ACUI is the professional home of thousands of campus community builders around the world.

ACUI members happily looking at camera

ACUI’s mission is to support its members in the development of community through education, advocacy, and the delivery of services. 

ACUI members happily looking at camera

ACUI is committed to becoming the innovative, responsive, and inclusive leader in creating progressive education, training, and research in college unions and student activities to excel in meeting member needs, impacting student learning, and enhancing campus communities.

ACUI members happily looking at camera

These values guide our work: unconditional human worth, joy, learning, caring community, innovation, diversity, and integrity.

ACUI is the professional home to thousands of campus community builders around the world.

Primarily focused on the work of those within the college unions and student activities field, the Association strives to provide an inclusive, welcoming community for all those who choose to belong.

The organization’s full name is the Association of College Unions International, but ACUI is more commonly used by members.

Get to Know ACUI

Role of the College Union Statement

The college union advances a sense of community, unifying the institution by embracing the diversity of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and guests. We bolster the educational mission of the institution and the development of students as lifelong learners by delivering an array of cultural, educational, social, and recreational programs, services, and facilities.  

By any form or name, we serve as the heart of the campus community and create a welcoming environment by:  

  • Operating as a student-centered organization that engages in shared decision making and holistic development through employment and involvement.  
  • Advocating for inclusivity and equity, fostering respect, and affirming the identities of all individuals. 
  • Educating students in leadership and social responsibility and offering firsthand experiences in global citizenship. 
  • Providing gathering spaces to encourage formal and informal community interactions that build meaningful relationships.  

Traditionally considered the living room, the college union enhances the student experience and cultivates an enduring connection to the institution.

Strategic Guideposts

Advance campus community through social justice and education to empower marginalized identities
and to overcome racism and
Actively engage members and promote the Association to ensure the continued success of ACUI.
Identify viable strategic solutions to ensure the financial stability of the Association.
  • Review individual and organizational actions to understand their contribution to structural racism.
  • Provide resources for our members to create spaces that are actively anti-racist and inclusive.
  • Ensure equitable engagement opportunities for recruitment, retention, and volunteerism.
  • Demonstrate the value of membership through innovative and evolving programs and services.
  • Enhance current and develop new opportunities for member engagement.
  • Implement recommendations from the Working Group for Enhancing Volunteer Recruitment.
  • Research and secure non-traditional revenue streams that align with ACUI values.
  • Assess the associations purchasing and expenditures in alignment with the supplier diversity policy.
  • Reimagine the ACUI corporate partnerships programs to create ongoing member engagement.


As one of the oldest higher education associations, ACUI dates back to 1914 when it was founded in the Midwestern United States by six students and one faculty advisor who were interested in learning how other universities were managing college union organizations.

ACUI Executive Committee, 1946
early years

Professional staff and student leaders met annually to share ideas and discuss common challenges. Diversity can be noted even in those early years as the Association’s first president was J.B. Bickersteth of the University of Toronto and an early leader, Edith Ouzts Humphreys of Cornell University, would go on to publish the Association’s first book. Now namesakes of ACUI’s highest award, Porter Butts and Edgar Whiting ran the organization, keeping its finances, planning conferences, lobbying the government, and publishing resources.

a movement

Following World War II, as campus enrollments surged, college unions were built to meet students’ cocurricular needs. ACUI began holding seminars and regional programs to reach its expanding membership. It even had an architect available for consultation as institutions constructed new facilities. In 1968, ACUI hired its first paid staff member, Chester Berry, and established an office at Stanford University. He would be the first of five chief executives to oversee the Association during its history.

ACUI Conference - Staff Delegates (1947)
Shirley Bird Perry, LeNorman Strong, and 1964 Oklahoma State Addition Construction

In the late 20th century, ACUI became more like the association we know today. In 1972, Shirley Bird Perry of the University of Texas at Austin became the first woman president and in 1984 LeNorman Strong of Cornell University became the first president of color. Also during this time, identity and equity concerns led to the creation of interest-based committees and task forces. Meanwhile, the Association’s programs grew to focus on student leadership, many types of recreational activities, and professional managerial concerns such as budgeting, renovation, and staffing.

A New Century

In the 2000s, ACUI reinvented itself as a knowledge-based organization and developed core competencies. In addition to educational programs, research and new services such as Procure and Promos help to stretch the benefit of membership. Today, ACUI is a nonprofit 501(c)3 headquartered in Bloomington, Indiana. Its workforce includes 20 paid staff members and more than 450 volunteers.

IPDS 2014 Delegation