The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

Highlights From the 2015 Annual Conference in Orlando

More than 900 higher ed HR pros from all 50 states and nine countries gathered in Orlando, Florida, last week for learning, connecting and inspiration (and maybe a little playing, too!) at the CUPA-HR Annual Conference and Expo 2015. Here are some highlights from our time together.

A Diverse Workforce Is Vital to Institutional Success
Kicking off the conference on Sunday evening was keynoter Johnnetta Cole, who inspired us with her words of wisdom around diversity and inclusion. Noting that we are “still in the struggle,” she challenged us to “keep talking about our differences until difference doesn’t make a difference anymore.” She encouraged us as HR pros to step up as culture champions and leaders of diversity work on campus, and to draw others in as we lead by example. As Cole so aptly put it, “diversity has to be owned by everyone, or it will belong to no one.”

Here are a couple of takeaways shared by attendees:

Whatever Your HR Role, You Have the Power to Influence Others
In Monday morning’s keynote session, Daniel Pink challenged us to rethink our roles as HR professionals and leaders on campus. By embracing our roles as sellers and influencers (which we all are – every single day), we can leverage our ability to motivate and move others in a direction that supports our institutional goals.

Here’s what attendees had to say about Pink’s session:


Partnerships, Performance Management and Organizational Strategy Were Key Session Themes
With more than 70 concurrent sessions, our presenters covered just about any HR-related topic you could imagine. From compliance and regulatory updates to change management, from workplace wellness to HR metrics, from succession planning to student success – there was definitely lots of learning going on. Here are some takeaways from several popular concurrent sessions:

Transforming HR Means Not Only Responding to Organizational Strategy, But Also Informing It

On Tuesday morning, conference attendees gathered for two “super sessions.” In the first, organizational leadership and strategy thought leader David Kryscynski shared his thoughts on HR transformation, HR competencies and how HR can drive organizational performance. Among other things, he pointed out that it’s up to HR to help leaders understand how external business realities (political, economic, social, technological) will impact human capital, and to help leaders develop strategies to deal with that impact.

In the second session, the knowledgeable and always-entertaining Ira Shepard, CUPA-HR’s general counsel, provided an update on recent labor and employment law cases that could have implications for the higher ed workplace. (If you weren’t in attendance, check out these two legal quizzes — campus cop love triangle and “new blood” age discrimination — both of which Shepard covered during his session. Also, check out the CUPA-HR e-learning course “Just the Facts: Key Court Decisions of 2014,” which can help you think through, talk about and respond to existing or potential legal issues on campus.)

HR Pros Know the Value of Connecting and Networking
It wasn’t all work and no play in Orlando! We made sure to provide plenty of time for conference attendees to connect and network. Whether making new friends or reconnecting with old ones, whether sharing successes or lamenting shared challenges, the camaraderie was evident. Networking events included an early-career professionals meet-up, an affinity group lunch, a reception for first-time attendees, a reception for attendees from minority-serving institutions, and lots of breaks in the Expo between sessions and after the day’s learning. After all, what better way to learn than from each other?

Looking Forward to 2016
By all accounts, this year’s conference was a success! Now it’s full-steam ahead for preparations for next year’s conference … will we see you in Washington, D.C. next September?