Chicago in December

Chicago in December

Flying to Chicago on Saturday morning, December 14 for the CASE V conference was going to be a challenge. The forecast was calling for 2-3 inches of snow in Columbus, and possibly even more in the Windy City. Luck was on my side though, and the flight was only delayed an hour. We landed in plenty of time to get the Sheraton on North Water Street before the conference kickoff committee meeting. CASE V was about to get underway, and this year I wasn’t just attending.

Following my presentation last year on the collaboration around launching OSU Mobile, I was asked to co-chair the Communications Track for the 2013 conference. CASE (The Council for the Advancement and Support of Education) is the premier international organization for Advancement professionals working in education. A year of planning, coordinating presenters, brainstorming on quality keynote speakers, and scheduling fun events for the three-day conference was finally becoming a reality.

My main focus while in Chicago was to rally the communications session track speakers, to volunteer at the registration desk, and to welcome new CASE members with a casual networking dinner. The sessions all went very well. Standouts included a communications keynote by Michael Stoner of the mStoner agency on social media; a breakout session led by Heather Swain, vice president of communications and brand strategy at Michigan State; and the closing keynote by Liz Murray, author of “Breaking Night.”

Michael’s advice to the audience included a very concise list of social media lessons taken from his recent book, Social Works – including focus on the channels you own (website and blogs); when giving is a game, everyone wins; and don’t be everywhere until you are awesome everywhere you are. His main premise is that we must have creative ideas to spread when participating in social media, but spreading that focus too thinly can work against larger goals. Good advice, indeed.

Heather shared a reinvention of the Michigan State President’s annual report. They used Big Ten Programming funding to realize a “twofer.” Spending just under $300,000 on international airfare and travel, the communications office sent out three teams of videographers and producers to university research initiatives in China, Southeast Asia, Africa, South America, and around the state of Michigan. Their final product was Spartan’s Will: 360, an interactive, video-driven website focusing on how Michigan State is making a difference in the world by conducting research and outreach that addresses society’s most pressing problems.

The final program was both humbling and inspiring. Liz Murray has been the subject of a Lifetime Network docudrama and has been featured on major networks promoting her life story of going from being homeless in New York to graduating from Harvard. She was brutally honest in her description of growing up with drug-addicted parents in the Bronx, and inspirational in her continued compassion for them and the situation they found themselves in. Tears were shed during her talk in one of the most authentic ways I’ve witnessed from a room full of conference attendees.

I encourage you to explore CASE to see what the organization has to offer Advancement professionals. Get involved if you have the time. Attend the conference next year if it fits within your department budget, and please connect with me if you have questions.

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