MIDWest Conference 101!

Let’s start counting down the days! In just a few short weeks, we will all be together in person for the 2022 MIDWest ACAC Conference in Eagan, MN! The last time we all had the chance to be together was at the 2019 Iowa ACAC Conference at Prairie Meadows in Altoona. We made the best of things in 2020 with a virtual conference (thanks to our wonderful Past President, Tom Paulsen), and tried again in 2021 with a virtual MIDWest Conference (shout out to the excellent Wisconsin ACAC team for planning), but I know that I have really missed the in-person conference experience for the past two years. With all of the disruptions caused by the pandemic, we’ll have more first-time conference-goers than ever before, so as your current Iowa ACAC Conference Planning Chair, I wanted to share some thoughts and advice to help you make the most of your MIDWest ACAC experience! 

Why does everyone capitalize the first four letters of the word “midwest” when talking about this conference?

Because this conference is shared between the ACAC affiliates in Minnesota, Iowa, the Dakotas, and Wisconsin. Pretty clever, right? :) 

There are so many good sessions on the schedule -- which ones should I attend?

When planning this conference, the sessions committee tried our best to make sure that we had an array of topics available during each time slot. During almost every time slot, you’ll find a session relevant to high school counselors, one specific to those of us on the college admission side, a session from a vendor, and a session that focuses on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Hopefully this will ensure that each participant can find a session during each time slot that’s relevant to their interests.

If there are multiple staff members from your institution attending the conference, try to divide and conquer. Split up and attend multiple different sessions, take good notes on the session that you choose, and swap notes afterwards. That can help maximize the information that you take away from your conference experience.

Here are a few good questions to reflect on as you’re choosing your sessions: Which session will help fill a gap in my knowledge? Is there a presenter that I’m particularly interested in meeting? Which session would my team or my supervisor most like me to attend? Which session is most relevant to my career right now? Which session is most relevant to where I want my career to go? 

What is a roundtable session?

Many of the sessions on the conference schedule are in a traditional style: One or more presenters will deliver prepared remarks with a powerpoint, and there will be time for questions at the end. A handful of sessions, however, are a little bit different. Anything labeled as a ‘roundtable’ is going to be a group discussion with professionals who all share a similar interest or identity (for example, Sabrina Tapps-Fee’s “Wonder Women in Admissions” session is for female-identified attendees). The person leading the session might provide some guidance in the discussion or pose some questions to the group, but for the most part, it will be an opportunity for attendees to engage in discussion together. These can be really great opportunities to get to know other members and to share your ideas! Come to a roundtable session ready to share!

What are all these booths for in the lobby?

In between sessions, you’ll notice that various businesses and vendors will have booths and tables set up in the common space of the conference center. These are our sponsoring business partners (SBPs for short). These vendors have paid to help sponsor our conference in exchange for the opportunity to meet with our members. They’re available at their booths between sessions, they may make some short remarks at the beginning of some sessions, and they may attend the social events as well. If you have questions about their products or services, be sure to stop by their table to chat!

What happens at the state affiliate meeting?

The last thing on the schedule for Monday afternoon is the state affiliate meeting. That’s where all attendees will join their affiliate (that’s obviously Iowa ACAC for us) and have our annual meetings. Lots will happen during this meeting! We’ll hear from our Iowa ACAC president, Jaclyn Tungesvik, celebrate the winners of the Freddy Miranda Access Award, announce the winners of our annual awards, hear updates from the various Iowa ACAC committees, and more! At the end of the meeting, Jaclyn will pass the gavel to our next Iowa ACAC President.

Should I go to the socials, or just go back to my hotel room?

Definitely come to the socials! While the daytime part of the conference is a great opportunity for professional networking, the evening socials are a chance to have fun with your colleagues and the new folks that you’ve met during the day. The Pop Rocks concert on Monday night will be a great way to unwind and celebrate the conclusion of another admissions cycle!

My colleagues all say that this is a good opportunity for networking, but how do I even get started?

Networking can be a tricky concept, especially for younger professionals. My first year attending the conference, I wasn’t quite sure how to start conversations with other admissions professionals that I’d never met. A few great ways to get the conversation started:

  • If you are attending the conference with other staff members from your institution, ask them to introduce you to folks they know.
  • If you see someone that you’ve met before out on the road, go chat with them and ask them to introduce you to their colleagues. Also offer to introduce that person to your colleagues from your own institution.
  • After a really engaging session, stay afterwards and ask questions of the presenter. Ask for their business card and send a follow-up email.
  • Try to branch out. While the conference can be a great bonding experience for you and your colleagues from your own school, it’s also a really important time to connect with others. You have lots of time to spend with your colleagues throughout the rest of the year -- prioritize making new connections and catching up with friends from other schools.
  • Connect with the Iowa ACAC executive board! We are all members of the board because we are proud of this organization and are dedicated to the professional development of our members. Let us know if we can help you make the most of your conference experience.
  • Come to the socials to make some new friends!

So much has happened in the three years since our last Iowa ACAC Conference in 2019. I can’t wait to see some familiar faces and make some new connections in Eagan next month. Looking forward to seeing you all at MIDWest!

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