Policy Matters Blog

UASP's Successes Through Visibility, Advocacy, and Partnership

NASP approached UASP's Casey Dupart (President), Lauren Rich (Past President), and Bethanie Monsen-Ford (President-Elect) to share some thoughts in regards to our recent successes as a state board in being more visible. This is an incredible compliment and feels totally undeserved! As we write this and reflect on what we've done well lately, we truly believe that the energy and forward movement we are seeing here in Utah is completely possible with any state organization. We didn't radically change anything about our organization; rather we were simply more focused. We reevaluated, purposefully planned, made time for deep engagement, and were intentional in our efforts, and our board members put in the time to make sure it all happened. We will do our best to recap what has happened in our organization in the last 2 years that has driven us forward.

State Training With GPR

The very beginning of this was rooted in the excellent assistance we received from GPR liaisons Peter Faustino and Barry Barbarasch. These two magnanimous professionals came to Utah to attend our Summer Retreat. They were able to facilitate and drive some much-needed reflection on our organization's goals, purpose, and efforts in advocacy and public relations. Barry and Peter were critical in providing us with initial stepping stones, concrete ideas, and planning tools to make our goals regarding outreach and visibility in the state a reality. They continually checked in with us, provided us with feedback and support as we moved along in the year. We cannot say enough about the great resources we have with NASP GPR and would highly suggest that if your state organization is feeling "in a rut" or simply wanting a great team-building training, you should utilize this excellent resource from NASP.  

Creating a Strategic Plan

As we reflected as a board, we recognized that a prior area of weakness was a lack of coherent short-term and long-term planning. This weakness seemed to dampen our overall desired outcomes. As a board, we have always had forward-thinking ideals and great discussions about issues the professionals in our state were facing, and each of our subcommittees had goals that aligned generally with our broader vision. These were all great items, but at times things felt a little fuzzy and not helpful in developing actionable steps. To make our efforts more concrete and measurable, following our experience with Peter and Berry, we created a strategic 3-year action plan. We attained input from the whole board and then sat down as an executive board to create our document. Our action plan focused on three goals: visibility, advocacy, and partnership. For each goal, concrete measurable and actionable benchmarks were delineated for the next 3 years. We were careful to make benchmarks actionable rather than purely qualitative and try to choose benchmarks for years based on priority. We also agreed that in order for the strategic plan to remain relevant and helpful in guiding board actions, it needed to be reviewed (and edited as needed) every quarter. We ask that our committees consider the strategic plan in working through their own yearly planning and goals and to ask themselves: does their work support one or more of our three overall goals of visibility, advocacy, and partnership? Being able to focus and organize our energy into specific avenues has really helped us to be more successful.  

Utah Coalition of School-Based Support Specialists

One of our biggest goals was around partnership, in that we wanted to increase collaboration between ourselves and similar professions. We found our organization wishing we had closer contact with the leadership of the State Counselor association or speech–language pathology association to better facilitate supporting one another, particularly in the legislative arena. What has blossomed from that idea is a coalition of our organizations: UASP, the Utah School Counselor Association, the Utah Association of Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists, the Utah Association for Behavior Analysis, and the Utah Association of School Nurses. This group collaborates twice a year: once in the fall to discuss ways we can collaborate on training or PD and once in the Winter (before legislative season begins) to discuss our priorities and how we can help leverage one another. We also use this group to ensure established lines of communication and connection throughout the year. Thus far it has been an excellent way to interact, promote one another, and strengthen our voices in the state publicly and legislatively.  

Collaboration With the Utah Education Association

Our association has made a concerted effort to establish better collaboration and cooperation with our state educators' association. We have offered our expertise in their trainings for members, participated in their legislative groups, and asked for their support with our own legislative priorities. Working closely with the educator association has helped us immensely in achieving better legislative contacts and being actively included in UEA's agendas and priorities. We have also made a concerted effort to encourage our members to participate in UEA's events, especially legislative activities. We recognize that we have to be visible if we want to be heard.  

Public Relations Push

With visibility and advocacy being two of our main strategic goals, we have made major efforts to increase our public relations. Our board has chosen to work with a professional PR company to help us gain access to news outlets in print, radio, and other media and to help guide us in the right directions. This has been hugely fruitful for us. We have an excellent relationship with them where we consult, provide them with material for publishing, and get our needs met within the budget we set. Using their skills in conjunction with our efforts and knowledge has helped to get our board members and association members into multiple news shows, many printed newspaper articles, radio shows, and panels. In addition to this, we have made a significant increase in our social media presence. When we first started this journey, we had minimal followers and a general lack of social media content. We have increased our social media presence by having members of our PR committee cofacilitate social media content on Facebook and Twitter. Being thoughtful and proactive in the timing of our posts, whom we tag, and hashtag use has increased our audience/engagement. NASP GPR has a great resource on social media that our team found beyond illuminating! Lastly, our webpage needed a breath of fresh air. We have a fantastic board member who took on this task and has updated our website to be much more approachable and current.  

Partnership: Building a Community

In years past we have held a few social events for UASP members, but in an effort to be more visible as a board and to help develop partnerships amongst our members, we planned a handful of social gatherings (roughly every other month) in the evenings at local restaurants. We also facilitated group participation at local events such as the Pride Parade and Suicide Prevention Walk. COVID-19 has put a damper on these activities, but has given rise to our recent Digital Lunch Bunch and a soon-to-come Cocktail/Mocktail School Psych digital evening social. A final manner of being visible is via UASP swag. We have had great success with designing and selling/gifting various UASP/school psychologist attire, bags, mugs, and lanyards.    

Overall, we are immensely proud of the work our current and prior board has done. We feel our efforts have helped educate the public in our state of our roles and profession. We have momentum to maintain and growth still to do, but we are excited about what the future our board has in store. We hope our reflections have been helpful to you and your state boards. We wish you the best in you plans and would love to collaborate as needed. Feel free to reach out to our board at UASPonline.org.