2020 Counselors to Higher Education Summit Program

Summit Schedule

Monday, April 6


9:30 a.m.–Noon

Pre-Conference Event: Tour of Loyola University New Orleans and Tulane University

Join fellow attendees for a special tour of two of New Orleans’ local universities, transportation included. This tour requires a separate registration and is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Note: due to New Orleans city restrictions, the bus will depart a few blocks from the hotel, outside the French Quarter. For special accommodations, please contact Amy Moore at



1 p.m.

CHE Summit Welcome



Jeanette DiDiemar, chair, Counselors to Higher Education; vice president for university advancement and external relations, Texas A&M University San Antonio


1:30-2:30 p.m.

General Session 1 – Opening Keynote: Higher Education in 2020: Issues and Opportunities

American higher education will continue to face challenges on a host of public policy and practice fronts during 2020. The U.S. Supreme Court soon will rule on the legality of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), with the future of Dreamers, many of whom are our students, hanging in the balance. There are troubling signs of a decline in the number of international students coming to the United States. New federal regulations on Title IX campus sexual assault are expected to be released early in the year. Colleges and universities are being asked to do more to guard against the risks of malign foreign influence and theft of intellectual property, especially regarding China. And institutions public and private are trying to hold down tuition and increase graduation rates. Underlying all of this is the question of whether more Americans see less value in gaining a higher education and what institutions—and campus communicators—can do to demonstrate why getting a college degree remains the best path to economic mobility and civic engagement. ACE President Ted Mitchell, a former college president and top federal policymaker, will discuss these issues and take your questions during the Summit’s opening session.

Ted Mitchell, president, American Council on Education (ACE)

Interviewer: Sean Rossall, chief executive officer and managing partner, RW Jones Agency


2:45–3:45 p.m.

General Session 2 – Panel: Pitching and Celebrating Superstar Faculty

As communicators in higher education, we understand the media’s interest in building their roster of “experts.” While there’s no silver bullet to guarantee your faculty will become recognized media experts, there are some key steps you can take to position your faculty to become a sought-after media resource. How do you make your faculty more “discoverable?” How do you encourage superstar faculty to work with you to embrace the media? How you do pitch them successfully and then celebrate the results? Join this panel to discuss such questions and hear how expert faculty and communications team members worked together to realize successes in increased awareness, brand, and reputation.


4–4:45 p.m.

Breakout Sessions:


Taking Pride in Our Story: Building Brand Engagement through Content Strategy

Strategic Communications and Marketing Track

Before the Widener University website redesign, the content experience was hindered by siloed platforms, redundant formats, inefficient processes, and a limiting design. This made it challenging to present their story to the right audiences at the right time. This presentation will demonstrate how a website redesign presented a powerful opportunity to better engage audiences by streamlining the editorial process, reinventing the brand storytelling approach, and using the CMS to present stories in relevant context site-wide.

Bridget Hilferty, director of digital communications, Widener University

Georgy Cohen, director of digital strategy, OHO Interactive


No Crystal Ball? No Problem: Tips and Tricks for Proactive Issues Management

Crisis Communications and Issues Management Track

You can’t predict the next on- or off-campus crisis that will affect your key stakeholders, but you can prepare for it ahead of time through proactive issues management. At NC State, communicators work across campus to address problems before alarm bells start ringing, and provide measured strategy in reactive situations. This session will provide helpful case studies and tips for identifying potential issues, building consensus, engaging stakeholders and more.

Mary Cole Pike, issues management lead, North Carolina State University


5–6:30 p.m.

Networking Reception


Connect with sponsors and fellow conference attendees as you enjoy cocktails and appetizers in the Royal Sonesta’s courtyard.


6:30–8:30 p.m.

CHE Advocate for Higher Education Award Dinner and Patrick Jackson Lecture


Tuesday, April 7


9–10 a.m.

General Session 3 – Positioning Your Institution for Success Internationally

The international education landscape has drastically changed since 2014. Understanding the value of comprehensive campus internationalization and providing international engagement opportunities to students, faculty and staff is crucial to develop culturally-aware individuals who can excel in today’s competitive global workforce. In this session, we will discuss current international enrollment trends, strategies to propel your brand across the globe, and tips engage and support international students throughout the funnel - from enrollment to graduation and beyond.

Andrea Gils Monzon, marketing and communications manager, University of Kentucky International Center; 2020 chair, PRSA Diversity and Inclusion National Committee


10:15–11 a.m.

Breakout Sessions:


Representing Diversity in Marketing and Communications

Strategic Communications and Marketing Track

Diversity, equity and inclusion are at the center of many conversations on campus, from recruitment to retention. It can be challenging to represent diversity in an authentic way without tokenizing underrepresented individuals and communities. Engaging in open dialogue about best practices and missteps to avoid can lead to inclusive marketing and strategic communications materials that create a welcoming environment for students from all backgrounds at your institution.

Sheena McFarland, director of marketing + communications, David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah


The Crawl, Walk, Run Approach to Emergency Planning

Crisis Communications and Issues Management Track

Rather than devise a new scenario every year, Swarthmore College uses the crawl-walk-run model to build collaborative relationships with partners on and off campus. By introducing an emergency scenario concept in year one and expanding it in year two, the College is able to run a dynamic simulation in year three. This approach helps reduce stress around training and helps the College put in place the lessons from training programs to improve existing operations.

Alisa Giardinelli, assistant vice president of communications, Swarthmore College


11:15 a.m.–Noon

Breakout Sessions:


Building Connections Through Storytelling

Strategic Communications and Marketing Track


Prepare Your Institution for the Next Recession

Crisis Communications and Issues Management Track

The political and economic landscape has transformed since the Great Recession. Policymakers are offering less funding but making more demands. Potential students have alternatives for industry-recognized credentials that did not exist a decade ago. We will look at how messages from higher ed have to change to rebuild dialogue with political and industry leaders, and our communities, before the next economic downturn.


12:15–1:45 p.m.

General Session 4 – (Lunch Session) Presidential Communications in a Crisis


Tania Tetlow, president of Loyola University New Orleans and former chief of staff to the president at Tulane University, and Debbie Grant, former vice president of communication at Tulane University and former interim CCO of Loyola University New Orleans, will explore the ways in which a unified presidential voice can help catalyze a campus to make extraordinary change. The conversation will look at the role  of its new president's voice in helping the community coalesce to address financial shortfalls and the probation of its accreditation and how that community turned these challenges into one of the University's most successful admissions cycles. 

Tania Tetlow, president, Loyola University New Orleans

Debbie Grant, former vice president of communications at Tulane University and former interim chief communications officer at Loyola University New Orleans


2–2:45 p.m.

Breakout Sessions:


Getting Real with Social Media

Strategic Communications and Marketing Track

This workshop will look at the downside of social media, explore students’ longing for authenticity and give tips for colleges wanting to build real relationships.

Michelle Ouellette, APR, assistant professor of public relations, SUNY Plattsburgh


Preparing for Natural Disasters

Crisis Communications and Issues Management Track

Crisis Communications and Issues Management Track

Fires, floods, hurricanes and more - how does your campus prepare for natural disasters? Representatives from institutions that have faced natural disasters will share case studies, tools and best practices developed for their campuses.

Nancy Gill, senior executive director of university communication, California State University Channel Islands 


3:15-4:30 p.m.

General Session 5 – Lightning Round: Ideas to Share


Do you have a short case study, topic or best practice to share? Without using technology, take center stage for 5 minutes to share your ideas with fellow conference attendees. This fast-paced session is back by popular demand and driven by attendees. (To sign up, please contact Karen Cotton at kbcotton@PVAMU.EDU).


5–6:30 p.m.

Networking Reception

Bourbon Balcony Suite

Enjoy hosted cocktails and light snacks in a balcony suite high above Bourbon Street — perhaps even toss some beads to revelers below!


Evening on Your Own

Gather a group of fellow attendees or head out on your own to enjoy a night out and explore all New Orleans has to offer! A list of restaurant suggestions will be available at the registration desk.


Wednesday, April 8


9–10 a.m.

General Session 6 – Finding the Right Internal Voice

Effectively engaging, informing and inspiring internal audiences is one of the biggest challenges to strategic communications. In particular, how and when to use a presidential voice and how to ensure you're leveraging the right voices on the right topics can be the difference between well informed students, faculty, staff and other internal stakeholders — and a coalition of folks who feel like leadership doesn't share any information. Through this conversation, we'll explore several different models to internal communications and strategic decision making.



10:15–11:15 a.m.

General Session 7 – There Are Influencers on Your Campus. Are They Working With or Against You?

Sarah Goldfarb, digital marketing manager, University of Delaware


General Session 8 – (lunch) Media Relations Panel

11:30 a.m.–1 p.m.

During this always-popular conference session, hear from a panel of current and former journalists about best practices for media relations.

Martha Carr, managing editor, The New Orleans Advocate (online edition of the New Orleans Times-Picayune)

Joe Duke, former TV producer and Professional in Residence in Journalism, Loyola University New Orleans

Emma Kerr, paying for college reporter, US News and World Report

Moderator: Jackson Holtz, public information officer, University of Washington


1 p.m. – Summit Concludes


Note: Schedule, topics and presenters subject to change.


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