ACHE South held its annual 2017 Spring Conference at the famed Peabody Hotel in Memphis April 11-13. Memphis is a city of crossroads, and the home to crucial intersections in music, culture and social justice. The conference theme, “Treading our Crossroads Today: Marching Our Pathways Tomorrow,” reflected the rich history of the region while recognizing the realities of our work as continuing educators–which is often at the crossroads between the adult student and the university, the professional development center and the community, and other sometimes competing interests.
Keynote speakers, concurrent sessions, and panelists all addressed this theme through several themed tracks. Sessions on “Industry” included presentations on how to succeed in managing the everyday realities of our work; “Imagination,” encouraged proposals about successful and innovative new creative programs and ventures; and “Implementation,” invited participants to tell how they have learned from obstacles or missteps in the implementation of a new venture. Especially new this year a track on leadership, “Influence,” was comprised of invited leadership sessions facilitated by ACHE all-stars. Organized by Dr. Amy Johnson, the sessions in this track focused on honing leadership skills in the areas of strategic planning, communication, lateral leadership, and more. Participants who attended five of the seven concurrent sessions on leadership were presented with a certificate of completion from ACHE South at the end of the conference.
Keynote speakers included Kim Weitkamp, a nationally-known speaker, and consultant, who addressed “The Power of Story” in her talk, and later led a breakout session on “The Science of Story.” Dr. Belle Wheelan, President of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on College, spoke on “Current Happenings with SACSCOC,” addressing the current state of higher education in the region and the country from an accreditation standpoint. She also led a breakout session afterward where participants were invited to continue the discussion. Finally, Drs. Steven Frye and Jonathan Taylorclosed the conference with their talk, “It Came at Me When I Walked through the Door,” which was a lively interactive session covering their research demonstrating the often overlooked lasting importance of the first impressions instructors create with students within the first minutes of their class–and also how this insight applies to other professional settings besides the classroom as well.
Some other concurrent breakout sessions included building partnerships between universities and their local community colleges, assessing and enhancing online faculty performance, insights on coaching teams to enhance performance, and tips to help adult students avoid plagiarism. In between, participants were able to enjoy many of the local sites and sounds of Beale Street, the Civil Rights Museum, Graceland, Stax and Sun Records, and many even took in the opening night of the Memphis Redbirds minor league baseball team. At the conclusion of the conference, outgoing ACHE Chair Patti Spaniolareflected on the accomplishments of the organization this past year and handed the gavel to incoming chair Dr. Chris Nesmith. Also recognized for their work and support was Marilyn Read from Delta State University, and her team, who along with the entire Conference Planning committee were owed much of the credit for the success of this year’s conference.