2015 Communications Conference for Senior Professionals

2015 Communications Conference

Tuesday, March 24, 2015 to Thursday, March 26, 2015
Washington, D.C.

This conference is designed especially for senior public relations and marketing professionals at schools that are members of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

About the Conference

Let's be Bold: Communicators as Leaders of Transformation
Higher education is experiencing an unprecedented transformation, and communications professionals have a key role in leading and navigating change. From energizing institutional brands to employing new strategies and tools that emphasize institutional value and engagement, enhance your creativity and productivity with the AASCU Communications Conference for Senior Professionals.


The conference will be held at the AASCU office building, 1307 New York Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

Schedule top

Preliminary Schedule
(Check back for program updates)

Tuesday, March 24

8:15 – 8:45 a.m.  

8:45-9:15 a.m.
Welcome & Introductions

9:15-10:30 a.m.
Brains on Fire
The new world of marketing is personal. It’s not about technology platforms or social media doodads–it’s about real relationships, real passion and real people. After all, at the end of the day, we’re all in the people business. Understanding passion provides actionable insights that empower marketers to authentically connect with the people who love their brands. These relationships and conversations lead to sharing because they put people, not the brand, first. In this session, Robbin Phillips shares lessons about understanding, sparking and sustaining word of mouth marketing, exploring what compels brands to go above and beyond and inspires customers to talk, share and connect.

Presenter: Robbin Phillips, President, Brains On Fire; author of The Passion Conversation and Brains On Fire

10:30-10:45 a.m.  

10:45 a.m.-Noon
We’ve Got Something to Say: Why Campus Communicators Should Take Leadership Initiative

State colleges and universities are fighting like never before to attract prospects’ attention, differentiate themselves from similar peers, and identify new funding sources as public support declines. Meanwhile, communications offices at many schools spend hours cranking out brochures, ads, webpages and news releases, just like they did a decade ago.
Shedding a supporting role isn’t easy. Yet practitioners who gain strategic voices can offer critical guidance to institutions facing change. So how do we help colleagues understand our work primarily as a mechanism to build relationships and trust, rather than a process to fulfill job requests?

Presenter: Hal Legg, Director of Communications, State University of New York, Oneonta

Noon-1:15 p.m.    
Lunch and Discussion 

Making the Case for AASCU Institutions Through Messaging: AASCU’s Pilot Project

AASCU launched a pilot messaging program in the summer of 2014 designed to generate broader awareness of the value-driven philosophy of AASCU institutions—state colleges and universities (SCUs)—among student populations and their families, as well as among opinion leaders, voters and state lawmakers. It was also designed to create a better understanding about how our institutions contribute to the economic development of their region and state. The second phase of the pilot begins in February.  Learn more about the program from one of the participants and from the AASCU project partner.

Steve Swan, Vice President for University Relations, Western Washington University; Peter Kane, account executive, Sage Communications, McLean, Virginia

1:15-2:30 p.m.
Breaking Out of the Muddled Middle: A Time to be Bold
Faculty and staff can be significant advocates for your institution. In an atmosphere that sometimes muddles the message about regional institutions, how do you help them understand and embrace the value of their college or university and the importance of their roles? How do we craft a message for this internal audience that elevates their commitment to institutional success.

Presenter: George Mehaffy, Vice President for Academic Leadership and Change, AASCU

2:30-2:45 p.m.

2:45-4:00 p.m.
From Zero to 50: Boldly Leading the Evolution of a Brand
Founded in 1965, the University of Southern Indiana was not known as a marketing powerhouse.  In fact, administration prided itself on zero marketing. But in the past year and a half and as we approached our 50th anniversary in 2015, a change was in the works.  A core team went from zero to being recognized among the ‘best of the best’ in the Midwest. We’ll chat about how collaboration, creativity, communication, support from the top, and hard work evolved a brand.

Presenter: Kindra Strupp, Assistant Vice President for Marketing and Communications, University of Southern Indiana

4:00-5:30 p.m.

Dinner on your Own 

Wednesday, March 25

8:30-9:30 a.m.
Moderated Roundtable Discussions & Buffet Breakfast.

9:30-10:45 a.m.
Degrees of Inequality: Why Opportunity Has Diminished in U.S. Higher Education, and How to Promote Leadership to Restore the American Dream
When it comes to policy conversations involving issues of college affordability, academic quality, student outcomes and student debt, attention is often directed squarely at college and university leaders. Public colleges and universities certainly must account for institutional costs and outcomes. However, federal and state policymakers also play an enormous role in providing individuals with the ability to achieve the American Dream, the passport to which is often made possible by a college degree or credential. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that in recent decades policymakers have abdicated their responsibility for ensuring affordable, accountable and high quality higher education in the U.S., slowly dismantling a legacy in which earlier generations of lawmakers made higher education a pillar of the nation’s economic, social and civic foundation. How and why has this failure of public duty taken place? And what specific actions can higher education leaders take to encourage a renewal of political leadership in stewarding American higher education?

Suzanne Mettler
, Clinton Rossiter Professor of American Institutions at Cornell University  
Author of Degrees of Inequality: How the Politics of Higher Education Sabotaged the American Dream 

10:45-11 a.m.

11-12:15 p.m.
Leading in the Age of Social Media  
Everyone is on Twitter… or Facebook. EVERYBODY! Well, except your leader. Or, maybe they are active in social media, but the results are not what you had hoped. This session will explore the world of social media and how our institutions and our leaders can co-exist and partner with us and use these important channels to achieve our goals. Bring your horror stories, your biggest challenges, and your sense of humor!

Presenter: Lori Croy, Director of Web Communications, University of Missouri-Columbia

12:15-1:15 p.m.
Moderated Roundtable Discussions & Lunch

1:15-2:30 p.m.
Proactive Use of Social Media in Crisis Communications
Today the cliché “golden hour” to respond is literal as social media invites the public to participate in your crisis.  Understanding the challenge and preparing to respond are key to successfully protecting your institution.

Presenter: Bill Smith, Executive Director of Marketing and Communications, Arkansas State University

2:30-2:45 p.m.  

2:45-4:00 p.m.
Managing Online Risk
This presentation will offer an overview of some of the current concerns and best practices relating to social media policies in institutions of higher education.  Topics include: examples of social media policy missteps in higher education; discussion of social media legal issues for academia; social media policy facts, components, best practices, and lessons learned; and more. Resources will be shared with participants for further exploration of the topic. Participants are encouraged to bring copies of their own social media policies, as well as questions for general discussion.

Presenter: Deborah Gonzalez, Esq. 

Dinner on Your Own

Thursday, March  26

Media Visits
Registrants have the option of signing up for visits to The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed; other options also may be available.  Registration for these visits will be open beginning January 15.

Fees top

AASCU Members:
Registration fee - $550
Early registration (before March 9, 2015) -  $525

Registration fee - $650
Early registration (before March 2, 2015) -  $625


Registration Information top

Please select among the two options below:

  • OPTION 1:
    Online Registration
    NOTE: Please click this LOGIN HELP if you have trouble using the online registration form.

  • OPTION 2:
    Register via the downloadable registration form, to be mailed or faxed in.
    Download Form (pdf)

Accommodations top

Reservation method: individual call-in

Embassy Suites Washington DC Convention Center

900 10th Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
Phone +1-202-739-2001
Fax 1-202-739-2099

Reserve Online

Deadline has passed for the AASCU rate, but rooms may be available. Please call us if you need assistance with hotel accommodations: 202-478-4663

Rate: $279

Cutoff: February 16, 2015
Reservation method: individual call-in

Optional Activities top

Thursday, March  26

Media Visits
Registrants have the option of signing up for visits to The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed; other options also may be available. Registration for these visits will be open beginning January 15. 

Cancellation & Refund Policytop

  • Cancel in writing by March 2, 2015 to receive full refund.
  • Cancellations received after March 2 will be charged a $175 administration fee that will be used to pay for catering and services already guaranteed based on conference attendance.
  • Cancellations received after March 17 will not be refunded.



2015 Communications Conference - Committee