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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.

Tickets are $595 each—or $345 when you get two or more.

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Higher education is facing a crisis of trust. When members of your community feel listened 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 in Brief

For detailed session descriptions, see the complete schedule. All listed meals are provided.

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 - 1:30: Lunch

1:45 - 3: Whole group session

Innovation starts with listening
Switchboard and Campus Sonar Teams

3 - 4: Snack and conversation break

4 - 6: Whole group session

  • Dr. Liz Gross, Mara Zepeda, Chelsea Haring - Welcome

  • Dr. 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 - Social media through a student’s perspective: How to embrace change, adversity, and the importance of making connections with students

  • Dr. LaToya Owens, Director of Learning and Evaluation, Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute - Real talk about transformation

  • Amanda Stubbert, Director of Alumni, Parent, and Family Relations, Seattle Pacific University - Improv for business professionals

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 those in student affairs, career services, alumni relations, fundraising, or advising.

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

8 - 8:50: Breakfast

9 - 9:50: Session I: Whole group session

10 - 10:50: Session II: (3 concurrent breakout sessions)

How listening can influence brand
Tim Jones, Chief Communications and Integrated Marketing Officer, Beloit College
Whitney Helm, News Editor & Writer, Beloit College

Inclusive service engagement design: Who are you not hearing from?
Amma Marfo, Speaker & Consultant, FUN Enterprises
Kassie Infante, Assistant Director of Alumni Engagement, Phillips Exeter Academy

Team chemistry: Who are you?
Carnegie Dartlet

10:50-11:30 Break

11:30-12:20 Session III:  (3 concurrent breakout sessions)

From uncertainty to opportunity: Insights for higher ed from a Cannabis entrepreneur
Jess Columbo, Founder & CEO, Med|Ed Digital & Tiller

Using reflection to guide training and professional development
Sara Ackerson, Academic & Career Advisor and Coordinator, Washington State University

Listening to the needs of staff to find, develop, and implement appropriate technology solutions
Joe Sabado, Executive Director of Systems Information Systems Technology & Associate CIO of Student Affairs, USCB

12:30-1:30:  Lunch Discussions

1:30 - 2:30:  Session IV (3 concurrent breakout sessions)

Facilitating learning and conversation
Andrew DeVigal, Associate Director, University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication's Agora Journalism Center

How to gather better: People, surveys, ideas
Linda Pantale, Associate Director of Career Development, University of Chicago

Leading change through process mapping
Alex Aljets, Fellow, University Innovation Alliance
Chelsea Haring, COO, Switchboard

2:30-2:45: Closing Remarks

2:45 - 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


Jess Columbo

Founder & CEO, Med|Ed Digital & Tiller


Tim Jones

Chief Communications and Integrated Marketing Officer, Beloit College


Amma Marfo

Speaker & Consultant, FUN Enterprises


Dr. Tricia Seifert

Associate Professor and Education Department Head, Montana State University


Amanda Stubbert

Director of Alumni, Parent, and Family Relations, Seattle Pacific University

Joe Sabado

Executive Director of Student Information Systems Technology & Associate CIO of Student Affairs, UC Santa Barbara

Linda Pantale

Associate Director of Career Development, University of Chicago Alumni Association


Dr. LaToya Russell Owens

Director of Learning and Evaluation, Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute at UNCF


Kassie Infante

Assistant Director of Alumni Engagement, Phillips Andover Academy


Alex Aljets

Fellow, University Innovation Alliance

Sarah Aguilar

Student Trustee, Illinois State University


Whitney Helm

News Editor & Writer, Beloit College


Mara Zepeda

Co-founder & CEO, Switchboard

Dr. Liz Gross

Founder & CEO, Campus Sonar


Chelsea Haring

COO, Switchboard


Sara Ackerson

Academic and Career Advisor & Coordinator, Washington State University


Why ListenUp?


"I didn’t know what to expect, but I really loved attending and being part of ListenUp. On top of thoroughly enjoying the content and the unconventional structure, environment and format of the conference, I made some really great connections (with folks I would have normally not met at my standard industry conferences) that I’ve been able to bring back and immediately put to use in benefiting my institution and professional network."

Bill Campbell
Vice President of Marketing and Communications
Chatham University


"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 wet spring 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.


Where to Stay


ListenUp 2019 will be in the EcoTrust building at 721 NW 9th Ave in the Pearl District. Transit to and from the Pearl District from nearby neighborhoods is inexpensive, plentiful, and easy to use.



Nights of 04/14–04/21.
Use code listenup for 15% off best available rates (excluding shared bathroom guest rooms).
Book online.


For the price-conscious and hip, Airbnb has a number of options in and around downtown Portland. Transit to and from downtown by bus, light rail, and rentable bikes is easy and inexpensive if you prefer to stay in an adjoining neighborhood!


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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