By Kathryn Magura
This past weekend I had the pleasure to participate in the first of the 2013 SATech Un-Conferences hosted on the Oregon State University campus. I highly recommend taking the opportunity to attend one of these un-conferences if you get a chance. Not only are they free professional development, they’re a great way to network with colleagues in your area.
Before I get into the details of my experience, let me take some time to explain what an un-conference is. An un-conference is basically an attendee-driven conference. There are no program proposals to submit months in advance that usually result in stale or out of context presentation sessions. There are rarely keynote speakers, and there is no true prescribed format for the day. People come and determine on sight what they want to discuss. Furthermore, if a side conversation starts, that’s totally fine and even welcome. Basically, creativity and an open mind are all that are required to attend an un-conference.
So where did the SaTech un-conference begin? For that I will link you to Ed Cabellon‘s post on how he started the un-conference program, and how the idea for multiple un-conferences this year began. Side note: Ed is amazing, and I do hope you’re all following him on Twitter. If you aren’t, you are missing out on one of the most genuine and talented Student Affairs professionals out there!
Since Ed was able to convince Ann Marie Klotz to bring one of the SATech un-conferences to Oregon State, I had the pleasure of being part of the planning committee. As our group came together to plan out what would become the first of the SATech un-conferences of 2013, there were a lot of unknowns about what this would look like and who would even come. As it turns out, Ed was very wise to think the Pacific Northwest would be a good venue for an un-conference program. Sure enough, as the day grew closer, we had over 120 participants registered to join our conversations!
As we started our day for the SATechOR un-conference, there was an energy and excitement in the air. Personally, I was eager to connect with professionals who had found ways to utilize technology as a way to enhance services on campus. We began the day introducing ourselves to our 100+ colleagues in attendance and explain why we were all there. I was amazed to hear the variety of reasons listed for why people chose to attend our un-conference. I was also humbled to see how many people from my own Oregon State community decided to participate in this day of collaborative learning.
I encourage you to read through the Twitter backchannel of posts from the #SATechOR un-conference to see the conversations that took place last Saturday. Feel free to add your own thoughts to the conversation, as the learning should continue even after we leave the confines of the un-conference setting.
Before I wrap up this post, I want to send a thank you to Ed Cabellon for seeing his vision for this un-conference format through to fruition across the country this year. It was wonderful to see this un-conference become a reality on our campus, and I look forward to participating in the conversations that happen at the other un-conference locations over the next few months.
P.S. Don’t you think my colleague Jeffrey and I make these un-conference t-shirts look good?