Dear Colleagues,

I want to share with you the results of the UPCEA Presidential Task Force on Regional Conferences, which conducted a comprehensive and iterative review of the signature deliverable of UPCEA’s five regions: a fall conference. The UPCEA Board of Directors charged the Task Force to make recommendations for reducing the number of regional conferences to no more than three per year to help UPCEA strike a more strategic balance between the current model of offering eight total conferences per year (national and regional)—an extraordinarily high number for an association the size of UPCEA—and the need to develop new initiatives that diversify and strengthen the value proposition for membership.

Comprised of past presidents and each region’s Regional Representative to the Board, the Task Force issued a series of recommendations designed to promote collaboration and innovation, leverage event scale, and offer more affordable event attendance options to members. Co-chairs Rich Novak, Rutgers University, and Chris Sax, Maryland University of Integrative Health, invite you to review the full set of recommendations. In summary, the recommendations suggest two inventive pilot programs be launched over the course of the next few years.

Operationalized in the fall of 2018, the first pilot will leverage economies of scale by hosting one “joint” or “super-regional” conference, wherein two adjacent regions will partner together to host a conference near their shared border. Likely to be more cost-effective than a smaller, single-region conference, a super-regional event would also offer more networking and professional development opportunities. The first super-regional conference to be piloted is planned between Mid-Atlantic and South regions, potentially in the greater Washington, DC, area.

Realized in the spring of 2020, the second pilot will capitalize on the geographic rotation of the UPCEA Annual Conferences, wherein the region in which an Annual Conference is hosted will “append” a special, half-day regional program to the Annual Conference in lieu of a standalone fall conference. Priced affordably, this special package is designed to preserve the collegiality and accessibility of regional conferences while providing great value by limiting a region’s annual events to one. The New England region will pilot this approach by foregoing a fall conference in 2019 and hosting a special regional program in the spring of 2020 at the Annual Conference in Boston, MA.

Over the next few weeks, the Regional Cabinet, comprised of the five Regional Representatives to the Board, convened by Regional Cabinet Chair Beth Mulherrin, will begin the next phase of this work—to map out with more specificity the timelines and structures needed to operationalize each pilot. As this work comes into greater focus, you can expect more information, including specific locations for future super-regional conferences and what shape the Annual Conference regional package will take.

In meantime, click here to view what’s on tap for the 2017 regional conferences planned for this fall.


Bob Hansen, CEO

Shelly Brazelle, an adjunct professor in Forensic Science at George Washington University, was drawn to the field like many others for the thrill of crime. TV shows like CSI and Forensic Files popping up, cast an allure revealing the drama and glamour of a career in Forensics. While there are still high stakes for her job, the day to day is mostly spent in the lab or office comparing fingerprints.

Like many classes, a crucial component to Shelly’s course was weekly problem sets. Students were required to identify matching characteristics in different sets of fingerprints and submit their work online. While the exercise itself gets mundane time after time, there’s also no context. Whatever the field of study, quantitative or not, students engage more fully with the content when there’s a story behind it. Particularly, if this story mimics a real-life situation they could face in their field.

Instead of matching arbitrary fingerprints in the problem sets, Shelly came up with a creative solution to engage students and introduce a bit of the drama students were craving. We took to the internet and found actual news coverage of mostly petty crimes.

Using the narrative and characters in the article we had students create their own casework, naming the suspects guilty or not. To make this assessment authentic, we created lab reports nearly identical to those used in the field and created real fingerprint cards for the suspects.

Placing a narrative with real people behind the assessment gives the students more meaning to their work. By using lab reports and fingerprint cards used in the field, they’re gaining skills directly applicable to their future careers.

What real-life context can you pull into your authentic assessments? Is there a particular industry that uses the skills you teach? What are some of their use cases? Maybe you can get in touch with these companies and ask if they’d be willing to share some data for students to work with. Or fabricate a company students are doing the work for, that way you can easily manipulate the data. Small things, even like changing the name of the assignment from ‘problem sets’ to a name of the practice in the field, and formatting their responses styled as official ‘documents or reports’ make the assignments more interesting.

I’d love to hear what authentic assessments you’re planning to try or already using. Please feel free to share in the comments!

– Tara Lifland

This report illustrates a number of major occupational shifts in technology, healthcare, and other industries, and their impact on higher education. While new occupational categories are certain to arise, and existing ones may change, UPCEA and Chmura hope to shed greater light on this complex topic.

The U.S. is at a unique period in time. An aging Baby Boomer population, the unique dynamics related to maturing Millennial and Generation Z learners, technological advances, and shifting labor needs are rapidly changing the economic and occupational landscape. Taking these factors into consideration, and coupling them with the country’s deeply-rooted four-year degree model, will challenge many institutions to adopt or consider new or alternative educational models.

The major findings of this study include: 

  • Higher education enrollments are decreasing while enrollments in alternative credentialing (including certificates, badges, licenses, etc.) and associate’s degrees are on the rise.
  • Alternative credentialing is an effective way to develop “middle skills” for today’s blue- collar jobs.
  • Two of the fastest growing fields in the next decade are predicted to be healthcare and professional services.
  • Alternative credentialing’s growth is directly tied to its ability to meet the needs of adult learners, but it also has inherent value for the colleges and universities that choose to embrace it.

Click here to read the full report.