Kenn Elmore , Dean of Students at Boston University, does not mess around. When he issues a challenge, he says his piece, drops the mic, and waits for our response. For the past couple of years, Elmore and BU have hosted a student affairs conference called "Confab ." More of a conversation than a lecture, Confab is billed as "an old-school group convo." This year's event is scheduled for February 21 and it is definitely going to challenge attendees and perhaps nudge a large portion of the student affairs profession.
The advertisement, if you can even it call it that, for this year's Confab  feels like a gauntlet to the face. It's a cerebral call for dissonance, critical thinking, and a look into the future. The title of the promo post for the 2014 Confab represents a major challenge to anyone who reads it: "Confab 14: Your Passion and Your Job: Will It Be Gone Soon? Student Affairs is So Last Century." The lead graphic for the post is an old Blackberry phone on ice. An analogy perhaps? Definitely a message if you're paying attention. Immediately following the post title is a question: "Is _______________ Student Affairs too narrowly focused on ___________ and cut off from ________________ colleges and universities?" Sounds to me that Elmore and company are trying to seriously stir some stuff up with how we think, act, learn, and live.
Think you have what it takes to lead a conversation at this year's Confab event? Take a look at some of the questions that will be driving the discussion:
- What should we be worried about?
- What is your favorite, deep, elegant, or beautiful explanation?
- What student development concept or idea is ready for a smooth departure?
- What trend excites you?
- What student development idea or concept would improve everyone’s bag of neat tricks?
- How is ______________ changing the way we think?
- What are you optimistic about?
- What do you know is true, even though you can’t prove it?
- What questions have we stopped asking ourselves?
- What now?
Here's more information if you're interested:
We’re inviting you to put together a pithy 5-minute presentation that will jumpstart our thinking; wake us up; and, get us amped. Immediately following your conversation-starting presentation, Dean Elmore will engage you in a five-minute conversation before he brings the rest of the folks present into the conversation for a ten-minute discussion of your ideas. Overall, you’re on the hook for about twenty minutes. Can you do it? Let us know if you want to present by sending your intention to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In 2012, I was asked to speak at the first BU Confab event. My topic was framed around a question: "Where Are the Radical Student Affairs Practitioners?" Looks like there might be some folks at the 2014 event who might have some answers to that question.
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