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Birds of a Feather at the Higher Ed Summit 2017

By April 17, 2017

By: Colleen Whelan, Director of Advancement Services, Providence College

So, you’ve registered for the Higher Ed Summit in Austin and you’re getting ready to “innovate together.” Fantastic! What’s your plan?

As the saying goes, everything is bigger in Texas…and the Higher Ed Summit in Austin is no exception. This year’s summit is the largest ever. There are 1,500 registrants ready to gather together and share their success stories, lessons learned, and opportunities and challenges. How do you plan on making connections that will be meaningful, not just at the Summit but once you return to your own campus?

I strongly recommend grabbing a seat at one of the “Birds of a Feather” tables at lunch in the workshop room 602 next to the Austin Social Club. If that’s not on your agenda, it should be! The “Birds of a Feather” tables are organized by topic and make it easy to find other attendees who are working on the same subject matter and/or using the same products to achieve their institution’s goals. And there is a host at each table to get the conversation started if people are shy or hesitant to start a conversation with friends they haven’t met yet. You can spend time with your co-workers all the other workdays of the year – broaden your horizons on at lunch at the Summit.

Still not convinced? Here’s a Top 5 List for why it’s a great idea to wrangle yourself a seat at one of the Birds of a Feather (BoF) lunch tables at the Austin Higher Ed Summit:

    1. Efficiency – Let’s face it, we are all pressed for time in today’s world so it’s important to maximize each opportunity to interact with peers from other institutions to benefit from their lessons learned, solutions explored, experience with vendors and partners. At the Summit in Tempe, I managed to get peer feedback on three different vendors from seven peer schools in 45 minutes. That would have taken weeks if I tried to schedule calls/meetings from my office on campus!

    2. Build your network – Most of the attendees at the Higher Ed Summit are striving towards similar goals and results and encountering familiar struggles. Birds of a Feather gatherings at previous Higher Ed Summits have: provided introductions to peers who are blazing trails and who can be called upon for inspiration even after the Summit is over; been sources of new ideas for experimentation; given participants a sense of encouragement and “I’m not the only one” before heading back to their campus.

    3. Make your own luck –Do you really want to leave it to chance that you’ll sit next to the right people in the breakout sessions and strike up meaningful conversations in the few minutes before or after a session? There will be 1,500 people there – increase your odds and make your own luck…participate in a Birds of a Feather lunch table. And given there will be so many people attending the Summit, seating at the BoF tables will be a hot ticket (there will only be 80 seats each day)!

    4. MIRL – This is your chance to “meet in real life” some of the colleagues who have provided tips, tricks, and encouragement on the Power of Us Hub. By the way, if you haven’t heard of the Power of Us Hub, you should definitely check it out. It is a virtual community (basically a 24×7 Birds of a Feather forum) that provides you access to peer experts.

    5. There’s something for everyone – Got a question? Looking to connect and get some Texas-sized feedback and intel on any of the following topics: Recruitment and Admissions, Student Service and Support, Advising, Career Services, Advancement, Faculty and Staff (Administrative) Use Cases. There will be BoF tables for each of these topics on the 27th and 28th.

Even if you’ve never participated in a Birds of a Feather opportunity before, perhaps you’ll take inspiration from one of the natural attractions that you won’t find anywhere other than Austin – the bats of the South Congress Bridge. Austin hosts the largest bat “flock” (colony, really) in North America and it is quite a spectacle to see them soaring above the “Live Music Capital of the World.” C’mon, take a cue from the bats –soar with a new flock in Austin.

About the Author
Colleen WhelanColleen Whelan is Director of Advancement Services at Providence College. She has been working in higher education for 13 years. She has been a member of the Salesforce Higher Ed Advisory Council since its inception. Previously, she held several director level roles at Yale University in which she collaborated with central IT and departmental colleagues to achieve institutional goals related to community, outreach, and administration through the use of technology. She led a project to build a custom complex events management and registration app on the platform to support the Association of Yale Alumni and their signature Yale College Reunions events. Prior to working in academe, she worked at an interactive services firm and the Federal Reserve.