2018 Higher Education Government Relations Conference

2018 HEGRC

Wednesday, December 5, 2018 to Friday, December 7, 2018
Atlanta, Georgia

Delivering Results Amid Change, Uncertainty, and Polarization

About the Conference

With 36 governors and most legislative seats up for grabs in the fall election—and many key lawmakers facing term limits or retiring—higher education government relations professionals around the country will interact with a variety of state legislative and executive leaders next year. This provides a pivotal opportunity to share public higher education’s story and build champions for the years ahead. This turnover also brings uncertainty over the future of the campus-capital relationship and public higher education’s standing as a state budgetary and policy priority. And amid this change, doubts about the value of personal and state investments in higher education persist, and competition for new state resources remains intense.

How can government relations professionals effectively deliver results for their campuses and systems in this environment? What skills, strategies, messages and stakeholder support will be needed for higher education advocates to effectively make the case in the next legislative sessions?

The 2018 Higher Education Government Relations Conference will focus on how campus and system government relations professionals can advance their agenda and deliver results. Conference participants will gain insight from an array of diverse, experienced leaders both within and beyond higher education from around the country on how to work with a new class of lawmakers and build awareness of higher education’s value to students, communities and states. It will focus on understanding the public’s views on higher education, and the messages, tactics and strategies necessary to be an effective advocate in this environment. Participants will also hear about the latest trends in state higher education funding and policy as well as federal legislation and regulations on Capitol Hill and the Trump Administration.  

Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, the Higher Education Government Relations Conference is an education 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 CollegesAmerican Association of State Colleges and UniversitiesAssociation 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. 

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


The 2018 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  

Schedule top

2018 HEGRC - program coverDownload Schedule at-a-Glance (pdf) -- This schedule is also available in the mobile app

Wednesday, December 5

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

3:15 p.m. — 4:15 p.m. 
Keynote Address: 
Building a State Agenda for Higher Education in a New Era

Nathan Deal
What are the policies, programs, and priorities necessary for public higher education to meet state needs today? And how can higher education government relations professionals effectively make the case for investing in these state assets amid legislative and executive turnover, changing public perceptions on the value of higher education, and political polarization? Hear from a leading state chief executive with experience as congressman and state senator about how public higher education can work with state leaders, the private sector, and others to build a state agenda leading to job creation, economic mobility, and stronger communities.  

Speaker: Nathan Deal
Governor, State of Georgia. 

Introduction and Welcome by Steve Wrigley, Chancellor, University System of Georgia 

The People Have Spoken: The Significance of the 2018 Election for American Politics—and Public Higher Education

The stakes are high for the November 2018 elections—37 governors, 35 U.S. senators, the entire U.S. House of Representatives, over 80% of legislative seats and many key ballot initiatives will be determined on election day. The implications of the results in November will have lasting ramifications, as they will not only determine political power dynamics for the next several years but will also influence state and federal redistricting after the 2020 census. During this session, leading political analysts will provide their take on the 2018 election, and what it means for public policy and politics at the state and federal levels. They will also discuss how higher education government relations professionals can be effective in the post-2018 environment, with lobbying strategies and messages that can resonate with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. 

Tharon Johnson, Founder and Partner, Paramount Consulting Group, LLC
Brian Robinson, President, Robinson Republic

5:30 p.m.— 6:30 p.m. 
Opening Reception

Thursday, December 6

7:00 a.m.— 8:00 a.m. 

8:00 a.m.— 9:15 a.m.
Have Americans Lost Faith in Higher Education? Understanding and Improving Public Perceptions of Higher Education.

In recent years, there have been an array of polls exploring public perceptions of higher education. Some polls have revealed a clear partisan divide on the value of higher education, while others present a more nuanced picture. This session will examine recent national polls on higher education and include a discussion from those within and beyond higher education on public perceptions of higher education today. In addition, panelists will discuss how campus and system government relations professionals and others can best respond to these polls in a way that ultimately improves higher education’s standing among the public and lawmakers.

Juliana Menasce Horowitz, Associate Director, Research, Pew Research Center (Powerpoint Presentation)  
Andrew Kelly, Senior Vice President for Strategy & Policy, University of North Carolina System
Mark Becker, President, Georgia State University

9:15 a.m.— 9:30 a.m.

9:30 a.m.— 10:45 a.m.
Washington Update 

For advocates for public colleges and universities, 2018 has been an active year in Washington. From implementation of tax reform to the Trump Administration’s deregulatory agenda and changes in immigration policy, this year has included important changes in federal policy affecting students and institutions. As the 115th Congress concludes and the next session begins in early 2019, the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, immigration reform, and an array of other issues await lawmakers on Capitol Hill. This panel will discuss key policy and regulatory changes that occurred in 2018 and assess how the results of the 2018 elections could affect federal higher education policy in 2019 and beyond.


Michael Zola, Vice President of Government Relations and Policy Analysis, American Association of State Colleges and Universities
Jennifer Poulakidas, Vice President for Congressional and Governmental Affairs, Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities
David Baime, Senior Vice President, Government Relations, American Association of Community Colleges
Brian Flahaven, Senior Director for Advocacy, Council for Advancement and Support of Education 

10:45 a.m.— 11:00 a.m.

11:00 a.m.—12:00 p.m.
Concurrent Sessions

Grassroots and Grasstops: Integrating Alumni, Trustees, and Business Leaders into Advocacy Campaigns 

Broadening the base of political support for higher education and channeling diverse voices in a coherent advocacy campaign remains a core challenge for public college and university government relations professionals. Each constituency brings unique knowledge, perspectives and relationships to advocacy campaigns. This session will include leading examples of effective advocacy campaigns that have cultivated alumni, business leaders, or trustees into champions for public higher education, and replicable best practices for bringing these campaigns to other states.     


Laura Fornash, Senior Vice President, State Government Relations, McGuireWoods Consulting (Powerpoint Presentation)          
Tim McDonough, Vice President for Government and Public Affairs, Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (Powerpoint Presentation)  
Tom Bull, Executive Director, Portland State University Alumni Association

Meeting the Unique Challenges of Community Colleges through Policy Innovation and Effective Advocacy

Community college advocates at the campus, system and state level have numerous unique challenges today, such as assessing and strengthening relationships with private sector, aligning policies from numerous units of government, identifying and responding to changing economic dynamics, and effectively communicating with a wide variety of stakeholders. Yet through policy innovation and effective advocacy, government relations professionals representing community colleges can deliver meaningful, lasting change that improves the lives of students and facilitates economic growth. This session will provide two replicable best practices—in a conservative and progressive policy environment—of how government relations professionals can provide innovative solutions to challenges confronting community colleges and guide those solutions through the legislative process. 


Karen Zamarripa, President, Karen Zamarripa Consulting (Powerpoint Presentation)  
Brian Millner, President & CEO, Missouri Community College Association

12:00 p.m. — 1:30 p.m. 
State Relations Award Luncheon

1:30 p.m. — 2:45 p.m.
Concurrent Sessions

How Can the Student Voice Be Effectively Integrated into Higher Education Advocacy? 

Students remain at the heart of campus advocacy efforts and can be some of the most effective champions for investments in public higher education. Their perspectives and stories can be persuasive in helping shape decisions affecting public colleges and universities. Nevertheless, the student voice isn’t always fully integrated into campus advocacy efforts. This session will provide multiple perspective on the student voice in higher education advocacy and include a discussion on how to effectively bring the student voice to the forefront of policy discussions involving higher education. 


Craig Lindwarm, Assistant Vice President, Congressional & Governmental Affairs, APLU
Brett Rowlett, Director of Public Affairs, Lane Community College (Ore.) (Handout PDF
Tristan Bernhard, former Student Body Vice President, University of Northern Iowa  
Maggie White, Legislative Policy Analyst, Cal State Student Association (Powerpoint Presentation

How Government Relations Professionals Can Lead Effective, Coordinated Responses to Crises and Controversies

Crises and controversies are inevitable in public higher education, from culture wars playing out on campus to scandals and tragedies. Government relations professionals are key liaisons to communicating with lawmakers and government officials about crises and often play a significant role in forming and executing the institutional response. The effectiveness of the campus response to these events can have lasting ramifications for the strength of the relationship between state and campus leaders. This session will feature multiple examples of crises affecting public colleges and universities and how government relations professionals responded—with lessons learned for the future.   


Paul Wagner, Executive Director, Council on Public Higher Education in Missouri
Lawrence Salinas, Executive Director of Governmental Relations, California State University, Fresno (Powerpoint Presentation)          
Michael DiRaimo, former Vice President for Government and Community Relations, Penn State University (Powerpoint Presentation

2:45 p.m. — 3:00 p.m.

3:00 p.m. — 4:15 p.m  
State Relations: The Indispensable Activity for Public Colleges and Universities   

Now celebrating its 25th year, the Higher Education Government Relations Conference (HEGRC) has been the premier venue for campus and system government relations professionals’ professional development. Over this time, the government relations profession has evolved to meet new demands in higher education and adjust to changing state political trends. What’s next for individuals in these roles? How can they deliver results for their campus and systems in political environments marked by increased partisanship and growing competition for increasingly scarce resources? This panel will feature a group of experienced professionals who have been leaders in higher education government relations, as well as those with important insight into this function through service in state government. The panelists will discuss the state of the profession and offer insight into how higher education government relations professionals can be effective advocates for their campuses and systems in today’s environment.  


Sue Peterson, Chief Government Relations Officer, Kansas State University
Dene Sheheane, Vice President of Government and Community Relations, Georgia Tech
Frances C Bradford, Deputy Secretary of Education, Commonwealth of Virginia
Isaac Faz, Chief Legislative Counsel, Dallas County Community College

Friday, December 7

8:00 a.m.— 9:00 a.m. 

9:00 a.m.— 10:15 a.m.  
Achieving State Goals Through a Stronger Campus-Capital Partnership: Perspectives from State Higher Education Executives

With the 2018 elections completed, higher education leaders will now shift their focus to the 2019 state legislative sessions and the array of new faces in statehouses throughout the country. State attainment goals are fast approaching, and 2019 could set the tone for the campus-capital relationship for many years ahead. How will higher education leaders approach this opportunity to renew and strengthen this relationship? What messages and advocacy strategies do they recommend for government relations professionals as they seek to earn trust and find common ground with a new class of lawmakers? What state policies do they see as promising? This panel of experienced higher education executives will provide insight into their approach to identifying challenges to the campus-capital relationship, cultivating champions for public higher education, and ultimately pursuing shared priorities that strengthen higher education's capacity to serve state needs.  


Al Bowman, Executive Director, Illinois Board of Higher Education
Madeline Pumariega, Chancellor, The Florida College System
Mike Krause, Executive Director, Tennessee Higher Education Commission

10:15 a.m.— 11:15 a.m.
State Outlook: Summary of the 2018 Legislative and Funding Outcomes, 2019 Economic and Policy Forecast

The 2018 state legislative sessions were busy for higher education, and 2019 promises a continual focus on higher education issues in state legislatures, along with other policy areas that affect the operations of public colleges and universities. Further, there will be numerous new leaders in statehouses throughout the country. This session will examine the election results from 2018 and look ahead to the 2019 state legislative sessions. It will also explore the economic dynamics in the country right now, and how those economic dynamics could affect state budgets and the financial health of state colleges and universities. 


Susan Shaffer, Vice President-Senior Credit Officer, Higher Education & Not-for-Profit Team, Moody's (Powerpoint Presentation
Lexi Anderson
, Policy Analyst, Education Commission of the States (Powerpoint Presentation
Thomas L. Harnisch
, Director of State Relations and Policy Analysis, American Association of State Colleges and Universities (Powerpoint Presentation

11:15 a.m.—11:30 a.m.
Conference Closing

Fees top

Early Registration - $525 (Before November 7, 2018)
Late Registration - $550 (After November 7, 2018)

Registration Information top

How to Register
Please select among the two options below:

Accommodations top

Westin Peach Tree AtlantaThe Westin Peachtree Plaza
Atlanta, Georgia
210 Peachtree Street NW
Atlanta, Georgia 30303
Phone: (404) 659-1400

Conference Room Rate: $145 per night plus taxes and fees
To book a hotel room at the conference rate, please use this link

Cancellation & Refund Policytop

  • Cancel in writing by Nov. 23 to receive full refund.
  • Cancellations received after Nov. 23 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 December 3 will not be refunded.




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