Service and Leadership
Service and leadership may seem like they don’t fit together. But when you hear Cheryl Ronk’s story of service to non-profit associations in Michigan, those words are perfectly matched.
Cheryl Ronk, CAE, CMP, is President of the Michigan Society of Association Executives (MSAE), the not-for-profit membership organization for association professionals in Michigan since 1927. Cheryl has been its executive for the last 22 years. “It’s MSAE’s mission to help associations find solutions,” she said.
It’s the kind of service that the more than 900 individual members and over 350 Michigan member associations have come to rely on.
Born in Ann Arbor and raised in Kalamazoo, Cheryl and husband David F. Ronk, Jr. now live in East Lansing with sons Irving and Owen. Service runs in the family. She met David while working at the Michigan Builders Association.
Reflecting on her career, Cheryl said, “I like that my work has been ever changing.” As the needs of members evolve, so has Cheryl’s job.
Cheryl’s journey on the road to association executive began after she graduated from Western Michigan University with a master’s degree in educational leadership. She answered a “nice little ad” for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and became Director of Economic Education. From there she moved to the Michigan Builders Association as Director of Communications.
In 1988, MSAE came calling. They offered Cheryl the job of executive – first full-time staff member. When she started out, like many association executives, she did everything from selling ads to coordinating monthly seminars. She took care of the day-to-day details while still keeping her eye on the big picture.
Soon members were requesting professional development. She listened, MSAE’s Board supported her, and MSAE began to offer training – like Association 101 for the new executive, and the Academy.
Eleven years ago, MSAE began offering a more comprehensive program that allowed executives to earn their Certified Association Executive (CAE) status. It’s a professional development model that sets MSAE apart. It started out by accident 11 years ago when a few association executives wanted to meet and discuss professional issues. “No one goes to school to learn how to do this work,” she said.
As the CAE program grew in popularity within Michigan, MSAE developed online training and a study guide to go along with the face-to-face classes. The program gained national recognition and is now used by statewide organizations throughout the U.S. Today, MSAE has helped more than 500 association professionals nationwide earn their CAE status.
Cheryl is proud of this achievement. She took the training herself in 1995 and she’s still learning. “I don’t have my job mastered yet!”
She must be doing something right. MSAE is rated by the American Society of Association Executives as among the top six state associations for giving its members a high return on their investment.