From the Executive Director: Moving Beyond Taking the First Step

April 2, 2024



My first day at NCA was Monday, November 5, 2012 – a mere 10 days before roughly 4,000 members gathered to “Celebrate COMMunity” at the 98th Annual Convention in Orlando, Florida. I was hired two weeks earlier by Trevor Parry-Giles and Brad Mello to be the new Academic and Professional Affairs Associate. I vividly remember standing on the National Office rowhouse steps in downtown Washington, DC thinking how far I had come from my hometown Macomb, Illinois. Fresh off completing my thesis and earning an M.A. in Communication Studies at Eastern Illinois University, I made a commitment to myself as I entered the building for the first time that as long as I’m here, I will always do my best to help NCA and its members any way I could.   

Reflecting on my tenure at NCA, several moments of transition, for better or worse, have contributed to where we currently stand as an Association. A few of those moments, most definitely not an exhaustive list, that come to mind are the adoption of new bylaws, the addition of the then Diversity now IDEA Council as a standing committee within the bylaws of the Association, the #COMMSOWHITE movement, the Distinguished Scholar controversy, the Legislative Assembly approving the Strategic Plan and endorsing the Inclusion, Division, Equity, and Access (IDEA) Strategic Plan through 2027, and most recently the unconscionable censorship of NCA members and the abhorrent threat on academic freedom at last year’s convention.   

We are amid another moment of transition when the Executive Committee entrusted me on January 2 with the immense responsibility as Interim Executive Director. I was appointed ED to bring stability within the National Office staff and to ensure the functions (submissions / reviews / scheduling) and preparations for the Annual Convention in New Orleans are not disrupted. I cannot thank the EC enough for the confidence they have shown in me and the ensuing support since taking over operations.   

As the year progresses, I have several goals that I hope to achieve as Interim ED. I wish to briefly share two such goals: 1. Creating stability within the National Office; 2. Moving the IDEA Strategic Plan to the forefront of the Association.  


Creating stability from within.  

Since being appointed Interim ED, I have heard from numerous past NCA presidents, Interest Group leaders, and members. The congratulatory nature of these messages has been heartwarming for sure, but beyond the positive affirmations, every single message I received, in some form or another, offered support and a willingness to help. This is the NCA I know and remains a primary reason why I stayed with the Association despite a complete turnover in staff over the last two years. The Association lost years of institutional knowledge at the National Office level but gained immensely from the addition of fresh perspectives and the opportunity to brainstorm new ideas on how NCA and its members can flourish.   

I firmly believe in the current staff at the National Office. We have an excellent mixture of association professionals, those from academia who understand the value of the Humanities and Social Sciences, and early career professionals who believe in NCA’s mission, Strategic Plan, and IDEA Strategic Plan. Part of my job is to provide staff with the support they need to move the Association forward. This will be done by nurturing and supporting their expertise while continuing to work with staff on the importance of NCA’s unwavering push toward IDEA initiatives, upholding academic freedom, and supporting avenues for pedagogical undertakings.   


Moving IDEA to the forefront.  

In 2021, an IDEA Task Force was established by then First Vice President Roseann Mandziuk. Co-Chaired by Rachel Alicia Griffin and Ashley Noel Mack, the task force’s mission was to marshal, “our organization’s history, mission statement, bylaws, policies, reports, and practices to delineate IDEA mission for the organization supported by clear definitions of IDEA values.” You can read the report here.   

Creating a report that culminated in NCA’s current IDEA Strategic Plan, which was ultimately endorsed by the Legislative Assembly at its November 2022 meeting, was an arduous and daunting endeavor. I cannot thank Dr. Griffin, Dr. Mack, and the other members of the task force enough for their service and dedication to NCA and the field of Communication.   

For various reasons, which do not need to be mentioned at this time, the IDEA Strategic Plan took a backseat to NCA’s overall Strategic Plan. To me, this was an unfortunate occurrence that should never have taken place. Any goal setting or planning should include both equally important documents.   

It is vital that the Association aligns and adheres to NCA’s IDEA Mission, “To exemplify and champion Inclusive Excellence.” This includes Association goals for staff as well as volunteer leaders on the national and Interest Group level. We should be looking at current processes with a critical IDEA lens. We must go beyond simply giving space to those who traditionally reside within the margins, but instead think critically about how we can establish avenues to bring those voices to the forefront where members can feel safe and thrive in their professional home.   

The National Office is excited to work towards the goals established by the LA approved Strategic Plan and endorsed IDEA Strategic Plan. I am confident members will feel the same after NCA’s staff and the Executive Committee move beyond talking about goals and instead actually work to achieve them.   


How can we go beyond the first step?   

The National Office welcomes your feedback. As a staff, we want to move the Association forward with the help of members and volunteers. Please know that the National Office cannot do this alone. NCA is a member driven association and would dissolve if not for the countless hours of free labor each year by hundreds and hundreds of volunteers. Likewise, NCA will never be able to advance Communication scholarship, teaching, and practice without the tireless work of the National Office staff. It’s a symbiotic relationship that in the past has often felt like a “them vs. us” mentality. I recognize this reality and hope that we can work to put this narrative to rest with our collective actions and demonstrations of cooperation and inclusivity.  

Please know that I am always happy to chat, and I am always happy to help in any way I can. I want to listen. I want to learn. I want to understand. I want our professional home and all its inhabitants to flourish. I take the position of Interim ED seriously and each time I walk up the National Office rowhouse steps, I promise you my first thought after all these years is still, “How can I help?”  

Let’s get started and move the Association forward together.   

Justin Danowski has been at NCA since 2012 and is currently serving as Interim Executive Director. Justin is the staff liaison for the NCA the Legislative Assembly, Executive Committee of the Legislative Assembly, the Resolutions Committee, and Nominating Committee. Justin also oversees goals and objectives towards NCA’s Strategic Plan and IDEA Strategic Plan.  

Justin holds a B.A. from the University of Illinois in Communication Studies and an M.A. in Communication from Eastern Illinois University where he also taught a foundational / intro to public speaking course for three semesters.