Rachel Vagts, Candidate for Vice President/President-Elect


Rachel Vagts

Head of Special Collections and Archives, Berea College

“I look forward to thinking creatively together to face these issues. It’s crucial that we remember that this is the Society of American Archivists, not for...it is up to us to make that difference.”



  • Head of Special Collections and Archives, Berea College, 2014–present.
  • College Archivist, Luther College, 19982014.
  • Project Archivist, University of Maryland, 19971998.
  • Project Archivist, Wisconsin Historical Society, 19961997.


  • MA, Library and Information Studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison, 1997.
  • BA, History and Political Science, Gustavus Adolphus College, 1993.
  • Leadership Training, Archives Leadership Institute, 2010.


  • Society of American Archivists: Council, Member (20142017), Executive Committee (20162017); Foundation Board, Member (20162017); Annual Meeting Task Force, Social Responsibility Subcommittee Chair (20112013); Membership Committee, Vice Chair/Chair (20102012); College and University Archives Section, Steering Committee Member (20072010), Vice Chair/Chair (20122014).
  • Archives Leadership Institute: Director (20122018).


  • Distinguished SAA Fellow, 2018.
  • SAA Distinguished Service Award for the Archives Leadership Institute, 2015.
  • "Blooming Where We Are Planted: The Future of Archival Leadership," Leadership and Management of Archival Programs, Archival Fundamentals Series III (Society of American Archivists, forthcoming 2019).
  • “Building Effective Leaders: Redesigning the Archives Leadership Institute,” co-authored with Sasha Griffin, Management: Innovative Practices for Archives and Special Collections, ed. Kate Theimer (Rowan and Littlefield, 2014).
  • “Clashing Disciplines: Oral History and the Institutional Review Board,” Archival Issues 26.2, 2002.


  • Society of American Archivists: "Celebrating Traditional Music: Creating Access to a Large A/V Non-commercial Collection at Berea College" (2018); "There's Gold in Those Boxes in the Basement: Making the Most of a Cast-Off Collection and Actually Getting to Keep the Results!" (2010).
  • Midwest Archives Conference: "It Takes a Village, or Does It? The Opportunities and Challenges of Undergraduate Student Labor in the Archives" (2014); "From Zero to Sixty: Creating the Archives Leadership Institute 2.0" (2013).



At its November 2018 meeting, the SAA Council reviewed and reaffirmed SAA’s strategic plan, indicating a strengthened commitment to Goal 3 (Advancing the Profession). Looking ahead to 2019–2021, please discuss what you see as the strengths of the current strategic plan, two or three ways in which you might seek to advance the profession, and the rationale for your suggestions.          


In its recent revision of the SAA Strategic Plan, the Council took two much-needed next steps: strengthening SAA's commitment to Goal 3 (Advancing the Profession) and adding a fourth activity: Support development of executive leadership skills and encourage participation in leadership opportunities by archivists at all stages of their careers. In relation to the other affirmed strategic goals, the focus on leadership offers a chance to advance a whole-career ethic that reflects the principles of the profession. 

If we desire to advance our profession, it is crucial for SAA to commit to executive leadership skill development. As director of the Archives Leadership Institute (ALI) for six years, I saw the direct and immediate impact that the Institute had on the development of the leadership skills that the strategic plan describes. But, for all its strengths, ALI also has limitations. The size of each cohort means less than 5% of the profession is able to attend. Additionally, the length and setting of ALI may make it difficult for those with personal and institutional obligations to apply and attend. Because of this, I believe that SAA must expand their education offerings to include a leadership track, focusing on both new leadership skills and refreshing skills for those who have been in the field for a number of years.

The newly formed Committee on Research, Data, and Assessment will also give us a powerful tool to advance the profession. The development of data about and for our profession gives us yet another avenue to expand understanding of our work and value.

Finally, as SAA President, I would ask us to examine the current issues facing our new professionals. I am concerned about the burden of student loan debt that new professionals face as well as the rapid growth of online graduate programs that may not provide the same level of preparation as traditional graduate programs. As a profession, we need to examine these issues and be proactive about changes. The future of our field relies on promising new archivists who have the skills to continue to develop our field without the barrier of debt that our current graduate school structure can incur.

I look forward to thinking creatively together to face these issues. It’s crucial that we remember that this is the Society of American Archivists, not for...it is up to us to make that difference.


Slate of Candidates

The Nominating Committee has slated the following SAA members as candidates for office in the 2019 election:

Vice President/President-Elect


Nominating Committee