Choosing a Spring National Conference 2015

By Josie Ahlquist

Around one year ago I wrote a post called “Choosing a Spring National Conference” spelling out the line up for spring national conferences.  I bring you version 2.o for 2015, also including ways you can be part of the conference experience without physically being on site.

There are many decisions that go into attending a conference.  Especially in the spring, a number of national conferences are scheduled to choose from.  Due to the various costs that it takes to attend each of these, for most professionals the likelihood is only attending one, if any at all. 

To help bridge these challenges, every year conferences seem to integrating technology to further their educational offerings and attendee interaction.  For example conference hashtags, as well as live streaming keynotes and educational sessions.  

Please make note of the early bird deadlines that I have gathered.  I have noticed some trends, including early bird deadlines being pushed up weeks early from last year.  I have also noticed three association prices significantly rose since last year, while two others have remained the same.  One association (ACPA) prices dropped across each early bird registration category.

National Association of Campus Activities (NACA)

College Student Educators International (ACPA) 

  • Dates: March 5-8th 2015
  • City: Tampa, FL 
  • Website:
  • Registration: Early Bird February 18th Member $450 Student $190 Non-Member $650
  • Follow Hashtag #ACPA15

National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) 

Association of College Unions International (ACUI) 

  • Dates: April 8-12th 
  • City: San Antonio,TX 
  • Registration: Early Deadline by December 17th Member $795 Students $395 Non Member $1,025
  • Website:
  • Follow Hashtag #ACUI15

National Intramurals-Recreation Sports Association (NIRSA) 

  • Dates: March 30th-April 2nd
  • City: Grapevine, TX 
  • Registration: Early bird February 18th Member $565 Nonmember $735 Student Member $450
  • Website:
  • Follow Hashtag #NIRSA2015

Association of College and University Housing Officers – International (ACUHO-I) 

  • Dates: June 27-30th, 2015
  • City: Orlando, FL
  • Registration: Early Registration April 30th Member $588 Non-Member $798
  • Website:
  • Follow Hashtag #ACUHOI

For more information about choosing a national conference, check out my post last year that considers four major elements to consider including your conference goals, adding up your costs and receiving institutional support.  

I’d love to hear other conferences to consider in Student Affairs this spring and early summer.  How are you seeing technology fused into the conference experience on-site as well as for virtual attendees?

Personally, this year will be a very heavy conference attendance season, as I share research from many studies I have been working on.  You can find me at NACA, ACPA and NASPA!  Hope to see you there! 

If you can’t attend, follow me at @josieahlquist as I’ll be tweeting out session content!

Choosing a Spring National Conference 2015

Choosing a Spring National Conference

by Josie Ahlquist

As we approach the New Year, tis the season for a restful and joyous holiday season.  But come January, early bird deadlines for spring professional association national conferences await.  If you have not already made your professional development plans, making a quick decision to save on registration fees could lead to conference attendee remorse.

There are many things to consider when choosing a conference.  Recently, I have found myself torn in choosing conferences, with the inner wish that I could attend them all.  Colleagues and I have joked that if we could attend conferences as part of our job, we’d do it.

In Student Affairs, there are number of popular conferences offered across the country each spring, which I will highlight in this post.  There may be many others I have not included, either offered in the fall or at the regional level which are also popular.  I will also provide suggestions for elements to consider when choosing to attend one or more of these, as well as how to approach your institution to receive support.

Student Affairs Related Spring Professional Association Conferences (by date)







Elements to Consider in Selecting a Conference

1.  Your Conference Goals.  

Before committing to a conference, you should have a clear purpose for attending.  For example, if you know that you will soon be taking on supervision responsibilities in the next year, you will seek out sessions that explore management, as well as network with attendees whom have experience in supervising.  Another example is if you are about to enter a job search, so attending a conference that has a job placement element should be a priority.

What is not a goal to go to a conference?  Picking a conference based upon location, such as Hawaii or Florida, even worse not being an active participant once at the conference because you are ‘vacationing’.  Be respectful to the conference planners, as well as your own resources.  While vacations can be paired with conference travel, as a professional you should separate your time, such as taking that time before or after, especially if you are bringing family.

 2.  Add Up Your Costs

I have provided the registration costs, at the early bird rate for both Member, non-member and student rates.  Keep in mind registration will always be cheaper for members.  If you are not already a member, you with pay more for registration or also pay for a costly yearly membership fee.  An easy decision, could be only attending conference to organizations you are already a member of.  In order of early bird deadline.

  • NASPA: Early Bird Ends January 10th Member $410 Student Member $125 Non-Member $585
  • ACUI: Early Deadline by January 8th Member $795 Students $395 Non Member $1,025
  • NACA: Early bird January 24th Members – $351  Non-Members – $483
  • ACPA: Early Bird February 18th Member $499 Student $215 Non-Member $700
  • NIRSA: Early bird March 12th Member $540 Nonmember $700 Student Member $350
  • ACUHO-I: Early Registration May 14th Member $560 Non-Member $760

Just the conference registration is the tip of the iceberg on your conference budget.  Additional items include: flight, hotel, ground transportation (taxi, bus, rental car, etc) and meals.

So, here are few things that can make or break conference costs:

  • Look to see if meals are included in the conference.  This could save you $50-250.  Usually larger conference, such as national ones do not.
  • Think about getting a roommate.  I have seen conference hotel rates anywhere from $150 up to $300 per night.  Splitting those costs even in half will be significant.  Some conferences have roommate matching services.
  • Look for a conference that is closer, possibly having the ability to drive or even carpool.
  • If driving or renting a car, what are the conference site parking fees.  In large cities, these can range to surprisingly high amounts.
  • Does the hotel/conference site offer complementary wifi?  If not, this could range from $10-25 per day.

3.  Conference Details

Explore the Keynote Speakers.  Conferences typically include 2-3 major speakers.  Especially for national conferences, big names are sought out and highly marketed to entice potential attendees.  For example, ACPA secured a couple big names this year: Erik Qualman and Brene Brown.

Educational Sessions.  A major part of conferences are smaller sessions for 10-60 attendees.  These sessions typically are vetted through conference reviewer’s, months prior.  At many conferences, it is very competitive to be offered an opportunity to present so the quality if typically high.  Ideally as a attendee, you would submit an educational session to any conference you are interested in attending.  However, based upon early deadlines, no conference I have mentioned still are offering submissions.

Conference Theme & Mission.  Every year, conference themes change, which will impact the type of experience such as educational sessions attendees will experience.  Also consider the target population and mission of the conference.  For example, NASPA and ACPA reach through all disciplines, while NACA and NIRSA will be more geared to Student Activities and Recreation, respectively.

Attendees. I have found the number and type of attendees can make a huge difference in helping meet conference goals.  For example, if your goal is to connect with professionals in the northeast, because that is where you are job searching, an ideal conference would be located on the east coast.  Also, there are some conferences that are geared more for undergraduate students in delegations, over professionals, which will change the feeling of the conference.  Finally, based upon the amount of attendees can make it more or less challenging to get into sessions or even restaurants.  For the large national conferences, be prepared to plan ahead and possibly be flexible in your choices.

In Person & Online Networking.   A priceless component of attending professional conferences is the networking.  While some individuals are brave enough to go up to a person they would like to meet while grabbing coffee or in-between a session, others need formal methods.  Look in the schedule for receptions, socials or networking events that will aid in building your networks.

Also just as important is the online networking of a conference.  For example NASPA 2014 conference hashtag is #NASPA14, so everyone can start the conference conversation even before the conference.

Conference Extras.  Especially if you are traveling a long distance, it may be worth looking for a conference that also offers a pre-conference ½ or full day experience.  For example, NACA has a Strengths Quest Institute directly before the conference.

Involvement & Volunteer Opportunities.  A great way to meet people and get the most out of a conference is volunteering.  For example, conferences need help at registration, gathering evaluations in sessions or directing traffic for events.  Finally, look into how to get more involved in the association in a leadership position, as a long-term commitment to the organization.


Receiving Institutional/Supervisor Support

After reviewing the costs related to attending a professional association conference, you may be overwhelmed with how everything adds up.  As in most professions, higher education typically supports employees in receiving professional development through attending these experiences.

However with budget cuts and shifting priorities, some universities or certain departments do not send professionals to conferences.  At this point in this post, I will disclose that I am a long-standing member of NASPA, attending as many regional and national conferences as I am able, and involved in many areas of the association such as the Region VI Volunteer Coordinator, Faculty Council Doctoral Student Representative and Technology Knowledge Community Emerging Practices Coordinator.

It is becoming more and more common to spend personal money on conference attendance.  In the past 10 years of fulltime student affairs positions, I have picked up a few tips for negating for professional development funds, specifically to be used on conference attendance.

  1.  Propose a yearlong professional development budget to your supervisor in the summer.  Spell out all projected costs, dates away from the office, etc.  Allow this to open the conversation for a plan for the year, early on.
  2. Submit educational sessions for all conferences you would like to attend.  This will be a selling point to your institution for being a university representative and an active attendee.
  3. If there is an association that you are committed to, by taking on a leadership position, not only does it give back to the association but also shows your institution that your conference attendance is more than a one time thing.
  4. Be flexible in negotiating for funding support.  Here are a few examples:
  • Split costs half and half.
  • Split other cost such as you will pay for the registration and food, while your institutions tacks care of travel and hotel costs.
  • If no funds are available, ensure time away from the office will not need to be taken as vacation time .

I’d love to hear other conferences to consider in Student Affairs this spring and early summer.  What helps you make a conference decision?  How have you successfully negotiated for institution support?

After considering and implementing a number of suggestions I have offered here, I have decided on attending both NASPA and ACPA.  Hope to see you there!  If you can’t attend, follow me at @josieahlquist as I’ll be tweeting out session content!

Choosing a Spring National Conference

Big Ideas from Two Awesome Conferences

by Valerie Heruska

October and November brought a ton of learning opportunities my way as far as integrating technology into my daily use, as well as learning about the future of Student Affairs. I attended two conferences: #NASPATech and NASPA Region 1, and gained a lot of take-aways, not only for my institution, but for my own personal knowledge.

At the end of October was #NASPATech. I learned so much about technology that will play a big role in student affairs, and had a really great time teaching others about Social Media. Now, I heard about the MOOCs revolution, but I never really fully understood what that meant for practitioners until I attended a session facilitated by NASPA President, Kevin Kruger ( @NASPAPres).

It was a great session, particularly because it was Kevin who asked the questions that made us all think about the role technology plays in student affairs. One of my favorite topics was on MOOCs: Massive Open Online Courses. I never really thought much about the role that MOOCs would possibly have on my role in residence life and that was because I didn’t think that MOOCs would have an effect on my role. But Kevin challenged us to think about what effect this would have on our positions. In residence life, I think that MOOCs would revisit the purpose of Living and Learning Communities. If (actually… when) MOOCs are prominent in higher education, I think the implication for students who live in our residence halls will significantly change. For sure I think we will have to change our programming styles. As far as how faculty play a purposeful role in a living and learning community, that will have to be examined and see if their role is necessary. Also, in thinking about our roles as practitioners, how would our roles change? I think we should start with understanding why we need to start figuring this out and then to also understand the needs of these students who are enrolled in MOOCs.

In November, I attended NASPA Region 1 (#NASPAMystic) and not only did I have the opportunity to present twice on social media and personal learning networks, I was also able to use social media (mainly Twitter) in a new way with vendors and corporate sponsors. At most conferences I’ve been to, the exhibit area doesn’t get as much love as it should get.

If you’re in charge of social media for your organization, engage conference attendees with social media. Be the connection between your attendees and the vendor. How? Well take a look at this example:

Have your social media people do something similar. After I spoke with Eric, I just tweeted out something about the product and used the conference hashtag, so that conference attendees would know where to find him. We didn’t have booth numbers, but I would also suggest to put that in a tweet. It’s a really easy way to draw more action to your exhibit hall and help make your vendors feel a little more loved.

I think my biggest take-away from October/November is the connection that I made with the many professionals IRL and F2F. There is something to be said about Twitter being the tool you use for the people with whom you would want to connect and Facebook being for the friends you already have. I was lucky enough to meet a lot of people and to teach and learn from one another. While using social media is great to connect with people, nothing beats meeting colleagues in real life.

Big Ideas from Two Awesome Conferences

Developing relationships online and offline at conferences.

by Jennifer Keegin

It’s conference season. Time to pull out a piece I wrote for my blog a while back , but I think should be something we all think about as we start meeting and greeting at various conferences over the next month or so.

Social interactions in real life with folks that you have come “to know” via Twitter chats or Facebook etc. can be many things in reality. They can be awkward, disappointing, and surprising. You might find out that someone you thought would be a great friend, if you were to hang out offline, turns out to be a pretentious jerk. You might find out that someone who you imagine would be supercilious* has two Strengths Quests themes similar to yours, is really down to earth and fun to be around. Some might make the bridge to “Facebook Friend Land” or some might just disappear from your feeds altogether.

*Notice me Using My Words.

I didn’t go into this with “You’ve Got Mail” on my mind. As I was looking for images to add to this post, I found this one though and thought – well yes – it’s this kind of concept. You can’t take your online relationships for granted.

Maintaining human connections face-to-face becomes a topic as we talk more and more about adding “tech” to our repertoire as Student Affairs professionals. You can have podcasts, but you’ll want to add guest speakers. You’ll have Twitter chats, but to make the conversations go deeper, you want to spend some time offline to keep it going. You may spend a lot of time and money marketing your office and getting students to visit your websites – but the ultimate goal should always be to bring those students into your office – to meet in real life and form a relationship based on mutual interest and trust formed OFFline.

Several folks will be presenting this season with people they had never met. I did that. I’ve actually done that twice. It’s strange when you feel like you know someone after spending so much time developing a session via Skype, chat, Twitter etc. to actually be in the same room with them and then suddenly realize, “We really haven’t ever met in real life.”

What this also brings to mind though is something that I’m always trying to drill into my Graduate Assistants as they go out into the world of professional conferences and professional relationships via Twitter etc. People are multi-faceted. (Says the person with Individualization as my #1 Strength.) For example, I know someone is who extremely witty and funny on Twitter, but have heard that in real life this person doesn’t seem to have much personality. Seems at odds with the awesome Tweets that I see.

People can be different at conferences. I know someone who is very comfortable with his sexuality and lives his life “out” in the open. However, the way that manifests itself is different when he is at a conference vs. when he’s at work. After witnessing him at a conference, a misguided grad student went back to his institution and told others in his cohort all about about how fun and entertaining my friend was. One of these grad students then came to apply for a job and mistakenly used that information assuming that my friend liked to talk about this aspect of his life at work. Wrong. People can be different…and it’s important to remember that.

The same is true online. People look different in real life. They use pictures that are old, that highlight their ‘good side’, they don’t show height, weight, personality, passions, sense of humor…come on folks. Nothing with this is different from online dating. You have to take things with a grain of salt and maintain that human connection – the personal one-on-one, face-to-face time with those that you chat with.

I’ll be the first person to want to start conversations online – use email instead of calling if it’s someone I’m not too familiar with. If a business doesn’t have a website I joke that they don’t exist. However, when you truly have a “meeting of the minds” with someone you’ve only known through a series of tweets online, in those moments when you’re sitting there talking with them in the hotel bar and realize that you don’t want the conversation to end…that’s it man. That’s the true bliss.

As Student Affairs professionals – I think you know what I’m talking about. The rare friendships and relationships we build with students and those days you know you’ve chosen the right profession. But there are professional relationships as well. Sure you follow people and have Facebook friends. But have you taken the time to have real conversations with these folks at conferences or some other outlet? I encourage you to do so. Take the time – don’t be shy!!! – and have those blissful moments when you’ve found a new friend in the profession.

Some where out there is a new mentor. Somewhere out there is a new person to listen to your work challenges. Somewhere out there is the person who will know you before you were XYZ. Someone out there who will support you no matter what. Someone who will challenge you to become involved. Someone who will take you seriously. Someone who will always invite you to go out with them when you don’t have a dinner date. Someone who is in the same position as you and understands what you’re going through. Someone who will always make you laugh when you need a pick me up. Someone you love to hang out with, but should never work with. Someone who may bug you to work for/with them and will make you feel valued. Get out there and meet them…and I mean OFFLINE.

This ended up being my love letter to a few fabulous folks (old & new friends). I can’t wait to meet so many more of you out there in the future!! I’ll be headed to ACUI on Sunday in Boston. Presenting a Pre-Conference session called “Technology 101”. It’ll be one big show and tell so I can’t wait!

Developing relationships online and offline at conferences.

Linkage Love: #NASPATech

by Stephanie Wintling

From Oct. 27-29, you may have noticed @JennaMagnuski‘s taken over by informative tweets on all happenings of the #NASPATech conference. The NASPA Technology conference in Newport, Rhode Island (town I lived in for a few years as a child) was an overdue conference to address the growing need for Student Affairs to make technology a priority in our practice. If you’re like me, you were not able to attend this conference but have appreciated the products produced by this wonderful gathering of the minds. Today’s Linkage Love will feature some blog posts and videos from the #NASPATech conference, so you can know a little bit of what it was like to be there and learn along side with our friends and colleagues in the field.

Let’s start with the video:

Here are two of our blog contributors Kristen Abell & Jennifer Keegan, alongside with Cindy Kane leading the Women Talk Tech Institute:

There was a lot of buzz created from the “Women Talk Tech” mini-institute, so we also thought we’d share some of the research cited there, as well as some additional information on women in technology that has been floating around the Internet since.

Finally, there have been a couple of recent blog posts reviewing #NASPAtech:

Linkage Love: #NASPATech