Review of 2012 UPCEA Annual Conference

It is hard to believe that the UPCEA Annual Conference took place nearly three weeks ago.  I’ve put on a few miles since then, with trips to Florida, Wyoming, and tonight I find myself in China for the next several days.

 I’m sure there will be more on Shaeffer’s Forays about our trip to Florida, which included a trip to Disney world with two of our grandchildren (and of course their parents), my visit to the University of Wyoming, and my journey in China, but tonight I want to reflect on the UPCEA Annual Meeting in Portland.

 Any reflection about the 2012 UPCEA Annual Conference must begin by thanking David Schejbal and his excellent conference planning committee for bringing together an excellent annual conference.  The conference planning committee, with the expert assistance of the UPCEA National Office, implemented a number of new initiatives for this conference that included establishing program tracks that centered on the primary professional responsibilities of our members, kicking off the conference with half-day intensive sessions for each track, and featuring a track based on the conference theme of Resilience which examined sustainability from several perspectives including environmental, programming, organizational, and financial.  Many thanks to all involved in planning the 2012 Annual Conference.

 I felt that our keynote speakers, Carl Safina and Michael Horn, provided excellent bookends for the conference.  Carl opened the conference by challenging us with the many growing issues we face with the oceans due to overfishing, global warming, and pollution.  I will not soon forget the slide he shared of the bird that had digested several plastic lighters in the feeding process. While the challenges we face are large, Carl provided examples of how we can address some of the issues we face, but at the same time was clear about our responsibilities for assuring the survival of our blue oceans and supporting the view from Lazy Point.

 Michael Horn also challenged us with the leadership opportunity we have to utilize the disruptive innovation of online learning. He questioned whether the higher education model is sustainable if our institutions continue to see research as the primary measure of “quality.”  I am confident, based on Michael’s comments and the work he and his colleague Clayton Christensen have done, that those of us in professional continuing higher education are well positioned to provide leadership in harnessing this disruptive technology to provide greater access to higher education and to positively impact the teaching and learning experience for our students and faculty.

 One of the insightful initiatives the planning committee offered this year was the addition of intensive sessions to kick off the conference. In the past we’ve had two or three specialized seminars we offered to members, but this year the planning committee choose to kick off the entire conference with half-day intensive sessions included in the conference registration fee. These intensives included a keynote speaker addressing areas from workforce development to distance education, followed by a panel of expert colleagues that provided insights into these areas based on their campus experiences.  The planning committee augmented each intensive half-day session with programming throughout the conference that supported participants’ professional development. I was very pleased to hear very positive feedback about this new format.

 We also built on a program that was initiated last year that is the New and Aspiring Leaders program. Last year’s program was very well received and quite successful, and thanks to the leadership of our volunteers, this year’s program in Portland was equally successful.  I had the opportunity to talk with the New and Aspiring Leaders participants in Portland, and I’m happy to tell you that our profession and association has much to look forward to from these new and aspiring leaders.

 I was also extremely pleased with the ongoing support we received from our vendor colleagues, not only at this event but also throughout the whole year.  At this year’s conference we made several attempts to be more inclusive of our corporate sponsors; many members teamed up with their vendor partners in presentations as well as active participants throughout the conference. Many thanks to our corporate sponsors for not only their support at the annual conference but also for providing their insights in further our profession.

 We also enjoyed the wonderful city of Portland and the outstanding services and facilities of the Hilton. The addition of city walking tours that provided participants an opportunity to visit the unique sites of Portland made this conference more place-based than ever before. In addition, a highlight for many in the Sustainability track was the planned field trip visiting examples of Portland’s efforts to enhance environmental sustainability such as one of their hospitals on the hill.  I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonderful cafes and restaurants in Portland that many of us discovered.

 As with many of the national conferences, what I appreciated most were the opportunities to spend time with old friends and meet new friends in our association.  The insights I gain from listening to my colleagues are invaluable and the friendships I make are lasting.

 Many thanks to all who planned and executed our successful 2012 Annual Conference in Portland, and many thanks to those who participated and made it an outstanding event.  See you all in Boston next year for another great event!




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