2017 Communications Conference for Senior Professionals

2017 Communications Conference banner

Tuesday, March 14, 2017 to Thursday, March 16, 2017
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. In addition to programming, the conference offers the opportunity to network with your colleagues from similar schools around the country. 

About the Conference

The AASCU 2017 Communications Conference for Senior Professionals, Communications Leadership in Uncertain Times: Challenges and Opportunities, addresses the very tangible concerns many institutions have faced or are likely to confront in the future. We live in tumultuous times, where the issues and challenges facing our campuses change daily and seem to grow exponentially. From societal strife to student protests, from freedom of speech issues to federal and state mandates, how and what we communicate has never been more critical. 


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

Schedule top

Tuesday, March 14

8:00 a.m. – 8:30 a.m. 

8:30 a.m. – 8:45 a.m. 

8:45 a.m.-12:15 a.m. 
When Words Are Not Enough 
(The conference will address this topic in three sessions.) 

You know the drill. An issue arises on campus and suddenly your day takes an unexpected turn toward controversy. You consult with administrators, legal counsel, maybe even faculty and staff, to craft a statement aimed at guiding campus back to business as usual. But what if the students hear the message and challenge it? 
What if in your effort to convey the “right messages,” key stakeholders cry cover up or accuse you of glossing over the real problem? When do tensions on campus require us to be self-effacing and reflective, rather than striking familiar talking points? The following three sessions will address these issues and provide opportunities to discuss the important role played by university communications professionals.  

Panel Discussion
Former University of Missouri student body president Payton Head and Associate Provost Christine Holt will discuss the events that unfolded at the University of Missouri during the fall of 2015 and the lessons learned from months in the national spotlight. 
Payton Head, Former President of the Missouri Students Association & Activist
Christine J. Holt, Associate Provost, University of Missouri 

From racial tensions to LGBTQ issues, from religious tolerance to supporting DREAMers, our campuses are microcosms for the issues society continues to grapple with today. A facilitator will lead conference attendees in an interactive workshop focused on how we as communicators can engage and promote greater discussion and understanding within our communities. Participants will have the opportunity to develop or consider approaches they can share for implementation on their campus. 

Facilitator: David Pluviose, Senior Writer, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education 

Concluding Session  

During times of crisis, offering platitudes and pat answers are disingenuous and aid in the avoidance of having candid conversations about underlying campus tensions and issues. This session will provide an overarching perspective on “When Words Are Not Enough.”

Speaker: Robert S. Nelsen, President, California State University Sacramento

Networking Lunch  

1:30 p.m.- 2:30 p.m. 
Speechwriting with a Mission 
Communicators wear many hats, from spokesperson to marketer to strategist to manager. Often, we also serve as speechwriters for our leadership. Speechwriting – and, more broadly, executive writing – connects institutional goals and advocacy strategy to a leader’s persona. So, how do we maximize the executive’s voice to motivate our audiences to act? 

Speaker: Erik Fallis, Speech Writer and Director of Executive Writing, Chancellor’s Officer, California State University 

2:30 p.m.-3:00 p.m. 

3:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m. 
Let’s talk about Title IX 
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Chief Compliance Officer and Title IX Coordinator Paige Reed provides communicators with information they need to understand the basics of Title IX and how to communicate clearly this important Federal law. This interactive session will provide attendees with take-aways for use on their own campus. 

Speaker: Paige Reed, Chief Compliance Officer and Title IX Coordinator, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater 

4:45 p.m.-5:45 p.m.
Networking Reception
Toro Toro Pan Latin Tapas Restaurant
1300 I (Eye) Street, Washington, D.C.
Restaurant website

Wednesday, March 15

8:15 a.m.-9:15 a.m.  
Moderated Roundtable Discussions & Buffet Breakfast   

Roundtable Topics:

  • Best Practices in Social Media:Ttools, tactics, and strategies 
  • Brand Management: Successes, challenges, and opportunities
  • Measuring Effectiveness: Communications analytics, media tracking, strategic planning metrics and measurement
  • Internal Communications: Best strategies for success
9:30 a.m. -10:45 a.m.  
Making the Case for AASCU Institutions and Why It’s Important
These are challenging times for public higher education, with eroding state support and uncertainty around federal funding. It is more vital than ever to focus on a collaborative, unified approach that articulates the benefits and the value of our AASCU institutions.  The session will focus on Opportunities for All, its benefits and how it has been implemented on some AASCU campuses.

Steven Swan, Vice President for University Relations and Community Development, Western Washington University
Brenda Alling, Campus Director of Marketing and Communications, Washington State University Vancouver 
10:45 a.m. -11:00 a.m.  

11:00 a.m. – 12:15 
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Snap 
For most people over 40, the appeal of Snapchat is hard to comprehend. But among Millennials, Snapchat is one of the most popular social media platforms. In this session, we’ll walk through the sometimes mystifying Snapchat interface together, and learn how the app is being used in higher education. 

Speaker: Lori Packer, Web Editor and Social Media Coordinator, University of Rochester. 

12:15 p.m.—1:15 p.m.   
Networking Lunch & Roundtables 

1:30-2:30 p.m.  
Joint Efforts in Marijuana Legalization
The session provides a case study about a president who jumped into murky waters  because she saw the opportunity for enhanced research funding, service to our state and county, and positive attention from other states seeking guidance in legislation and policy development. CSU-Pueblo signed research agreements with county and state entities which brought resources to establish the Institute of Cannabis Research (ICR), the nation’s first cannabis research center at a regional, comprehensive institution. The University will host the first academically-based cannabis conference in 2017 and publish an interdisciplinary cannabis research journal as well. County government requested studies on power and water usage, buffer zones and social and economic impacts on the community – exactly the type of mission-based research that regional comprehensives are known to provide in service to their regions. Presenters also will discuss other challenges and opportunities that came with the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado in 2014.
Lesley Di Mare
, President, Colorado State University-Pueblo  

Cora Zaletel, Executive Director, External Affairs, CSU-Pueblo
Karl Spiecker, Vice President of Finance and Administration, CSU-Pueblo  

2:30 p.m. -2:45 p.m.  

2:45 p.m. -3:45 p.m.
In the Wake of Tragedy
AASCU campuses play a critical role in supporting their communities.  The characterization of state colleges and universities as “Stewards of Place,” is never more prominent as when they step forward in times of crisis.  There are lessons to be learned from the experiences of the University of Central Florida and the University of Michigan-Flint as they worked with their communities following the Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando and the Flint water crisis. These universities are authentically “of their communities.”

Tess Barker
, Chief of Staff, Office of the Chancellor, University of Michigan - Flint
Courtney Gilmartin
, Assistant Director, News & Information and Public Information Officer, Police Department, University of Central Florida

3:45 p.m.- 4:00 p.m.
Conference Wrap-up

Thursday, March 16

Editorial Visits to Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle of Higher Education
Meeting with the editors will take place Thursday morning and will conclude before noon. An email will be sent to conference registrants asking for preference so that names and institutions of participants can be provided to editors of The Chronicle and IHEExact time will be provided closer to the 16th.

Fees top

Fee covers all program sessions, two lunches, a buffet breakfast, a reception and refreshments during breaks. 

AASCU Members:
Registration fee - $625
Early registration (before March 1, 2017) -  $575

Registration fee - $725
Early registration (before March 1, 2017) -  $675


Accommodations top

Hotel is sold-out -- please contact Leslie Heath at heathl@aascu.org for assistance, or call her at (202) 478-4694. 

Cancellation & Refund Policytop

Cancellations received in writing by noon, Feb. 21, 2017 will be fully refunded. After Feb. 21, 2017 a $200 cancellation fee will be charged and deducted from all refunds. Cancellations received March 6, 2017 or later forfeit the entire registration fee.





2017 Comm - Planning Committee