invaluable empowering the association at large to fulfill its mission.  I grew as a professional so much during this time – each board member I served with brought unique perspectives and abilities that strengthened both me and the team.  In the midst of busy days, that just get busier with time, I relied (and continue to rely) on this network for advice, best practices, and motivation.

Here we are, ten years later. SoACE, driven by its membership and supported by a wonderful team at CMC Global, continues to evolve and remains a resource for those both seasoned in our profession and new.  I count my blessings that I have the opportunity to work in the company of such amazing professionals that positively impact our profession and the students and stakeholders we serve daily.  I’m excited to celebrate all that has been achieved in the past decade in my home town of San Antonio this December, alongside you and my Andeavor team.  The “Synergy” is more real than ever and opportunity lies ahead to leverage the talents brought together years ago into one super association!

Reflections from our 8th President – Jay Killough

My first ever SWACE conference was back in 2002 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. I wanted to get involved in the organization, so I volunteered for the Registration Committee in order to meet people. I worked the check-in table and handed members their name badges and bags for a couple years. From there, I volunteered with the Technology Committee. We were the people in charge of building and maintaining the SWACE website. There was a lot of turnover that year and I remember going from a committee Member, to committee Chair, to Board Director for Technology within a year. Things happened FAST. I remember feeling out of place at board meetings, so I stuck to what I knew which was web design. During summer of 2005, our president, Randy Wilson brought to our attention that SWACE would possibly be merging with SACE. The next year, the vote passed and the transition began, merging the two associations. Through this transition and some intense board meetings, I was able to see the talent involved in making such crucial decisions to merge the two associations.


I can remember it like it was yesterday. November 12, 2012. I was at home sitting at my desk working on graduate school work when my phone rang at about 9:00 p.m. Toni McLawhorn had emailed me earlier in the day asking if we could talk. I was curious why Toni would be calling me at my home on a weeknight. She cut straight to the point and asked me if I would mind being nominated for President Elect for SoACE. Stunned, I began asking many questions. Normally, I wouldn’t have a problem saying yes to new opportunities, but this was a big deal. All I could think of were the Presidents before me, Karen Thompson, Donnie Brown, Norma Guerra-Gaier, Eric Pearson, Toni McLawhorn, Shelly Garcia, and Tim Harding. There’s NO WAY I could be President. I’m thankful Toni was as patient, kind and understanding as she was, because after answering all my thousands of questions over a few days, she assured me it was the team that made things work for SoACE, and was she ever right. I was, and remain, impressed by the talent involved with SoACE.

As President Elect, Matt Berndt and I had a wonderful conversation in St. Pete that I will never forget. To reference City Slickers, Matt looked at me and said, “Focus on one thing in your presidency and put all your energy into it.” The next year, as an organization, we passed new by-laws that made the organization more inclusive (thanks to Tim Harding’s futuristic strength). The next step was to follow up on that inclusiveness and provide a group option for membership so whole offices could participate in SoACE. This was our one thing that year. An executive committee made up of some of the most powerhouse thinkers diligently and deliberately thought through all the potential pitfalls and gains that could possibly come from a group membership. Stacy Ballinger, who headed the committee, presented the group membership option to the organization, which went to vote at the New Orleans conference in 2014 and passed unanimously. Since then, our numbers have increased and we have broken the thousand-member mark. A huge thanks to Jeff Cummings, Corinne Earle and all the folks at CMCglobal who keep us organized and running efficiently.

I smile thinking of SoACE. I smile as I reflect on my years on the board and the presidency, and I think of the unforgettable conferences, the wealth of knowledgeable and inspiring people, and the relationships I have been so fortunate to build. I smile. I look back on the countless hours I spent questioning what decision to make (right, Tim?), but now

realize that being surrounded by a wonderful team is how decisions get made. Through the nearly 10,000 emails in my SoACE email folder and all the conversations with the best people in the world, I am grateful for all the wonderful people involved with SoACE who put their time and energy into making it function. I smile ear to ear.



I am continually excited to see the up and coming talent that is being produced in SoACE. Each year the conference gets better and better, and I look forward to all the new and exciting offerings SoACE is delivering. KGs, the Employer Relations Summit, the webinars, and consultations are just some of the excellent resources SoACE provides year-round.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Reflections from our 7th President – Tim Harding

As I sat looking out my window watching a snow fall, I reflected on the past several months of working with a group of dedicated and innovative SoACE board members who had committed themselves to re-thinking each of their areas of responsibility with an eye to enhancing relevance and expanding services for an association that we all highly valued.

Tim Harding & Jay Killough at “Snow-ACE”

But wait . . . some of you may know that I live in Tampa, FL, so how could it be that I was watching a snowfall? Had climate change really impacted us so much that it was snowing in Tampa? While it has happened in the past, the fact is I was sitting in my Chantilly, VA hotel room getting ready for our annual conference that would infamously become known as “SNOW-ACE”!

Tim Harding & Jay Killough at “SnowACE”Our numbers for that conference suffered from the many flight delays and cancellations, road closures, and other transportation headaches resulting from a winter storm that snarled travel from Texas to Virginia and everywhere in between. In the true SNOW-ACE…I mean, SoACE spirit, we forged on making adjustments to the breakout schedule, presentations, and events. We sorely missed our stranded colleagues, but those who did attend made the best of the conference and experienced the same high quality professional development experience to which we are accustomed. They even made light of the situation with one creative member, who is still unknown to me, christening the conference as SNOW-ACE.

That same committed spirit that made the best of a challenging situation is consistent with all of my SoACE experiences, and it is what drew me to volunteer and continue to serve in whatever capacity I can to support and promote an association of colleagues who have made such a difference in my life, both professionally and personally. The association’s work has been fun, challenging, fulfilling, and ALWAYS worth the experience. I can say, without reservation, that I have learned far more from my SoACE experience than I have been able to give.

The SoACE boards on which I was honored to serve worked hard to:

  • Expand the professional development offerings beyond the annual conference to year-round offerings;
  • Reaffirm our commitment to diversity and created two association awards to recognize both individuals and organizations who actively demonstrated that commitment in their work;
  • Recognize individual’s creativity within our association by creating an annual “Imaginative Spirit Award”; and
  • Grow the membership recognizing the changing trends of our profession and blending of departments within colleges and universities.

While all of these realized goals are rewarding, the friendships and sense of family developed in working with the dedicated SoACE members are the most rewarding. It has been a few years since I served on a SoACE board, but those special relationships remain strong. If there is such a thing as a “professional family”, I found that in my beloved SoACE colleagues.