2018 Communications Conference for Senior Professionals

2018 Communications Conference web banner

Tuesday, March 27, 2018 to Thursday, March 29, 2018
Washington, D.C.

Communicating to Unite: Advancing Public Higher Education in Turbulent Times

About the Conference

This year, higher education has faced several turbulent and controversial issues, including defining freedom of speech on campus, addressing campus sexual assault, and protecting students after the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. While addressing these issues, schools were often met with increased scrutiny or hostility.

How do we keep the public invested in the important role public higher education plays in our communities, local economies, and fulfilling the American Dream? Join us at the 2018 AASCU Communications Conference for Senior Professionals from March 27-29 in Washington, D.C., as we explore how to communicate effectively in challenging times. 


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

Schedule top

Download final program (pdf)

2018 Communications Conference - Program Cover

Tuesday, March 27

8:00 - 8:30 a.m. 

8:30 – 9:00 a.m. 
Welcome & Introductions

9:00 - 10:15 a.m.
Fred LawrenceChallenges to Freedom of Speech on College Campuses
In our current polarized political environment, free speech issues are presenting themselves with urgency on campuses. It is important to clarify free speech’s role in democracy and how this relates to college campuses.

Frederick Lawrence
, lawyer, civil rights scholar and Chief Executive Officer of the Phi Beta Kappa Society

10:15 - 10:30 a.m.

10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Discord, Discussion and Unity: A Tale of Three Campuses on the Free Speech Continuum
In terms of geographic location, size and classification, Franklin & Marshall College; Kansas State University; and California State University, Stanislaus couldn’t be more diverse. But all three schools have grappled with issues related to freedom of speech and segments of the campus population who have felt excluded or marginalized. During this session, administrators and students from these campuses will reflect on the issues they face and actions they have taken to move past disagreement and to forge a more inclusive campus environment. 

Kevin Burke, Vice President for Communications, Franklin & Marshall College
Jeff Morris, Vice President Communications and Marketing, Kansas State University 
Rosalee Rush, Senior Associate Vice President Marketing, Communications & Media Relations, California State University, Stanislaus 

12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Networking Lunch

1:00 - 2:15 p.m.
Public Safety or Defamation? The Aftermath of One Campus’s Timely Warning Regarding a Sexual Assault
Title IX and the Clery Act require institutions to issue timely warnings whenever a public safety threat occurs on campus. But when California State University, Monterey Bay issued an alert that included the name of the alleged assailant in a sexual assault, the school became the target of negative media coverage and accusations of defamation for weeks afterwards. This experience can serve as a case study to offer lessons learned on Title IX compliance.

Noah Rappahahn, Public Information Officer, California State University, Monterey Bay
Greg Pool, Director of Communications and Marketing, California State University, Monterey Bay

2:15 - 2:30 p.m.

2:30 - 3:15 p.m.
Catastrophe: Louisiana in the Spotlight
Today's higher education environment isn't for the faint of heart. Racially charged incidents, police violence, sexual assault and harassment, hazing, political unrest-any one of these issues can consume a campus. What if all of the above happened consecutively on your watch? In the last 24 months, Louisiana has seen the threat of historic budget cuts, the longest legislative session in state history, the shooting of an African American man by Baton Rouge police and the subsequent ambush of the Baton Rouge Police Department in retaliation, and a 1,000-year flood, among others. These issues affected Louisiana State University (LSU) students, faculty, staff and constituents, as well as public perception of the LSU brand.

Jason Droddy, Interim Vice President of Strategic Communications & Chief of Staff for LSU President 
Ashley Arceneaux, LSU Director of Presidential & Policy Communications 

3:30 - 4:30 p.m.
Building a New U: University Consolidations and Mergers
Declining enrollments, increased operating expenses and changing student demographics are some of the factors contributing to an increase in college and university mergers. From Wisconsin to Georgia, states are consolidating institutions in hopes of creating greater efficiencies while meeting students’ needs. But what is it like for communications officers at the schools being merged? How do you promote the advantages while those affected are lamenting change or lost identity?

Kate Maine, Chief of Staff, University of North Georgia
Karla Leeper, Executive Vice President for Strategic Communication and Chief Marketing Officer, Augusta University

5:00 – 6:00 p.m.
Networking Reception at Toro Toro

Wednesday, March 28

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

9:30 - 10:45 a.m.
John ZogbyThe Best Deal Around: Communicating the Power of the Public College
Published data clearly show how important the college degree remains in earning potential and lifetime success. Given those findings, it is puzzling why higher education has experienced a loss of confidence and public support. Pollster John Zogby examines the mood of the general public toward higher education and why public colleges need to tell their story of being the best deal around. Public colleges not only have comparatively lower costs for tuition, but also serve as a vital force in helping Americans of all backgrounds achieve the American Dream. 

John Zogby, public opinion pollster, founder Zogby International Poll  

10:45-11 a.m.

11 a.m. – Noon
Tips from the Media: How to Place Op-Eds
A prominent op-ed can put your institution’s mission and values into focus and further establish your experts as thought leaders and influencers. In this panel, members of the media will discuss the dos and don’ts of getting an op-ed published and how to pitch your op-eds to specific publications.

Scott Jaschik, editor, Inside Higher Ed
Jennifer Ruark, deputy managing editor, The Chronicle Review, Opinion and Special Sections

12:15 p.m. – 1:15 p.m.

1:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.

Thinking Globally: Creating a Welcoming Environment for International Students
This year, Eastern Michigan University launched a comprehensive campaign to inform international students of the welcoming environment on its campus and community. As one of the leading universities in the #YouAreWelcomeHere national campaign, Eastern Michigan University pushed the messaging beyond most participating universities. The welcoming messages have helped the campus community move beyond the challenges of the previous year, when a series of racist vandalism incidents spurred massive protests across campus, including an all-night sit-in that occurred in the Student Center, a march by several hundred students to the university president's house, and a mass takeover of the football field immediately after a nationally televised home football game. This presentation will show various components of the campaign, along with initial metrics and analytics to provide measurement and results.

Presenter: Walter Kraft, Vice President for Communications, Eastern Michigan University

2:45 p.m. – 3:45 p.m.
Partnerships Handbook: Is It Time to Partner, What Are the Risks and Benefits, and How Do You Do It?
An AASCU task force of current and former college and university presidents with extensive experience in creating and maintaining university partnerships has created a handbook for campus leaders on partnerships. The handbook includes classifications of partnerships (e.g., community relationships, collaborations with other institutions, public-private partnerships), outlines the benefits of partnerships (e.g., financial advantages, accelerated development schedules), and discusses the risks of partnerships (e.g., having less control over a project, agreeing to long-term contractual obligations). The handbook also includes several principles to consider in developing and maintaining university partnerships, policy and legal considerations, and strategies for building a partnership culture. This session, led by two people who worked with the task force, will review the handbook and provide tips for using it on your campus to encourage a culture of partnerships. 

Thomas L. Harnisch, AASCU Director of State Relations and Policy Analysis and Staff Liaison to the task force
Doug Mell, University of Wisconsin-Stout Executive Director of Communications and External Relations

3:45 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Conference Wrap-up

Thursday, March 29

Editorial Visits to Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle of Higher Education
Media visits will take place Thursday morning and will conclude before noon. Registration is required for these visits—conference attendees will receive a form to register for this activity. These visits are optional, but those who register are urged to honor their commitment to attend.


Fees top

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

AASCU Members:
Early registration (before March 13, 2018) -  $595
After March 13, 2018 - $635

Early registration  (before March 13, 2018) - $695
After March 13, 2018 - $735

Accommodations top

The Hamilton Hotel - Washington, D.C.  -- SOLD OUT
1001 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20005
(202) 682-0111


For more info on hotel reservation, please contact:
Linda Tate
Meetings Coordinator
(202) 478-4698

Cancellation & Refund Policytop

Cancellations received in writing by noon, Feb. 21, 2018, will be fully refunded. After Feb. 21, 2018, a $200 cancellation fee will be charged and deducted from all refunds. Cancellations received March 6, 2018, or later forfeit the entire registration fee.


  • Vilma M. AyalaStaff Associate for Vice President of Communicationsayalav@aascu.org(202) 478-4663
PLANNING COMMITTEE2018 Communications Conference - Planning Committee