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Attend Higher Ed Summit! But don’t just take my word for it…

By December 18, 2014

By: Colleen Whelan, Director of Client Engagement, Campus Community Technologies at Yale University

HESummitI’ll admit, my opinion may not be unbiased when it comes to whether or not one should attend the 2015 Higher Ed Summit (more on that later). So, in this blog post, I’m also referencing some statements from thought leaders in film and literature to bolster the case.

“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” – Winnie the Pooh, Winnie-the-Pooh

There’s a great deal to be learned by reading articles, blogs, and attending webinars – and they don’t put a measurable dent in one’s budget. That being said, I have found each of Higher Ed Summits well worth the expenditure. Attendance has grown to over 650 in the last couple of years and that means there will be an abundance of untapped new colleagues, information, and inspiration for those who make the trip.

At each of the previous Higher Ed Summit events, I’ve met colleagues from other schools that are implementing innovative solutions for different campus constituencies and have benefitted from new ideas as well as new and helpful contacts.

Given that there are professionals from a wide variety of disciplines (e.g., admissions, student services, advancement and alumni relations, IT, student success/retention, professional schools, etc.), there is a wealth of collective knowledge and experience to tap. At the Higher Ed Summit last June, in addition to learning more about how others are using the Salesforce1 Platform, one of my goals was to collect some information and references about another suite of technology and related vendors. I was able to gather some great feedback from five different schools – and that was just over lunch!

“To Infinity…and beyond!” – Buzz Lightyear, Toy Story

Are you ready to expand your horizons? At the Higher Ed Summit, you’ll also find professional development opportunities and information. The keynote speakers selected are always thought leaders in higher ed (this year is no exception – Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed is one of the keynotes) and you may glean helpful advice and strategic guidance from their remarks or by asking them questions either during Q&A or after their sessions. There are also ample opportunities to present one of your case studies or participate in a panel. I can honestly say that had I not participated in a panel session during the 2013 Summit, I would not be active on Twitter today.

“I’ll put it simple: if you’re going hard enough left, you’ll find yourself turning right.” – Doc Hudson, Cars

If we’re being candid, many of us will allow for the fact that we’ve encountered one or two perplexing situations or outcomes in the course of our work at colleges and universities.

Hard-won experience and advice is yours for the taking as part of the breakout sessions and panels featuring peers from other higher ed institutions, at the “Genius Bar” that provides one-on-one advice, or in conversations over a meal or beverage. Plus, you may have just the piece of wisdom that will make a huge difference to one of the other attendees.

“You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” – Christopher Robin, Winnie-the-Pooh

I’ve been working at a higher education institution for more than half of my professional career now and I continue to be impressed and humbled by as well as grateful for the spirit of collaboration and collegiality among peers at Yale and at other colleges and universities.

Most of the attendees at the Higher Ed Summit are striving towards similar goals and results and encountering familiar struggles. As a result, you should leave the Higher Ed Summit with a renewed spirit of collaboration and encouragement as you head back to your corner of academia.

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” – The White Queen, Alice – Through the Looking-Glass

Many of the problems we are trying to solve at our institutions are very complex. The breakout sessions will be filled with presentations that may just make you a believer too!

Now, the backstory…

My opinion may be biased because in 2012, after attending Dreamforce, I returned to campus truly inspired by presentations and case studies from higher ed as well as other sectors (e.g., government, commercial, non-profit). I pitched an idea to several of leaders to host a “mini-Dreamforce focused on higher ed” at Yale in order to help colleagues at Yale and from campuses from between NYC and New Hampshire make connections and share ideas about our challenges and experiments to date.

At the reception that evening, one of the presenters from Wayne State University (@klueckeman) approached me and remarked, “I want one of these! How do I get one?” The next year, the inaugural Higher Ed Summit was held at Wayne State. That event was so successful, that at the end of it, Arizona State University raised their hand to co-host the following year and the event more than doubled in size one year later. I am looking forward to this year’s iteration of an idea to build and share within the higher ed community and to discovering how the event will evolve compliments of this year’s co-hosts, University of Miami and And achieving all that under a palm tree with a warm Miami breeze, sounds pretty good to me right about now…

This year’s Higher Ed Summit theme is Community Re-Imagined. Register today and be one of the re-“imagineers.”

Register for the HE Summit

About the Author

Colleen Whelan

Colleen Whelan (@ColleenAWhelan) is Director of Client Engagement, Campus Community Technologies at Yale University. Colleen collaborates with colleagues in central IT and throughout Yale to achieve institutional goals related to community, outreach, and administration through the use of technology. Prior to working in academia, she worked at an interactive services firm and the Federal Reserve.