A Virtual Networking Celebration: ACUI’s 2021 Annual Conference

In a little more than a month, ACUI’s 2021 Annual Conference will get underway. The engaging event, set for March 3–5, will provide scores of educational sessions, creative networking opportunities, innovative ideas and business solutions, and fresh perspectives on everything from coping strategies to virtual learning environments. Registration is still open, and The Bulletin is happy to share a sneak preview of the conference’s keynote and educational sessions.

Mikki KendallOn Wednesday, the conference opens with keynote speaker Mikki Kendall, who will also host a discussion immediately afterward. Kendall is a celebrated writer and diversity consultant and has written two books: Hood Feminism, which analyzes modern feminism and makes the case for modern black feminism, and Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists, a graphic novel charting the history of women’s rights. 

Kendall has also contributed to publications such as The New York Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post, and more. Recently, she wrote about the Capitol riots for Maire Claire, reflecting on how white supremacy reached a boiling point on the now-infamous day. With experience in commenting on current events, writing about the politics of food, and contextualizing the history of the feminist movement, Kendall will offer forever-timely insight for her keynote.

This year’s educational sessions span topics such as student learning, social justice, human resources, marketing, fiscal management, planning, and more. During the session “Today’s New Union Professionals: What are We Missing?” Tara Benson and Victoria Rice of Missouri State University will review data from a survey of new union professionals and information about the newest generation entering the workforce.

“As mid- and upper-level professionals, we don’t always know the best way to support new union professionals,” said Benson and Rice in describing the session. “As they work way too many hours and sometimes have too few connections outside of work, many new professionals face early burnout and job dissatisfaction which can contribute to high turnover rates.”

Additionally, the “Women in Leadership Panel: Insight from Directors” session will feature current and incoming ACUI Board of Trustees members Ann Comerford (University of Illinois Springfield), Eve Esch (University of Houston), Tari Hunter (California State Polytechnic University-Pomona), and Neela Patel (Rutgers University). Moderated by Krista Harrell of the University of South Alabama, the panel will highlight the panelists’ practical knowledge and insights from their experiences on navigating the field in relation to gender equity, shaping the next generation of leaders, mentorship, eliminating barriers for underrepresented groups, and other takeaways.

Following up on the ACUI Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Series program February 8, Tonee Sherrill, executive director of the Associated Students at San Francisco State University, will present “Black Lives Matter: Dispelling Myths & the Role of the Student Union.” This session will offer a discussion dispelling myths regarding the Black Lives Matter movement and its national effect on race relations in the United States. 

The “A Mindful Approach to Community Building” session on Friday will explore how meditation, mindfulness, and secular Buddhist philosophy can be employed in the contemporary college union. Ian Crone, director at the University of Tennessee, will help provide an introduction to the foundation of meditation, mindfulness, and secular Buddhist philosophy and provide concrete examples of how these tools can be employed by staff in unions.

Finally, the “All-Conference Session: Presidential Perspective Panel & Closing” brings three university leaders together for a look back and view forward on higher education. Leah Barrett, president at Northeast Community College, Ángel Cabrera, president at Georgia Tech, and J. Rex Tolliver, vice chancellor at the University of Illinois–Chicago, will discuss how they navigated the past year and how we can be prepared for the future of higher education. Incoming ACUI President Jeremy Schenk will also present a speech, and the Butts-Whiting Award will be presented.

For more information, head to the ACUI website to register, preview all the educational sessions, and get excited about this year’s conference.

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