Two days packed with education and virtual networking await you during ACUI's 2020 Virtual Conference!

Gotham Artists
Workshop Architects
WTW Architects

Thank you for attending ACUI’s 2020 Virtual Conference! Your dedication and continued support of the Association, as well as your own and your team’s professional development, is inspiring during these difficult and changing times.

Registrants will be emailed when session recordings are available in mid-June. If you did not attend and are interested in purchasing access to the educational content, please email Session descriptions are below for your reference.


The schedule outline for ACUI's Virtual Conference may be found below. Details will be added as sessions are finalized. All times are Eastern.

Day One: May 20

11 a.m.–12:15 p.m. – All-Conference Session: Opening Remarks and Keynote by Laila Ireland

2020 Conference Program Team Chair Geoff Combs will welcome you to ACUI's virtual conference experience and provide an overview of the transformed schedule.

Following, Laila Ireland will make a powerful case for equality and transgender rights and will offer insight on how we can better support transgender students. About 1% of college students are transgender, yet they experience discrimination and harassment at much higher rates than most students. Trans students share the same hopes and dreams as their peers, yet access to basic services, safe spaces, and typical college experiences lag far behind other student populations.

Ireland is a veteran and retired healthcare management administration specialist and served for 12 years in the United States Army. Her final duty station was at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii, where she was honorably discharged and medically retired in November 2015. On June 4, 2015, Ireland and her then fiance Staff Sergeant Logan Ireland came out as transgender service members by sharing their story in the Emmy-nominated New York Times short film "Transgender, at War, and in Love." The feature documentary, "TransMilitary," which shares more of her story and work to end the ban on transgender service members, premiered at South by Southwest in 2018 and won Best Feature Documentary Audience Award.

12:30–1:15 p.m. – Educational Session Block 1
Diversity Isn't Enough: How to Create an Equitable Environment Within Your College Union

Jennifer Valdez, The Ohio State University
Hire more people of color is not the solution. More diverse programs is no longer enough. We tried our best is not an excuse. Diversity is bringing people to the door, but equity is ensuring they are comfortable and wanted. This session will focus on equity and what you can do to best support people with marginalized identities by creating environments where they are heard and considered. We will focus on external and internal efforts to create equitable and inclusive environments that not only welcome diversity but also create the space for people with marginalized identities to feel a sense of belonging whether they are walking through the union, attending a meeting, or are a part of your staff in your department.

Fabulous Flops: Bouncing Back When Things Don’t Go As Planned

Erin Dewese, University of Colorado–Boulder
Kristen Rollins, University of Colorado–Boulder

Neil Gaiman said, "Make new mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before." The trick to making mistakes is not to hide them, especially not from yourself; yet most of us go to great lengths to avoid making mistakes, and then once we inevitably do, we go to even greater lengths to hide them from ourselves and the world. The most important part of a flop, whether it be a program that didn’t go as planned or an event setup that could have been better, is learning from it to make it fabulous the next time. We are currently living through unprecedented times in higher education where we are being asked to try new things and engage students virtually. And many of us are doing things we've never done before. This session will provide an opportunity for participants to learn how one campus encourages and supports innovation and creativity, while working through the fabulous flops that may occur when trying something new.

Strategic Management: Planning, Resources, and Assessment

Justin Camputaro University of Washington
Meet me at the planning table! Strategic planning is a necessary management practice for all organizations. It is a smart business tactic to define your group's direction and to make the best decisions when allocating resources, engaging in staff performance planning, and program assessment. You must be equipped with the knowledge and tools to coordinate and implement a strategic planning process; and the good news: this is not difficult.

Student Employment Panel

Taylor Church, Appalachian State University
Andrea Giachino, Temple University
David Lemon, University of St. Thomas
Kiefer Timmann, Temple University
The current break from regular routine, provides a great opportunity to revise and refresh how you hire, train, and evaluate student employees. With the role student employees play in our operation being uncertain for the near future, taking time to develop employees is becoming increasingly important as we continue to serve students. This session will provide a variety of ideas to consider as you approach student employment programs and student development on your campus. With the use of NACE competencies, you will gain insight on various ways to develop student employees and better prepare them for post-graduation.

1:15–1:45 p.m. – Networking Break

During this block of time, you can choose your own adventure!

  • Head to the Networking area within the platform to make new connections.
  • Visit the Help Desk in the Sessions area to trouble shoot any technology issues or ask questions.
  • Take a quick break to reset for what is ahead.
1:45–2:30 p.m. – Educational Session Block 2
Bandwidth Recovery: Critical Conversations in Retention and Persistence

Allison Doerhing, University of Akron
Amy Liss, University of Massachusetts–Lowell
The ability to succeed in and out of the classroom can quickly be diminished by negative effects of economic insecurity, discrimination, and hostility against non-majority groups based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity, and other aspects of difference. In addition, research shows the role negative effects (such as discrimination, economic insecurity, marginalization) have on one's ability to learn, listen, and persist. As professionals, our role is to educate ourselves to understand the effects of these obstacles, to empower students, and to promote healthy relationships and learning opportunities. In order to best serve our campuses, we must also consider our own personal bandwidth, our capacity to mentally be connected and engaged in our work and interactions. This presentation will provide an overview of the text Bandwidth Recovery by Cia Verschelden and will offer practical takeaways about promoting a growth mind-set and self-efficacy on your campus.

Departmental Leadership and The Role in Retaining and Growing New Student Union and Campus Activities Professionals

Jeremy Schenk, Northwestern University
Twenty percent of all student affairs professionals are new professionals with five or less years of experience, and research has consistently shown that 60% of these professionals will leave the field within six years. The cost in efficiency, consistency, and organizational health is detrimental to the student experience. This session will explore Dr. Schenk's research on (1) the professional needs of entry-level professionals; (2) the relationships between the leadership practices of student union and campus activities directors and the professional outcomes of entry-level professionals related to job satisfaction, professional competency development, intention to leave the field, and engagement in student affairs professional associations; and (3) the importance of self-driven development and career mapping for entry-level professionals.

Phased Facility Opening Plan Following COVID-19 Closures

Kyle Burke, Northeast Illinois University
Deb Mott, Oregon State University
Jeff Pelletier, The Ohio State University
What does opening a facility during a pandemic entail? How do we plan for social distancing, provide services, and start hosting events again? Are we going to just open back up the way we did prior to COVID-19? Join a panel of student union facility and operations colleagues to discuss how they are preparing for a phased opening.

Program and Student Organization Planning After COVID-19

Chelsea Harris, Purdue University
Carey Mays, St. Edwards University
Phillip Smith, Temple University
As universities start planning for the upcoming academic year, what do programming boards and student organizations look like? What are the challenges programs and activities professionals face during budget cuts? Are our students ready to come back to campus and take part in traditional programs? Can we continue to host large-scale programs, or do we have to rethink our work for now? Join a panel of student activities professionals to discuss how they are planning programs, discussing advising structures, and supporting student leaders during this time.

2:30–2:45 p.m. – Networking Break

During this block of time, you can choose your own adventure!

  • Head to the Networking area within the platform to make new connections.
  • Visit the Help Desk in the Sessions area to trouble shoot any technology issues or ask questions.
  • Take a quick break to reset for what is ahead.
2:45–3:45 p.m. – Virtual Expo
Connect with exhibitors virtually! You will be able to visit desired booths to learn more about products and services. You can either chat with the representatives live or request to connect later.
3:45–4:30 p.m. – Educational Session Block 3
Confluences of Student Leadership and White Privilege

Jeremy Davis, University of Wyoming
College students will likely need skills beyond those found in an academic program for future careers; specifically, employers are seeking leadership and cultural proficiency. Programs within student unions may offer unique opportunities to develop these skills through a confluence of leadership development and white privilege education. This session will explore an on-going research project designed to explore how white student leaders make meaning of their racial and leadership identities.

Emergency Management: A Program From the Ground Up

Jody Cochran, University of Arkansas
Catie Howell, University of Arkansas
The student union of today faces many needs and challenges, in which resources are often limited or stretched thin. In this modern era of uncertainty, it is crucial that we look for ways to improve our security and responses to emergencies. Severe weather, mass casualty events, seizures, and heart attacks are a large representation of scenarios we all might face or touch upon. Over the past three years, the Arkansas Union has made great and thoughtful strides in improving our emergency management and cooperation with other University of Arkansas entities. In so doing, we have built a comprehensive program, almost from scratch, that has prepared our staff for a great number of possibilities. This presentation will cover not only our program that we created, but also a lot of the research and metrics we used in the process. It is our intent to make this educational session informative, thought provoking, and engaging.

Shared Services in Student Affairs

Holly Durham, North Carolina State University
Universities are continually faced with how to manage administrative costs in an effective and cost-efficient way. In this session, we will explore a case study for implementing a shared-services model in student affairs at a large, public university. We will examine the history, implementation, successes, and challenges in developing this shared-services model. For this case study, shared services include budget and finance, human resources and payroll, information technology, marketing and communications, and development.

Show Me the Money: Negotiating Entertainment Contracts for Campus Activities

Victoria Rice, Missouri State University
Erin Morrell, Albertus Magnus College
This session will focus on the ins and outs of negotiating contracts with agencies, performers, and artists. Whether you are new to contracting or just need a refresher, this session will cover all of the the basics of working with agency-developed contracts and creating in-house contracts to use with performers. Participants will learn about the risks associated with entertainment contracts and how to mitigate those risks as well as techniques for negotiating with agencies and performers.

4:30–5:30 p.m. – Social Activity

During this time, you will have the opportunity to engage in various activities, including:

  • Attendee-created roundtable discussions
  • Trivia
  • Zumba (to support the Financial Assistance Fund; open to non-registered participants as well)
7:30–9 p.m. – Drag Queen Bingo

Join ACUI for a fun evening of Drag Queen Bingo, featuring Alexis Bevels and Dixie Lynn cartwright! Your $20 contribution can benefit PALS Atlanta (the nonprofit that Drag Queen Bingo was originally going to support at the Annual Conference) or the ACUI Financial Assistance Fund. The event includes seven games of bingo and drag performances.

Registration for this event is now closed.

Day Two: May 21

11 a.m.–Noon – All-Conference Session: Radha Agrawal

ACUI is the professional home to thousands of campus community builders around the world. We continuously strive to create an inclusive, welcoming communities. Our work is closely aligned with that of Radha Agrawal. She is a DJ, author, social entrepreneur, and speaker. Co-founder of Daybreaker and LiveItUp, in March of 2019, she was selected by MTV as one of eight women who will change the world. The internet connects us to a world of people, yet so many of us feel more isolated than ever. Connectedness, as more and more studies show, is our key to happiness, fulfillment, and success.

Agrawal's book, "Belong: Find Your People, Create Community: Live a More Connected Life," answers these questions: How the heck do I find my people? How do I create large and meaningful communities in the real world?

She spent 18 months synthesizing her key methods for community building, peeling back the curtain on exactly what she and her team did (and continue to do) at Daybreaker so that anyone interested in creating their own community could have a blueprint for how to do it.

12:15–1 p.m. – Educational Session Block 4
Experiences of Highly Involved Students in Extracurricular Activities

Wendy Denman, University of North Texas
Researcher will share results from mixed-methods dissertation on the experiences of highly involved students in extracurricular activities. Tremendous benefits have been associated with student involvement in college, but a lack of empirical research exists investigating the potential upper limits of student involvement, meaning at what level involvement may become excessive and have negative consequences. This study examined the experiences of highly involved students, engaging in student organizations and work, and the impact on the students' academics, social interactions, and wellness.

Financial Impact from COVID-19

Ann Comerford, University of Illinois–Springfield
Patrick Connelly, Marlboro College
Molly Ward, Weber State University

COVID-19 has created a variety of financial impacts on higher education and student affairs.Divisions across the world face financial impacts, budget crisis, potential furloughs and layoffs, and program and service reductions. Join a panel of senior-level professionals to discuss challenges divisions and departments are facing during these unprecedented times.

Positive Psychology and Staff Accountability: Supervising Student Staff with a Strengths-Based Approach to Accountability

Sara Cope, Vanderbilt University
Nadine De La Rosa
, Vanderbilt University
No matter the size or structure of your student staff, there is one thing we all struggle with from time to time—accountability. Many already have a discipline process, but what if we’re missing an opportunity to make a more meaningful impact on our students in these critical times of growth? The father of strengths-based psychology, Donald Clifton, famously said, “What will happen when we think about what is right with people rather than fixating on what is wrong with them?” In this session, we will take that quote and apply it to potential uses for student accountability. We will offer tools grounded in CliftonStrengths; however, the content can also be applied on teams where CliftonStrengths are not widely known. All are welcome.

Supporting Minoritized Students During COVID-19
Mike Coleman, Wake Technical Community College
Keith Kowalka, University of Houston
Amy Liss, University of Massachusetts–Lowell
COVID-19 has had a tremendous impact on higher education. Although students are resilient, some students struggle to adjust to the current normal of online education, social distancing and utilizing campus programs, services and resources. This struggle is also having a disproportionate impact in students from minoritized populations. This session will explore ways to support students from minoritized communities—from the macro-level of an institution to the micro-level of department programs and support services.
1–1:30 p.m. – Networking Break

During this block of time, you can choose your own adventure!

  • Head to the Networking area within the platform to make new connections.
  • Visit the Help Desk in the Sessions area to trouble shoot any technology issues or ask questions.
  • Take a quick break to reset for what is ahead.
1–1:30 p.m. – Architecture & Design Showcase
Hear quick presentations from from multiple architecture firms on the successes and lessons learned from recently completed projects. WTW, Duda Paine, MHTN, Hanbury, Workshop, and Perkins & Will will present.
1:30–2:15 p.m. – Educational Session Block 5
A Light in the Dark: An Insight into Successful Social Change through Late-Night Programming

Nicholas Christy, Lehigh University
Carol Hill, Lehigh University
The goal of this presentation is to provide evidence that late-night programming can impact college student drinking behaviors and reduce alcohol use and have a positive impact on the college experience, contributing to their sense of community. We believe our data-driven approach can be replicated and would like to share our process with event planners on other campuses, particularly those struggling to secure resources from campus leaders for such programming or those who would simply like to know how to collect and analyze data in a more efficient and useful manner.

Fighting Food Insecurity in Higher Education

Neysha Aguilar, University of Arizona
Bridgette Nobbe, University of Arizona
Higher education strives to educate young adults by providing an environment that boosts both academic and moral development. However, as institutions have been limited in growth, many have switched toward a landscape of revenue growth, which has impacted students’ lives, particularly around obtaining necessities such as food, housing, or hygiene products. It is currently predicted that approximately 50% of community college students and 30% of students at four-year institutions are food insecure. The Arizona Student Unions and Campus Pantry see these changes first hand and have worked exhaustively to put a stop to these concerns by implementing five unique programs providing students with meals, groceries, fresh produce, education, and life skills training. Evidence suggests that students who are experiencing food insecurity and a general lack of basic needs are more likely to have a lower academic GPA and are less likely to graduate with the degree they sought to achieve. Providing students with these collaborative programs will support students as they persist until graduation. This session will highlight these growing concerns while providing step-by-step instructions for how other institutions can create similar programs.

Student Activism Panel

Keya Allen, California State University–Fullerton
Amelia Brock, University of Alabama
Dave Edwards, California State University–Fullerton
Erin Dewese, University of Colorado–Boulder
Rosalind Moore-Miller, University of Alabama
Kristen Rollins, University of Colorado–Boulder
Student activism is alive and well on our university campuses, which means you can find events people are excited about and events people do not want to see come to campus at any given time of the year. While the growth of student activism is one of the most pressing current issues for higher education, many campuses are finding that establishing personal connections and creating policies and procedures that allow for open communication is what can set a university apart when handling large-scale and potentially controversial events. This session will provide attendees the opportunity to hear from three different campuses on how they work with student leaders, student organizations, campus partners, and external constituents to provide ongoing communication through the event planning processes, to create campus buy-in when student-centered practices are being established, and to support the right for free speech.

Surfing in a Hurricane: The Role of the Union and Student Affairs in College Closings and Mergers

Patrick Connelly, Marlboro College
Higher education is facing an existential crisis. Experts predict that as many as 50 percent of the colleges in the United States will close or merge within the next 10 years. The COVID-19 pandemic may have accelerated the pace of college closures. Changes in demographics, increased competition for students, rising costs, declining enrollments, and changes in the perceived value and purpose of a college degree are all drivers of this crisis. Learn how the union and student affairs staff at two colleges supported faculty, staff, and students during the closure of one institution and the merger process of another and what they learned being at the center of the storm.

2:15–2:30 p.m. – Networking Break

During this block of time, you can choose your own adventure!

  • Head to the Networking area within the platform to make new connections.
  • Visit the Help Desk in the Sessions area to trouble shoot any technology issues or ask questions.
  • Take a quick break to reset for what is ahead.
2:30–3:15 p.m. – Educational Session Block 6
Data Needed Now

Joe Hayes, IUPUI
Nicholas Rau, University of Miami
Kelly Schaefer, Northwestern University
Amid the high-level conversations occurring now about the pandemic’s implications for higher education, often the student voice is lost and equity gaps widened. Further, everyone is needing to justify their functional areas and stress is rampant. Assessment and research can play a role in helping to achieve data-influenced decisions with people-centered actions. This panel will share some of the questions they and their colleagues are asking currently, how they are using data, implications of assessments conducted pre-COVID versus now, and how an analytical mindset need not equate to a lack of compassion.

No Longer in Your Parent's Basement: Esports and Gaming as a Model for Community Development, Career Opportunities, and Competitive Teams

Justin Camputaro, University of Washington
Trevor Whiton, University of Washington
Global esports revenues are $1.1 billion with an audience of 453.8 million people, and data indicates more than 70% of college students are gamers. This does not mean having an esports program at your institution will make you a million dollars. Esports is here to stay, and what it can do is directly align with your mission of student education and success. When we opened in April 2019, the University of Washington was the largest university in the United States with an Esports Arena and Gaming Lounge. Learn insights about the esports and the gaming industry, developing an inclusive and educational program connected to academics and industry professionals, and building a physical gaming center.

Resilient Unions: Lessons from Michigan and Georgia Tech

Lindsay Bryant, Georgia Tech
Susan Pile University of Michigan–Ann Arbor
Brian Schermer, Workshop Architects
Peter vanden Kieboom, Workshop Architects

Unions are resilient. Wars, pandemics, political strife, and economic hardships have tested the mettle of student life professionals throughout the history of the movement. While the current pandemic presents difficult challenges, it is important to remember that our civilization, our cities, our universities, and yes, our unions, are fundamentally able to overcome them. The same is true of union buildings, especially if they are designed to anticipate future shocks and stressors. This session presents what Workshop Architects and its partner-clients, based on recent projects, have learned about creating resilient union buildings at the University of Michigan and Georgia Tech.

We're Here, Too: How Student Leaders of Color Found Belonging

Katie Beaulieu, Wayne State University
Finding a sense of belonging can be more challenging for students of color compared to their white peers, especially at predominantly white institutions. This session will share the findings from a qualitative dissertation study interviewing student leaders of color. Their lived experiences reflected the marginalization and assimilation pressure they experience daily, in addition to the intense weight they feel to act as a role model for other students of color. From their stories, we can learn how to better support all students of color, particularly those who choose to serve as leaders on our campuses.

3:15–3:45 p.m. – Virtual Expo
Connect with exhibitors virtually! You will be able to visit desired booths to learn more about products and services. You can either chat with the representatives live or request to connect later.
4–5:30 p.m. – All-Conference Session: Voices of ACUI Panel and Closing Remarks

You will hear from a panel of student union and student life professionals, including ACUI leaders and award winners. Panelists will discuss the past, present and future of our work, while highlighting the changes they have witnessed during their career, how they have navigated change, and lessons learned.

After the panel, stay to hear from ACUI President Brenda Evans and find out who will be honored with the 2020 Butts-Whiting Award.

  • Mark Guthier, University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Debra Hammond, California State University–Northridge
  • Whit Hollis, University of Utah
  • Jason Howell, Albertus Magnus College (moderator)

Thank You to the Exhibitors Supporting ACUI as Virtual Conference Vendors

7 Point Solutions

Borgo Contract Seating

BSA LifeStructures

Compass Group/Chartwells

DIRTT Environmental Solutions

Duda|Paine Architects

EMS, an Accruent Company

Eustis Chair

Event Guru Software

Gotham Artists






Panda Restaurant Group

Perkins & Will



StageRight Corporation


Traf-Sys Walker Wireless

Ungerboeck Software International

Unique Venues

VMDO Architects

Workshop Architects

WTW Architects