Although campus information and visitor services programs at institutions of higher education stretch back to the establishment of the Campus Information Office at Boston University in 1925, the beginnings of a professional identity did not begin to develop until the mid 1980s. The first known meeting of professionals in the field was held at Purdue University in 1986, and the group grew to include 15 members by 1990. They had informally been named “U-VIPs” but voted in that year to be named the “National Collegiate Visitor Services Association” (NCVSA) and began to establish a loosely-organized structure, coordinated through the newly-established visitor center at the University of Maryland-College Park.
After a few years of slow but steady growth, the first national conference of NCVSA was held at the University of Alabama – Birmingham in 1994 with 25 members in attendance. By the second conference in June 1995, it was clear that the association needed to broaden its scope and was renamed the Collegiate Information and Visitor Services Association (CIVSA). This name better recognized the broad membership of individuals and programs that provide “gateway” services to their campus communities.
During the late 1990’s and into the early twenty-first century CIVSA officers and members dedicated themselves to increasing the legitimacy of the campus information and visitor services field. CIVSA’s first National Headquarters was established at Rutgers University in 1997, the annual conference continued with steady growth in participant numbers, and great effort went into the solidification and organization of this new professional association. An important development for CIVSA was being offered membership in the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS) in 1998, followed by the significant milestone of having CAS approve Campus Information and Visitor Services Standards and Guidelines in 2000.
As CIVSA’s membership began to grow exponentially to now include nearly 700 people, the Association continued to expand the benefits provided to its members. The annual conference now rotates through a different region each year to maximize the ability for members to attend and is held at a hotel/conference center rather than on a campus to accommodate the large number of participants. Members can connect and share resources with one another through social media and quarterly conference calls in addition to the listserv and the Welcomer newsletter. Smaller regional events are being organized in addition to the annual gathering, and the first CIVSA conference aimed at student employees was held at Furman University in January 2014.
As the organization increased its visibility in the world of higher education, much thoughtful planning went into behind-the-scenes development as well. CIVSA officially incorporated as a non-profit association in 2010 and has established a headquarters independent of a college campus. An Operations Manual was developed to streamline processes and guide newly-elected officials, a formal annual budget was created, and work continues on a Strategic Plan to lead the Association into the future.