UPCEA Celebrates Successful Centennial Year

December 28, 2015
History, High Member Engagement, Impressive Speakers as 100th Year Comes To a Close

WASHINGTON, DC – UPCEA (the University Professional and Continuing Education Association) celebrated its Centennial in 2015, the anniversary of the association’s founding and first Annual Conference in Madison, Wisc. in 1915. The theme of the 2015 Annual Conference, Access, Innovation, Engagement: A Century of Reinventing Higher Education, resonated throughout the entire centennial year.

Activities during the association’s centennial year, and especially the Centennial Conference, celebrated 100 years of UPCEA, and showcased its rich history and commitment to access, innovation, and engagement for contemporary students.

“Our profession is a forward-leaning one. When you’re busy reinventing, you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the past,” said UPCEA CEO Bob Hansen at the 100th Annual Conference. “You focus on innovation. You question how things have always been done—and you look for new ways of doing things in the future.”

Although much has changed since 1915, the fundamentals of the association have not. The association began as the National University Extension Association, with 22 institutional members. The keynote speaker at the first Annual Conference, University of Wisconsin President Charles Van Hise, articulated a vision that still resonates to this day: “If a university is to have as its ideal . . . service on the broadest basis, it cannot escape taking on the function of carrying knowledge to the people.”

In addition to looking back at our history, UPCEA’s Centennial year was also a marker of the association’s continuing growth and success via high member engagement, notable speakers, and more.

UPCEA’s Centennial Conference, Access, Innovation, Engagement: A Century of Reinventing Higher Education, was a great success, with 837 attendees – more than at any conference in the last decade. The 100th Annual Conference, held in Washington, D.C. in March, kicked off with remarks from Dr. Jill Biden. As both a lifelong educator and nontraditional student herself, Dr. Biden’s inspiring words set a strong vision going into the conference. We were also joined by 14 past Presidents of the UPCEA Board of Directors, including Alex Charters of Syracuse University (President 1965-66), and many other venerable UPCEA members who had a hand in creating today’s UPCEA.

The second annual Summit for Online Leadership and Strategy, held in January in partnership with ACE, saw a 20% increase in attendance over 2014. Hundreds of senior leaders gathered in San Antonio to discuss the leading issues in online education. Cutting-edge general sessions featured speakers like Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell, who shared President Obama’s plan for higher education affordability on the day of the State of the Union address.

The fall’s Regional Conferences saw overall registrations increase a remarkable 47%, with two regions selling out for the first time in memory and the others also experiencing dramatic growth. Regional Conferences are a special opportunity for members to access high quality, affordable conferences, and provide focused opportunities for the development of emerging leaders as well as senior leaders.

The 24th Annual Marketing and Enrollment Management Seminar in Denver built upon the 58% increase in attendance from 2013 to 2014. This year saw another increase of nearly 20%, for a total attendance of nearly 400 in Denver.

UPCEA looks forward to the future success of the association and our members in 2016, as we begin another century of reinventing higher education together.



UPCEA is the association for professional, continuing, and online education. Founded in 1915, UPCEA now serves most of the leading public and private colleges and universities in North America. With innovative conferences and specialty seminars, research and benchmarking information, professional networking opportunities and timely publications, we support our members’ service of contemporary learners and commitment to quality online education and student success. Based in Washington, D.C., UPCEA builds greater awareness of the vital link between adult learners and public policy issues. Visit


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