2020 Counselor to Higher Education Summit Program

Additional program details will be announced soon. The 2020 Summit will include case studies, boot camps and keynote speakers centered around two key themes: Strategic Communications and Marketing and Crisis Communications and Issues Management.

Topics will include:

  • Developing effective internal communications
  • Positioning your institution for success internationally
  • Setting up marcomm teams for success
  • Using immersive stories to support institutional objectives
  • Best practices for presidential communications
  • Preparing for natural disasters
  • …and many more!

The Summit also includes two formal networking opportunities. On Monday, enjoy a reception in the Royal Sonesta’s garden courtyard before the Pat Jackson Dinner. On Tuesday, venture up into one of the hotel’s signature “Bourbon Balcony” suites to enjoy libations against a backdrop of the always vibrant French Quarter and Bourbon Street below.

If you are interested in presenting, please contact conference chairs Renea Morris or Russell Yost.


Since the 2020 Program is currently being finalized, the 2019 lineup is included below so you can see the kinds of on-target sessions that this Summit regularly features. 


2019 Program Lineup

Since the 2020 Program is currently being finalized, the 2019 lineup is included below so you can see the kinds of on-target sessions that this Summit regularly features. 

Wednesday, April 10

11 a.m. 7:30 p.m. Registration
12:30 p.m.

General Session I: “Protecting the Right of Students and Faculty to Speak”
Presenter: Joseph I. Castro, Ph.D., president, California State University, Fresno, Calif.

Sponsored by RW Jones Agency

2:453:45 p.m.

General Session II: “Communicating Meaningfully on Issues of Diversity in an Age of Hate Speech”

Dr. Sharon Fries-Britt,
professor of higher education, Department of Counseling, Higher Education and Special Education, University of Maryland College Park
Dr. Fanta Aw, vice president for campus life and inclusive excellence, American University
Dr. Teresa Flannery,
vice president for communications, university communications and marketing, American University

Facilitator: Dr. Lorelle Espinosa,
vice president for research, American Council on Education

44:45 p.m.

Concurrent Breakout  Sessions

Breakout I: The Scandal Test: What Grade Will Your President Earn?”
Mark R. Weaver, founder and president, Communications Counsel
Christopher Davey, associate vice president, university vommunications, Ohio State University

Breakout II: Show Me the ‘Value’ — Informing Outcomes With Output”
Presenter: Jeanette De Diemar, Ph.D., vice president for university advancement, Texas A&M University-San Antonio

56:30 p.m.

Welcome Reception
Join newcomers, the Counselors to Higher Education Executive Committee and other conference attendees for networking over cocktails and appetizers as we kick off this year’s Senior Summit.

6:30 8:30 p.m. Patrick Jackson Dinner, Award and Conversation
“Proving the Value of Public Relations”

Speaker: Ángel Cabrera, president, George Mason University

Sponsored by

Thursday, April 11

7:30 a.m. 5 p.m. Registration
8–8:30 a.m. 


8:45–10 a.m.

General Session III: “Mr. Rogers, Looks Like You Just Earned the $20 Million”

Jo Marie Hebeler, communications manager, Rollins College
Lauren Bradley, senior director, strategic communications, Rollins College

10:15 –11 a.m.

Concurrent Breakout Sessions

Breakout III: “Lightning Round — Ideas to Share”
Session Host: Sheena McFarland, director, marketing+communications, The University of Utah, David Eccles School of Business

Breakout IV: “The Changing Role of the Chief Communications/Marketing Officer”
Renell Wynn, Counselors to Higher Education Executive Committee Member
Julie Ried, vice president, Ward Group

11:15 a.m. –Noon

Concurrent Breakout Sessions

Breakout V: “Speechwriting on a Mission. Leverage the Executive Voice to Shape Outcomes”
Erik Fallis, APR, associate vice president, RW Jones Agency
John Kepley, director of executive communications, University of Michigan

Breakout VI: “Reputation Isn’t Everything”
Nathan Thornton, executive creative director, Ologie
Kathryn Bezella, vice dean and director of marketing communications, undergraduate sdmissions, University of Pennsylvania

12:15–1:45 p.m.

General Session IV: Keynote Luncheon: 

“Are You Prepared for an Undesirable Event, i.e., Active Shooter or Threat?”
Presenter: Anthony M. Levey, regional director (retired), U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Protective Service

2–2:45 p.m.

Concurrent Breakout Sessions

Breakout Session VII: “Employee Engagement Onboarding and Culture: Not Just Human Resources’ Business”
Dr. Amanda Holdsworth, APR
, founder/assistant professor, CommunicatED/Cleary University,
Angela Wegrecki, communications manager, University of Michigan

Breakout Session VIII: “MarTech”
Lea Cadieux
, interim vice chancellor of communications and marketing, University of Denver
Andrew Swenson, director of enrollment marketing, University of Nebraska

3–4:30 p.m.

General Session V: The Next Generation of Messaging Around Sexual Assault

Rose Pascarell
, vice president, student affairs, George Mason University

Dr. Kevin Swartout
, associate professor of psychology & public health, director of graduate studies in psychology
Georgia State University
Amy Athey McDonald, associate vice president for communication and strategy, University of Rochester
Mark Owczarski, assistant vice president for university relations, Virginia Tech
Meredith Smith, assistant provost for Title IX and Clery Compliance, Tulane University

5–6:30 p.m.

Networking/Sponsor Reception
Join us for hosted drinks and colleague networking before you head off to a dine-around or out to an evening free in Washington, D.C.

Sponsored by

6:30 p.m.

Dinner Out*
Join a group of colleagues at one of the many terrific Washington, D.C. restaurants* or enjoy a free evening on your own. Sign up at the registration desk.

*Attendees are responsible for the cost of their own dinner.

Friday, April 12

7:30 a.m.–1 p.m. Registration
8–8:30 a.m.

Breakfast and Networking
Participate in small group discussions with Summit attendees and discuss the most pressing issues facing your work in higher education communications.

8:30–10 a.m.

General Session VI: Don’t Be a Bystander>

Megan J. Scott, associate vice president of Communication, Lawrence University
Richard Hesel, principal, Art & Science Group
Julie Peterson, partner and co-founder, Peterson Rudgers Group LLC

10:15–11:15 a.m. 

General Session VII: “Onward and Upward: Strategic Planning Exercise for Counselor of Higher Education”

Michael Hemmesch,
chair, Executive Committee, CHE
Jeanette DeDiemar,
chair-elect, Executive Committee, CHE

11:30 a.m.–1 p.m.

General Session VIII: Keynote Luncheon:“The View From the Media”
There is no shortage of issues circling higher education. For communicators, it’s often easy to get lost in the weeds and buy a company line that might not be quite right. So, where are we failing to be effective in telling our institutional stories and responding to issues in academe? This discussion will focus on these questions and more from the perspective of members of the national media. Moderated by Sean Rossall, CEO of RW Jones Agency, the panel will explore how we can do our jobs better and help our institutions in the process.

Panelists include:
Scott Jaschik, editor, Inside Higher Ed 
Jon Marcus, higher education editor, The Hechinger Report 
Jamal Watson, executive editor, Diverse Issues in Higher Education
Alia Wong, education staff writer, The Atlantic

Moderator: Sean Rossall, chief executive officer, RW Jones Agency

1 p.m. Summit Concludes



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