Phil Cox is director of facilities management, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York and a past president of APPA. He can be reached at

The topic of this issue of Facilities Manager, sustainability, brings to mind a few points I would like to share with readers. While other articles share insights about how critical it is to do all we can to sustain the environment in which we live, in this article I would like to address another aspect of sustainability—sustaining our association and profession.

One of the most effective ways we can sustain our professional development and maintain peak performance on behalf of our institutions is to take advantage of the various learning opportunities made available by APPA. Our association offers a wide variety of resources tailored specifically to the educational environment and designed to keep members on the cutting edge of the facilities management profession. Yet I sometimes wonder if the sustainability of our association is taken too much for granted and that we assume it will always be there as a valuable tool contributing toward the excellence of our institutions.

Consider the membership of APPA. Are the people that make up and lead this wonderful association typical of the populations in the institutions we represent? Are the members characteristic of the populations of the countries we represent? Or, are we comprised by and large, of a narrow band of today’s culture? While I am encouraged with the progress we have made in expanding the diversity within APPA, there is still much that we can do toward improving our inclusiveness.

Some readers have known me to stress the importance of diversity as the right thing from both a moral and practical point of view. I really do not think I have to dwell on the morality of being a welcoming and inclusive society, or institution, or association. However, some of the practical business benefits of diversity, such as making the most of our diversity, may not be so obvious. One such benefit, it seems to me, has to do with the sustainability of APPA as an association of choice. In order to have involved members and leaders remain in our association over the long haul, we need to pay attention to the age diversity of our membership. Succession planning calls for grooming younger members to take over as the mainstay of the organization.

Attracting young members to our membership roles has some challenges. The younger men and women in our profession have grown up as digital natives. They have never known life without personal computers, remote controls, video games, etc. By contrast, for anyone over the age of 30, these electronics have come along during our lifetime as digital immigrants, who have had to adapt to the digital age. The natives have been shaped by digital media, e-mail, the internet, and wireless connectivity—all of which have influenced how they gather information and even how they socialize. Is it any wonder that they have very different expectations about how they wish to pursue their professional development and how they wish to access APPA-offered resources? This is why the hard work of the Information and Research Committee to expand electronic delivery of APPA services is so vital.

I recently attended a talk entitled, “Why our adult children don’t attend church?” According to the experts, one of the overwhelming reasons that young people do not attend church is because they are seeking meaningful social connectedness which may not be available in the traditional church of their parents. Their spiritual needs will sometimes take a back seat in deference to their strong social needs. Is there a lesson from contemporary church attendance that can be applied to association membership? Maybe. I think we need to pay attention to the social needs of younger members and try to do all we can to make them feel welcome in our association while being sensitive that their preferences may be vastly different than that of the baby boomers. We need to offer them meaningful social connectedness as they pursue their professional development through APPA.

Because membership matters, the challenge to all APPA members is to be aware of our differences and to seek ways in which we can bridge those differences for the benefit of our profession. To do so will be a rewarding learning experience to all; it will help sustain the association; and perhaps it will energize APPA in ways we cannot even begin to imagine.