A Commitment to Members: Arlene Pietranton, PhD, CAE At ASHA’s helm for five years as executive director, Arlene Pietranton is passionate about the organization and finding new ways to serve members. With her background in communication sciences and disorders and volunteer leadership in ASHA, she also has a broad perspective on the association world. She recently received a ... ASHA News
ASHA News  |   September 01, 2009
A Commitment to Members: Arlene Pietranton, PhD, CAE
Author Notes
  • Marat Moore, managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be reached at mmoore@asha.org.
    Marat Moore, managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be reached at mmoore@asha.org.×
Article Information
Professional Issues & Training / Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / ASHA News & Member Stories / ASHA News
ASHA News   |   September 01, 2009
A Commitment to Members: Arlene Pietranton, PhD, CAE
The ASHA Leader, September 2009, Vol. 14, 20-21. doi:10.1044/leader.AN2.14112009.20
The ASHA Leader, September 2009, Vol. 14, 20-21. doi:10.1044/leader.AN2.14112009.20
At ASHA’s helm for five years as executive director, Arlene Pietranton is passionate about the organization and finding new ways to serve members. With her background in communication sciences and disorders and volunteer leadership in ASHA, she also has a broad perspective on the association world. She recently received a SmartCEO BRAVA! Award as one of 25 women business leaders in the Washington/Baltimore region recognized for success as CEOs and contributors to the community. Pietranton has helped build ASHA as a leader among its peers and has raised the profile of the work of ASHA members and of communication sciences and disorders.
What experience did you bring to ASHA when you became executive director in 2004?
My academic training was at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where I received a BA in biology, an MA in speech-language pathology, and a PhD in psychology. Most of my professional experience was also at the George Washington University Medical Center in several clinical and administrative positions, including director of speech-language pathology and audiology services, director of rehabilitation services, and administrative director of the GWUMC’s Neurological Institute.
At ASHA, I served as director of health services and later as chief staff officer for speech-language pathology. As a volunteer leader, I was president of the D.C. Speech and Hearing Association, on the ASHA Legislative Council, and chair of the ASHA Political Action Committee, and was honored to be selected as an ASHA Fellow. I hope to bring all those perspectives to my role as ASHA’s executive director.
How does your role relate to volunteer leaders and the broader ASHA membership?
ASHA’s membership now stands at more than 135,000; we have a staff of 250 and an annual operating budget of more than $42 million. With its size and wide range of programs, products, and services, ASHA must employ effective and responsible business practices. I serve as the chief administrative or executive officer of the association, hired by and accountable to the Board of Directors. I oversee ASHA’s operating functions, activities, and business affairs and am responsible for carrying out association policies, programs, and resolutions. In essence, I execute the strategy determined by the elected board.
Another of my roles is to collaborate with and support ASHA’s volunteer leaders. Volunteer leaders are the heart and soul of ASHA—the time they contribute is equivalent to 40–50 full-time employees, a figure that is a testament to their dedication. ASHA’s by-laws stipulate that the executive director or designee serve as an ex-officio member of all ASHA’s committees, boards, and councils—which usually number about 50, so I’m very thankful to many designees! I really enjoy the time I spend working with member boards and committees. But even more important is helping to set the right tone and expectations for our volunteer leaders and staff. I try whenever possible to encourage staff and volunteer leaders to seek input from members and consider what members need and want from ASHA.
Beyond my list of responsibilities, though, this is really my “dream job.” I am passionately committed to the profound role effective communication plays in our lives, and have a zeal for strategy, public policy, and administration. It’s a combination that I hope serves ASHA well.
You’ve been ASHA’s top administrator for five years. Where are we at this point?
We continue to grow as an organization, and we have a very high rate of retention. ASHA’s annual growth rate is 2.5%–4%. With a base of more than 135,000 members, that means 3,500 to 5,000 new members and affiliates each year. The association’s retention rate is extremely high for a professional or credentialing organization—94%-plus for all members: audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and speech, language, and hearing scientists alike.
We are excited that so many members are using ASHA as a primary professional resource. More than 600 members contact ASHA every day to ask a professional question, seek a resource, or request other assistance. Although we don’t have all the answers, we have practical and relevant information and resources for the vast majority of member queries. I was particularly pleased to see a recent rise in the levels of membership satisfaction. Also, members’ customer-service ratings of ASHA’s national office are very positive, in the 88%–95% range.
Some changes stand out. First, ASHA developed updated vision and mission statements and a new strategic plan—the “Pathway to Excellence”—that we are implementing throughout the organization. Second, the 2007 Legislative Council made a bold decision to move from ASHA’s long-time bicameral (Executive Board and Legislative Council) governance structure to a unicameral (Board of Directors) model. ASHA is now a more nimble and effective organization.
Third, the construction of our new national office building—which was on time, under budget, and without need for a capital campaign—is a fantastic asset that enhances the future of our association. Fourth, our volunteer leaders and staff have really delivered for members on many fronts—such as key legislative wins, a redesigned Web site, new practice policy documents, and expanded media coverage. Finally, in an era of heightened fiscal scrutiny, I’m proud to say that ASHA continues to receive the highest possible marks on financial audits. We have always been vigilant about our responsibility to be good financial stewards.
How does the association community view ASHA?
ASHA is held in high regard, and for good reason. We have an incredible, virtually unbroken history of membership growth and retention. We provide award-winning publications and public information campaigns. We have a track record of leadership in numerous areas including social media, evidence-based practice, and social responsibility. We also are viewed as an industry role model for programs such as our continuing education registry and, of course, our certification and accreditation programs.
We have received many awards, including a 2007 Summit award from the American Society of Association Executives for ASHA’s leadership and convening role in advancing early hearing detection and intervention, 2008 recognition by the Gazette newspapers as one of the top 53 businesses in the state of Maryland, and a 2009 EcoLeadership Award from the Alliance for Workplace Excellence.
Looking forward to the next five years, what’s coming up for ASHA? What are your hopes?
At the strategic level, my work is driven by the Association’s Strategic Pathway. It’s an ambitious plan with 16 strategic objectives that address many areas: communications with members and external audiences, advocacy, science and research, diversity and cultural competence, reimbursement, and organizational capacity. These objectives culminate in increased member effectiveness and satisfaction. Dozens of initiatives and projects are underway to accomplish these objectives. My job is to help align the human and fiscal resources to accomplish this great strategic array on behalf of current and future ASHA members.
My personal aspiration is that all members—audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and researchers—view ASHA as their “go to” organization for professional advocacy, resources, and information.
What does ASHA offer members?
I want to say to all members that ASHA is here for you—to provide services, advice and technical assistance, conferences and the annual convention, leadership in practice policy documents developed by member experts, and other resources. Regardless of whether you work in audiology or speech-language pathology, and regardless of your work setting, we have a wealth of resources that can enhance your professional life.
With more than 135,000 members with diverse backgrounds and work settings, it can be a challenge for ASHA to communicate all this information so that members can seek out the right resource exactly when they need it. As I mentioned, one of our strategic objectives relates to improving member communications, and we’re working hard to do a better job of communicating ASHA’s value (see sidebar).
Although ASHA can’t answer every question or provide every resource, I’m confident that we have more resources than many members realize. I encourage you to go to the redesigned ASHA Web site (www.asha.org) with its enhanced search capabilities. Or you can call the Action Center with a professional or clinical question. If we don’t have a specific resource, we will help you locate it. we’re here to provide you what you need—and we hope you use ASHA to help fulfill your professional goals.
Any final thoughts?
we’re hearing a lot now about social and environmental responsibility, and our professions and the association have a long and impressive history in this arena. From our 40-year commitment to cultural competence, to ASHA members’ countless hours of community service each year, to the Gold LEED-certified national office building, to ASHA staff’s volunteer community outreach activities, social and environmental responsibility is part of our discipline’s core and something that I hope all members and staff feel pride in and celebrate!
ASHA’s Value to Members
  • Nationally recognized certification

  • National standards for academic program accreditation

  • Access to the latest research

  • A proven track record on critical legislative and regulatory issues at all levels of government

  • Professional consultation with staff experts

  • Improved patient outcomes

  • Rigorous ethical standards

  • Participation in building the positive image of the professions

  • Tools for marketing our professions to consumers

  • Latest knowledge and information from fellow professionals

  • Unparalleled networking opportunities

  • Access to robust continuing education

  • A wealth of online resources

  • Opportunity to impact the future of the professions through grants and scholarships

  • A place to enhance leadership skills

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September 2009
Volume 14, Issue 11