My Swan Song as President: Reflecting on My Years on the NCFR Board

Anisa M. Zvonkovic, Ph.D., NCFR President
/ Fall 2019 NCFR Report

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This is my very last article as president in the NCFR Report. I have so appreciated the experience of being president of the Board of Directors at this organization that is my primary professional affiliation, since 1982. I have strived to live up to your confidence in me, and I have worked to build an organization in which the changes I have made are sustainable. I am pleased that Leigh Leslie, Ph.D., a colleague I’ve known for over 30 years, is taking over as president after the conference in November. Knowing that the organization is in good hands, I look forward to being involved as a supporter and participant again.

In reflecting back on my time as president, I’ve been thinking about something Executive Director Diane Cushman said when I was elected: “Every president puts their stamp on the organization.” So I’ve been pondering what my stamp has been and reflecting back on the board since I joined it, thinking also about other professional organizations that we at NCFR work with and monitor. Some of the issues faced by NCFR include trends in membership (which I’ve written about), concerns about how to be involved in policy, costs to utilize the modern systems that people have come to expect but that small organizations struggle with funding because of economies of scale, and visibility of the organization and confusion between the organization and other organizations that have family in their name but are not professional societies like NCFR. The areas I’ve tried to make progress in are communication, refining involvement with policy, and building human capital.


Enhancing Communication With the Board. Communication with the board can be a challenge for an organization. Even though we post our contact information, board members have rarely been contacted by members. When I was president-elect, the board conducted two surveys to obtain member feedback about NCFR’s involvement in policy. We have also instituted regular phone calls with section chairs, who tend to have more direct contact with members. Prior to my time as president, section chairs met with the board only every other year. We have increased the frequency and duration of meetings with the board, and in general have provided more of a liaison model to section chairs.

I am proud that during my tenure as board president we have developed more consistency and clarity on how NCFR will engage in policy-related issues.

Refining Involvement With Policy. I am proud that during my tenure as board president we have developed more consistency and clarity on how NCFR will engage in policy-related issues. NCFR staff have been proactive in developing collections of resources that are relevant to family-related policy issues in the news. These resources have included empirical articles published in NCFR journals, the Family Focus section of NCFR Report, and CFLE Network; on-demand webinars; and on-demand conference session recordings. As professionals monitoring current events, policy action nationally and in states, and other professional associations, the staff have been very quick to get these resources in order. They have brought issues to our attention, which is a wonderful approach. To my mind, these resources enable NCFR members, if they so choose, to advocate for issues that concern us as family researchers and professionals, armed with high-quality and relevant information. On rare occasions, the board has also made statements. I suppose the speed of current events and the problematic nature of such events for families has either enabled us or forced us to develop a system, and we are working within that system effectively. Our efforts are not perfect, nor are they always received in a positive light. We continue to hear from some of you and to respond to you with our rationales and with our willingness to engage in further dialogue about your concerns.

The NCFR board strives to deliberate in many voices and to speak in one voice. NCFR established the Inclusion and Diversity Committee (IDC) to advise the board about issues of inclusion and diversity. When the committee was first established, its primary scope was issues of inclusion and diversity within NCFR. Recent revisions by the board to the IDC Policies and Procedures have invited the IDC to provide guidance on issues that are external to NCFR and to advise the board about outward messaging. We benefit from these scholars and their commitment to diversity and inclusion. As is the case with all board committees, the board retains the authority to act and make final decisions.

Our discipline needs strong and capable leaders to “infiltrate” our larger communities of practice and to be leaders outside our Family Science discipline.

Along the same lines, the NCFR Family Policy Section may at times create documents about how to engage in policy, but the section is not involved in creating NCFR board statements or activities about specific policies. While I have been on the board, NCFR has begun rolling out Research and Policy Briefs, which are intended not to argue for specific policy recommendations but to provide both empirical information about policies from a Family Science perspective and multiple research-based policy implications. Elaine Anderson, Ph.D., longtime NCFR member, Fellow, family policy researcher, and professor, is our Research and Policy Brief editor. It is challenging to decide among all the possible topics to develop into briefs and to pitch the briefs to the right audience, I am pleased that NCFR is involved in the policy arena in this way. As with the other efforts during my time as president, I believe that this structure has become embedded into regular NCFR practice and that it is of great benefit to NCFR members and the broader community.

Developing Human Capital. On the topic of developing human capital, I have found NCFR to have consistently done an extraordinary job, arguably unique among the other professional organizations with which I am familiar, in attending to the professional development of its members. Its work nurturing students and new professionals to the CFLE credential, the Academic Administration and Leadership Focus Group, practitioner groups, sessions on advocating for families in state capitals, and so much more—all these make NCFR a premier professional society. In my term as president, we have initiated a mentoring program, I have witnessed the Affiliate Council’s outstanding work within states, and I have attended many sessions focused on the professional development of members. I hope to conclude my NCFR presidency in the spirit of taking professional development seriously and being intentional about it. I see this effort as linked to the broader Advancing Family Science effort. Our discipline needs strong and capable leaders to “infiltrate” our larger communities of practice and to be leaders outside our Family Science discipline. I would hope that each of you, in whatever professional roles you have, takes a serious interest in nurturing the human capital of your peers and those who are less experienced than you (no matter where you are in your career, there are always people less experienced than you). As a woman, as an ethnic minority, and from a moral and ethical stance, I’ve been committed to using the privilege I have to smooth the way for others to rise up. I’ll continue to do this for you, my colleagues, and I exhort you to do this for others.