From the Executive Director – On the Way to Becoming

Shari Miles-Cohen
August 17, 2022

Sprawling magnolia trees are iconic and cherished for their strength and beauty, especially across the South. Their large, stunning petals are usually harbingers of summer. One of those stately trees stands in the peaceful courtyard behind our National office. 

I arrived at NCA brimming with enthusiasm, hope, and fresh ideas on a snowy day in January 2022. It was the start of a new year and the beginning of my new role as executive director. As I settled into my second-floor office in a quiet, near-empty building, a huge branch from our magnolia tree gave way under the weight of snow and ice and crashed to the ground. 

As I surveyed the debris sprawled across the yard, I feared that fallen tree limb was an omen for my future at NCA. Fortunately, it was not! Since that day, I have found an amazing amount of support and encouragement even as I have had to negotiate a very difficult period of transition and change. 

That magnolia tree suffered a loss, but it is still standing tall, providing summer shade in our backyard. We all know the National Communication Association will face opportunities and challenges, too, over the next few years. Never has Communication been more critical for the future of our democracy or the modes of Communication more varied. Never have clarity and veracity been more elusive or mired in debate, and never have the ethics and standards of NCA been more important to assert and uphold.

In many ways, that magnolia tree has been my compass during NCA’s period of transition and serves as a visible reminder that internal change is necessary and can be transformational. Currently, we are in the midst of such a change. 

We have some challenges in front of us that our strategic plan, and our commitment to the future of the organization requires us to confront. And in doing so, I am confident we will discover the potential of our membership, the capacity of our organization, new opportunities for growth and our collective impact on the discipline of Communication in society at large.

I look forward to us all learning together. We are eager to start by learning about our NCA members. A survey will help us better understand who they are—backgrounds, academic experiences, professional goals, and so much more. After all, our members are our greatest resource and reason for being.

While change is not always pleasant or pretty, it is necessary if we are to grow—and thrive—as an Association and national community of Communication scholars, practitioners, and students.

Across NCA, much change is underway. Many of you are a part of the process, developing that forward look for a century-old NCA and considering what it means to have a voice and presence in the public sphere. A strategic plan, once completed, will be that guide for our work, organization, and discipline into the future. NCA is well-positioned and uniquely equipped to provide context and bring clarity to the popular debate while upholding its principles of ethical discourse incorporated in the Association’s Statement of Principles. We represent and practice the methodology required for truth, clarity, and veracity in any type of Communication. That vision includes NCA as a trusted resource to our members, scholars, content providers, and the public and their need to filter, digest, use, and understand the communications exchanged with them.

Closer to home, our physical space at the National office is also undergoing a transformation. Our lean but growing home team at NCA calls it a refresh. Starting from the front steps and stoop and extending to the courtyard, there has been painting, power washing, planting, picture hanging, furniture arranging, and more happening to help make the National office a more vibrant, charming, and welcoming space for our members, leadership, staff, and guests.For me, change has been non-stop since I started at NCA. As I lead change and help to forge the organization’s future, I am also changing—and growing. It has meant building my institutional knowledge and securing new staff members as I get to know and appreciate those who have remained.

For now, we are in that challenging, sometimes confounding, but a necessary place I call becoming. Consider the radical transformation that has to occur before we ever see a beautiful butterfly.

On the way to becoming and emerging from this period of transition and change, let us work together to position NCA for the future. When I look up at that mighty magnolia in the courtyard, I know that change is not only possible, it is good.