2016 Higher Education Government Relations Conference

HEGRC 2016 - web banner

Wednesday, November 30, 2016 to Friday, December 2, 2016
St. Petersburg, Florida

What’s Next? Public Higher Education at a Crossroads 

This year has been challenging for public colleges and universities throughout the country. Increased political discord in statehouses, stagnant or declining state budget revenues, and an array of cultural divisions have further strained the relationship between campuses and the capital. Despite these challenges, affordable public higher education has shown to be an increasingly important issue for families, symbolized by new, far-reaching proposals from national leaders aiming to stop longstanding disinvestment and restrain the growth in tuition and debt for the next generation of students. 

Public higher education, therefore, remains at a crossroads: state political and economic dynamics have led to further disinvestment and cost shifts, while more students and families are calling on candidates and political leaders to fundamentally reform higher education financing. The challenges of state and national higher education policy are likely to play out in this year’s election, with more discussion of higher education policy than any cycle in recent memory.  

With the 2016 campaign over, this conference will assess the new political landscape and its ramifications for higher education. The conference will demonstrate how campus government relations professionals can create messages, engage and energize stakeholders, and assemble coalitions that recognize and reflect new realities confronting public higher education and state government. Conference participants will garner insight into strategies that can effective convey the value of investing in higher education while also having ample opportunities to network and learn from their colleagues. Participants will also hear about the latest trends in state higher education funding and policy, national economic dynamics, and updates from Capitol Hill and insights pertaining to the next presidential administration. 

About the Conference

Now in its 23rd year, the Higher Education Government Relations Conference is an educational forum for professionals whose responsibility it is to foster effective governmental and community relations on behalf of public colleges and universities and state systems of higher education. The conference reflects a unique partnership among four national higher education associations: the American Association of Community Colleges, American Association of State Colleges and Universities, Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.  The conference is coordinated by government relations staff from these associations and the Task Force on Higher Education Government Relations, comprised of state governmental affairs professionals representing the entire spectrum of American public postsecondary education. 

Point of Contact:
Thomas Harnisch 
Director of State Relations and Policy Analysis
AASCU / harnischt@aascu.org / (202) 478-4660 (office)


The 2016 Higher Education Government Relations Conference serves as an exceptional venue for generating product/service visibility and professional networking.

Download Sponsorship Prospectus (pdf) to learn more about conference sponsorship opportunities
Download Sponsorship Application Form (pdf)

Schedule top

Preliminary Schedule

Check back for program updates

Wednesday, November 30

3:00 p.m.— 3:15 p.m.
Conference Opening

Mica Stark, Chair, 2016 Task Force on Higher Education Government Relations, Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs, University of New Hampshire. 
Welcoming Remarks: Sophia Wisniewska, Regional Chancellor, University of South Florida St. Petersburg

3:15 p.m.— 4:15 p.m. 
Plenary Session: Bridging the Campus-Capitol Divide Through Institutional Leadership

John ThrasherDecreased state investment in higher education, escalating concerns over student debt and renewed demand for knowledge and skills from stakeholders has led to a pivotal juncture in state higher education policy. With a class of new lawmakers starting their terms in early 2017, the choices made at this crossroads will have considerable implications of whether the next generation of students will have access to affordable public college opportunities. Hear the unique and insightful perspective on state higher education policy from a nationally respected public college president who previously has been as speaker of the state House of Representatives, state senator and party chairperson. He will discuss the current condition of the relationship between state government and higher education, perspectives on higher education issues from state policymakers’ vantage points and strategies for improving the relationship between the campus and the capitol. 

Speaker: John Thrasher, President, Florida State University

4:15 p.m.— 5:15 p.m. 
Plenary Session: Wither Higher Education: The Election is Over. Now What? 

Scott JaschikWith the 2016 political season over in November, higher education government relations professionals will be assessing the post-election landscape and its implications for policymaking in Washington and state capitals. The election will bring a tumultuous year in higher education near a conclusion—a year that included bold federal proposals to reshape higher education financing; continued state budget gridlock and shortfalls; increasing calls to reduce costs and consolidate operations; and growing national unease over student debt levels. The events of 2016 may symbolize an industry at a crossroads, as institutions fight to restore lost state subsidies amid limited new state revenue, students and families struggle to pay higher tuition prices, and top policymakers question the longstanding federal role in higher education financing. Amid the cacophony of policymaker proposals and counterproposals, it can be challenging to see tectonic shifts underway in higher education. Hear from one of the nation’s leading industry observers, who will provide his perspective on big-picture changes occurring within higher education, key takeaways from the election, and how the relationship between higher education and government will evolve in the years ahead. 

Scott Jaschik, Editor, Inside Higher Ed

5:15 p.m.— 6:15 p.m. Opening Reception 

Thursday, December 1

7:15 a.m.— 8:00 a.m.

8:00 a.m.-8:15 a.m.
Plenary Session: Update on Voluntary System of Accountability and Student Achievement Measure

Teri Lyn Hinds, Director of Research and Data Policy, APLU
Jim Hermes, Associate VP of Government Relations for the American Association of Community Colleges

8:15 a.m.— 9:15 a.m.   
Plenary Session: Polling the Profession: State Government Relations Professionals' Views on Their Role, Public Higher Education as a State Priority, and Effective Advocacy

Government relations professionals are a critical link in fostering a productive relationship between state government and higher education. The individuals in these roles have an in-depth understanding of state politics, higher education policy, and the unique needs of college campuses and systems. However, there has been little research on professionals in this role on campus, such as their responsibilities, perspectives on policymaker attitudes toward higher education, the effectiveness of various government relations strategies and messages, and outlook on the state-higher education relationship. The session will release a new national poll of campus government relations officers, with responses and commentary from experienced professionals in the field. It will also include commentary on how government relations professional can navigate the post-election political landscape.   



Bill Sederburg, AASCU Senior Scholar
Patrick Lindsey, Vice President, Government & Community Affairs, Wayne State University
Francesca Vega, Director of Government and Community Relations, California State University-Northridge

9:15 a.m.— 10:30 a.m.
Plenary Session: Washington Update: Briefing on Federal Legislation and Policy Issues

Federal government relations staff members from the conference’s four sponsoring associations will provide the very latest involving federal higher education policy and funding priorities and political dynamics on Capitol Hill and in the Obama Administration. Higher Education Act reauthorization, federal student aid reform, campus sexual assault, veterans education and federal efforts to promote institutional accountability will be among the many topics that will be addressed. 


Jennifer Poulakidas, Vice President for Congressional and Governmental Affairs, APLU
Michael Zola, Vice President of Government Relations and Policy Analysis, AASCU
Jim Hermes, Associate Vice President of Government Relations, AACC
Brian Flahaven, Director of Government Relations, CASE

10:45-11:55 a.m. 
Conference Roundtables

Roundtable #1: Meeting with Members of Congress: An Insider's Perspective
Facilitators: Michael Zola, Vice President of Government Relations and Policy Analysis, AASCU
                      Jennifer Poulakidas, Vice President for Congressional and Governmental Affairs, APLU
                      Brian Flahaven, Director, Legislative, Foundation and Recognition Programs, CASE

Roundtable #2: Using Data and Research to Make the Case for Higher Education
Facilitators: Thomas Harnisch, Director of State Relations and Policy Analysis, AASCU,
                      Teri Lyn Hinds, Director of Research and Data Policy, APLU
                      Claire Rosacco, Vice President of Government Relations and Community Outreach, Cuyahoga Community College

Roundtable #3: Coordinating a Campus Advocacy Campaign Within a Larger University System
Facilitators: Doug Mell, Executive Director of University Communications and External Relations, University of Wisconsin-Stout,
                     Jessica Todtman, Deputy Chief of Staff, State University of New York (SUNY)
                     Janet Owen, Vice President, Governmental Relations, University of North Florida 

Roundtable #4: Aligning Programs to Meet Industry Demands: Lessons and Opportunities for Community and Technical College Leaders
Facilitators: Justin Lonon, Executive Vice Chancellor, Dallas County Community College District,
                    Jim Hermes, Associate Vice President of Government Relations, American Association of Community Colleges
                    Tim Sheehan, Vice President for Government and Community Relations, Salt Lake Community College,  

Roundtable #5: Campus, State and National Efforts to Improve Student Success through Innovation and Change
Facilitators: George Mehaffy, Vice President for Academic Leadership and Change, AASCU
                    Robin Walton, Vice President for Community and Government Affairs, Thomas Edison State University
                    Nick Kallieris, Director of Resource Development and Legislative Affairs at College of Lake County

Roundtable #6: Lobbying Strategies: New and Traditional Ways of Advancing the Higher Education Agenda.
Facilitators: Dan Holsenbeck, Senior Vice President of University Relations, University of Central Florida
                    Susan Peterson, Director of Governmental Relations, Kansas State University 
                    Craig Lindwarm, Association for Public and Land-Grant Universities 

Roundtable #7: State Policies to Align K-12 and Higher Education 
Facilitators: Shannon Gilkey, Director, Education Strategy Group
                      Mica Stark, Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs, University of New Hampshire
                      Kathleen Daly, Associate Vice President for Governmental Relations, Florida State University

Roundtable #8: State and Federal Policies to Combat Campus Sexual Assault
Facilitators: Amanda Seals, Associate Vice President-Government Relations, Kennesaw State University,
                  Makese Motley, Asst. Director of Federal Relations, American Association of State Colleges and Universities
                  Rachel Kincaid, Vice President of External Affairs, University of Louisiana System 

Roundtable #9: So your state just set an attainment goal. What comes next? Examples from the states.
Facilitator: Scott Jenkins, Director of State Policy, Lumina Foundation
                     Andy Clark, Assistant Vice Chancelloor for Government Relations, University System of Maryland
                     Janelle Toman, Director of Communications, South Dakota Board of Regents  

12 noon-1:30 p.m.  
State Relations Awards Luncheon

1:30 p.m.- 2:30 p.m.               
Integrating Governing Board Members Into Advocacy Strategies

Trustees and university foundation board members occupy important, distinct positions at public colleges and universities with in-depth knowledge of their institution, an understanding how the institution addresses state needs and the pivotal role of state policy and funding in advancing the campus mission. Because of their diverse knowledge, experiences and relationships both on- and off-campus, board members can be tremendous advocates for higher education and can effectively convey the contributions of public colleges and universities to policymakers. This session will provide information on the unique role of governing board members in campus leadership and case studies on how to both cultivate champions for public higher education on governing boards and integrate them into advocacy campaigns. 


Emily Dickens, Vice President for Public Policy and Executive Director of the Center for Public Trusteeship, Association of Governing Boards and Trustees (AGB)
Drew Moretz, Vice President for Government Relations, University of North Carolina General Administration
Clint Ensign, Vice Chair, Salt Lake Community College Board of Trustees

2:45 p.m.- 3:30 p.m. 
Advocacy Showcase

In this session, participants will discuss their campus or system approach to advocacy, including legislative strategies and coalition development. The presentations will be short (5 to 8 minutes) in order to accommodate as many campuses and systems as we can.   

#1 UNH Works-University of New Hampshire
Tom Cronin, Public Affairs Manager, University of New Hampshire 


#2 Building the Debt-Free College Promise from the Ground Up
Jen Silva, Director of Government and Community Engagement, Florida State College at Jacksonville


# 3 University of Tennessee Advocacy Campaign
Carey Whitworth, University of Tennessee


#4 University of North Carolina "The Successful Campaign for Connect NC Bonds: University Capital Projects (Including Bathrooms)"
Mark Lanier, University of North Carolina-Wilmington


#5 Alumni Advocacy: Key Strategies
John N. Diamond, University of Maine Alumni 


#6 Bloomsburg University Government Relations Strategy
Dan Knorr, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania



3:45 p.m.- 5:45 p.m.
Movie Screening: "Starving the Beast" (95 minutes) followed by Q&A with Director Steve Mims

Friday, December 2

7:30 - 9:00 a.m. 
Breakfast Affinity Sessions

Community Colleges
Public Comprehensives
Public Research
Systems & Board

9:00 a.m.-10:00 a.m.
Strategic Messaging: Getting Government Relations and Communications on the Same Page

Strategic messaging is essential to effective campus and system government relations, especially during periods of crisis and change. However, campus government relations and communications department are often in different divisions within the university and led by different people, which can lead to multiple messages to stakeholders, including policymakers. How can government relations work with campus leaders to create processes and a culture in in which these two departments work in concert? How can communications professionals contribute to effective government relations, and vice versa? This session includes officials from both campus government relations and communications shops to discuss the challenges of integrating government relations and communications, share how they have collaborated to build a shared approach to messaging and lessons for other campuses as they seek to bridge the divide between these two interdependent campus functions. 


Jack Martin, Senior Director, Strategic Communications, University of Washington
Laurie Weidner, Assistant Vice Chancellor, Public Affairs, The California State University
Doug Mell, Executive Director of University Communications and External Relations, University of Wisconsin-Stout




10:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. 
State Outlook: Summary of 2016 Higher Education Legislative and Funding Outcomes, and 2017 Economic and Policy Forecast

The session will provide the latest analysis on national and state economic conditions affecting budget revenues in the near-term, along with the outlook for budgets, state financial aid, capital outlays and other key higher education policy issues in the 2017 legislative session. The presenters will also outline how the 2016 elections changed the political power dynamics of state legislatures and governor’s offices and the ramifications for the higher education community. Key takeaways from the 2016 legislative session will also be discussed.   

Thomas Harnisch
, Director of State Relations, American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU)
Kathryn Vesey White
Senior Policy Analyst, National Association of State Budget Officers
Shannon Gilkey, Higher Ed for Higher Standards 



11:00 a.m.-11:15 a.m. 

Conference Closing


Fees top

Early Registration - $475 (Before November 18, 2016)
Late Registration - $550 (After November 18, 2016

Registration Information top

How to Register
Please select among the two options below:

Accommodations top


The Renaissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club - Sold Out
AASCU is pleased to provide overflow housing at The Birchwood conveniently located across the street at 340 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.

Reserve accommodations directly with the Hotel at 727-896-1080.  Hotel rooms at the $189.99 rate are being held until 5:00 p.m. EST on November 23rd, 2016. You will need to identify yourself as part of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and provide them your name, method of payment, check-in and check-out dates.

The Renaissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club
501 5th Ave NE
St. Petersburg, FL 33701

Book your group rate for HEGRC

Reservations Toll Free: 1-888-789-3090
Reservations Local Phone: 1-888-303-4430

Room Rates
$189/night +Taxes & Fees      

Online reservations

If you have any questions, please email Leslie Heath heathl@aascu.org (M, W, F) or leave a voice message (202) 478-4694 and we will get back to you as soon as we can. 

Cancellation & Refund Policytop

  • Cancel in writing by Nov. 19 to receive full refund.
  • Cancellations received after Nov. 19 will be charged a $150 administration fee that will be used to pay for meals and services already guaranteed at the hotel.
  • Cancellations received after Nov. 22 will not be refunded.




Elsevier logo

SUNY logo


Capitol Impact logo

Cuyahoga Community College logo

Thomas Edison State University - logo

University of New Hampshire logo


Dallas County Community College District

Kansas State University logo

University of South Florida St Petersburg logo


University of Central Florida logo

Florida International University logo

Florida Polytechnic University logo

Florida State University logo

University of Florida logo

University of North Florida logo


Salt Lake Community College


Lumina Foundation logo

Turbo Vote logo