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April 17–18, 2019    Portland, OR

Join student affairs, marketing and communications, alumni engagement, and advancement professionals from across the country to explore how a culture of listening, service, and trust-building can make us better at what we do.

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Higher education is facing a crisis of trust. When members of your community feel listed to, invested in, and served by your institution, they’ll trust you, volunteer, and donate. Without their trust, our institutions can't survive.

At ListenUp EDU, we will ditch the typical conference agenda of prosaic presentations and sleepy panels to chart the path ahead for higher ed together. Join us to explore how listening, service, and trust-building can accelerate student success, alumni engagement, marketing and communications, and advancement.

You will:

  • Gain listening and service templates and strategies to move change forward for your team and institution right away

  • Participate in workshop-style group discussions that cross silos and disciplines

  • Form lasting working relationships with other like-minded professionals in higher ed

ListenUp doesn’t have long keynotes, boring Powerpoints, or vendors. It does have collaborative sessions, interdisciplinary facilitators, and plenty of downtime for discussion and networking. Learn more about why we chose this conference format here.


2019 Schedule

Wednesday, April 17

On Wednesday, we’ll present inspiring talks on why strategic listening is at the cutting edge the most successful programs and practices in and outside of higher ed to increase enrollment, retention, loyalty, giving, and engagement.

11 - 12: Registration
12 - 1: Lunch
1 - 3: Whole group session
3 - 4: Snack and conversation break
4 - 6: Whole group session

  • Liz Gross, Mara Zepeda, Chelsea Haring - Welcome

  • Tricia Seifert, Associate Professor and Education Department Head, Montana State University - Listening to first-generation college students to understand needs related to the “hidden curriculum”

  • Sarah Aguilar, Student Trustee, Illinois State

6 - 8: Dinner

Thursday, April 18

On Thursday, we’ll break out into small group sessions focused on three tracks: Attract, Engage, and Vision.

Attract: How can listening help you better attract attention? Helpful for campus professionals in admissions, enrollment management, recruitment, marketing, communications, university relations, or advancement communications.

Engage: How can listening help you have more purposeful, informed interactions with students, alumni, donors, and other constituents? Helpful for folks in student affairs, career services, alumni relations, fundraising, or advising.

Vision: How can listening make you a better leader? Helpful for folks in Director level roles or higher across campus, or those who are actively working to build their leadership skills.

8 - 9: Breakfast
9 - 9:50: Session I: Whole group session
10 - 10:50: Session II: (3 concurrent breakout sessions)

  • Tim Jones, Chief Communications and Integrated Marketing Officer, Beloit College
    Whitney Helm, News Editor & Writer, Beloit College
    Listening to public conversations online to assess and inform brand perception

10:50-11:30 Break
11:30-12:20 Session III:  (3 concurrent breakout sessions)
12:30-1:30:  Lunch Discussions
1:30 - 2:30:  Session IV (3 concurrent breakout sessions)
2:30-2:45: Closing Remarks, lead into Design Challenge and how work can continue after the conference
2:30 - 4:00: Interactive Design Challenge: Facilitating Change in Higher Ed
4:00-4:30: Closing session
4:30-5:30: Happy Hour


2019 Speakers & Facilitators

This list will be updated as we confirm more speakers.


Mara Zepeda

Co-founder & CEO, Switchboard

Sarah Aguilar

Student Trustee, Illinois State University

Dr. Liz Gross

Founding Director, Campus Sonar


Tim Jones

Chief Communications and Integrated Marketing Officer, Beloit College


Chelsea Haring

COO, Switchboard


Whitney Helm

News Editor & Writer, Beloit College


Kassie Infante

Assistant Director of Alumni Engagement, Phillips Exeter Academy


Dr. Tricia Seifert

Associate Professor and Education Department Head, Montana State University


Jess Columbo

Founder & CEO, Med|Ed Digital


Rachel Finch

Director of External Relations, Oregon State University Career Development Center


Alex Aljets

Fellow, University Innovation Alliance


Amma Marfo

Speaker & Consultant, FUN ENTERPRISES


Sara Ackerson

Academic and Career Advisor & Coordinator, Washington State University


Joseph M. Catrino

Director of Career Development, Trinity College


Brittney Paulk

Projects Director & Provost of Strategic Initiatives, Arizona State University


Why ListenUp?

"To take my abilities to the next level in higher education listening, I need a conference that allows me to be an active learner and contributor in exploring opportunities and challenges through its multiple layers—tools, workflow, and culture. Everything about ListenUp EDU from the speakers, format and, location, looks to help me do just that."

Matt Duncan
Academic Digital Engagement Strategist
University of Colorado Boulder


"I’m drawn to the focus of ListenUp EDU on listening as a way to better understand an audience and meet their needs. Working with university alumni—they’re a diverse group—and I look forward to learning strategies to engage them in the best ways possible."

Adam Sylvain
Assistant Director, Career Development
Alumni Relations & Development | The University of Chicago


What to Expect

What: One and a half days of sessions, breakout discussions, and networking.
Dress code: Casual dress for windy fall weather.
Who is it for?: We invite innovators at all levels in marketing and communications, enrollment management, career services, student services, alumni affairs, and advancement to attend.


You'll Learn To...


Ask your community what they need by creating simple, scalable, and straightforward needs assessments


Listen deeply to community needs, prioritize them within institutional workflows, and respond appropriately


Serve your community with agile and cost-effective programs and services, from staff trainings to lightweight software solutions


Discover the unique needs of first-generation and low income students and alumni


Identify and measure successful community outcomes and giving opportunities


Share and amplify success stories into authentic marketing campaigns that drive retention, donations, and innovation


Align marketing and engagement activities with your organization’s goals and bottom line


Overcome the challenges that block collaboration and change from occurring


Stay in touch

Fill out the form below and we’ll keep you updated as we announce speakers, venue, and more for ListenUp 2019, or email us at with questions or comments about the conference. We welcome your input and speaker recommendations.

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