What You’ll Learn: A Preview of Sessions at the 2024 ACUI Annual Conference in Denver

Prepare for an enriching experience at the 2024 ACUI Annual Conference in Denver from March 24–28. With over 80 unique educational sessions, attendees are in for a comprehensive exploration of the latest insights and innovations surrounding campus community, student centers, and student life.

These presentations are categorized according to ACUI’s core competencies, providing individuals with a framework to better understand the foundation of knowledge and expertise required in the unions and activities field. These competencies include: Assessment, Evaluation, and Research; Event Management; Facility Management; Fiscal Management; Human Resources; Marketing; Organizational Leadership; Planning; Social Justice; and Student Learning. This categorization ensures that participants can tailor their conference experience to align with their specific areas of interest and professional development goals.

For those considering future submissions, here are the original submission numbers by core competency: Fiscal (5), Marketing (10), Events (20), Social Justice (21), Facilities (26), Assessment, Evaluation and Research (28), Human Resources (34), Planning (38), Student Life (38), and Leadership (61). These numbers serve as valuable insights for individuals planning their submissions in the coming years.

For now, let us preview some of the expertise that will be shared during this event.

Assessment, Evaluation, and Research

ACUI defines Assessment, Evaluation, and Research as “The ability to understand the language of assessment, evaluation, and research; collect and analyze different types of data; and communicate the results to drive decision-making within the organization.”

In line with this core competency, graduate students, new professionals, mid-level professionals, and seasoned professionals will have the opportunity to explore insights from the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) during “Unlocking NSSE Data: Applying National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) Survey Results to College.”

The session will delve into NSSE’s annual collection of first-year and senior-year student experiences, focusing on engagement indicators relevant to college unions and student activities. Indiana University staff will also share their experiences, highlighting how NSSE results led to innovative programs addressing post-first-year engagement and fostering diverse peer interactions.

Event Management

Defined as “The ability to successfully plan and execute high-quality programs with and for campus and external stakeholders,” Event Management is a critical ACUI core competency and the focus of several sessions, including “Demystifying Audio-Visual Technology: Making Sense of AV in Student Centers,” in which Paul Eleazer from Emory University presents a session dedicated to demystifying audio-visual technology in student centers.

Focused on simplification, the presentation makes audio-visual jargon understandable, offers practical solutions, and delivers actionable insights. Attendees will gain the knowledge and confidence necessary to make informed decisions about audio-visual technology, ensuring it aligns with the needs of both students and the university.

Facility Management

Attendees will get a taste of the Facility Management core competency—defined as “The ability to successfully create and maintain attractive, safe, fully operable, built environments,” with “Community Building in the Community Kitchen.”

During this session, Ken Beck and Laura Ballou of the University of Rochester will share how Wilson Commons Student Activities uses a community kitchen in the campus center to host small gatherings, classes, and activities. The kitchen supports various cultural organizations and courses by giving them a space to prepare their culture’s food.

Fiscal Management

ACUI defines the core competency of Fiscal Management as “The ability to create simple and complex budgets, understand funding sources, create systems for monitoring and evaluating budgets, and understand investment strategies.”

In “Developing an Equitable Funding Model for Student Organizations,” Celia Keefer of the Wentworth Institute of Technology will provide an overview of budgetary decision-making by student leaders in a tiered club structure. Wentworth will demonstrate how a tiered approach guided by clear metrics promotes fiscal responsibility and meets institutional goals. This discussion will highlight collaboration between student leaders and the equitable strategic framework that informs their budgetary decisions.

Human Resources

Human Resources— “the ability to manage organizational processes, including human resource needs of staff members, in a consistent and equitable manner,” involves a unique skill set. During “Intergenerational Staffing at a Small School,” Mike Goode and Marshall Welch will explore the challenges they have faced building a workplace with a wide range of ages at Davidson College, a small, private, liberal arts undergraduate institution.


The ability to identify and connect with different audiences and to develop and use effective promotions, communication, and information in multiple media and formats—ACUI’s Marketing core competency—is crucial to reach target audiences. In “Adapting to a Changing Market: How to Keep Students Engaged with YOUR Student Union,” the University of California–San Diego’s Micaela Stone and Amanda Marples will explain how a unique blend of traditional marketing strategies, face-to-face marketing, and social media marketing has helped the student union connect with a constantly evolving campus community.

Organizational Leadership

ACUI defines Organizational Leadership as “The ability to develop and communicate a vision so that others commit and take action to fulfill the mission and goals of the organization.”

The conference will feature several leadership-focused educational sessions, including “Living on the Dance Floor: Using Archetypes from TV Show Dance Moms to Serve Basic Student Needs.” During this session, Ryan Mahan and Jessica Miceli from Bentley University will draw parallels between the dancers featured on the reality TV show “Dance Moms,” and their interactions with today’s diverse pool of students. The discussion will explore how to leverage these archetypes to meet the fundamental needs of Gen Z.


Planning, or “the ability to identify organizational needs and to initiate strategies aligned with the institutional mission, strategic direction, and values,” is an ACUI core competency because it provides a strategic framework for achieving goals. In “How We Created a New Esports Gaming Lounge,” Corbin Smyth of Northwestern University will walk participants through the many details involved in creating the Norris University Center’s new Nexus Gaming Lounge, including hardware, software, and game title selection, and space design and management. Participants will also receive a review of other gaming lounges for use in their own planning efforts.

Social Justice

ACUI places much emphasis on Social Justice, defined as “the ability to successfully seek understanding and respect for persons of all cultural, social, and ability identities; the work to create environments that foster inclusive participation of all groups and unconditional human worth, and to advocate for equity and social justice with and for all identities and communities through education, support, awareness, advocacy, and allocation of resources.”

In many states significant challenges impacting diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at public institutions of higher education have been witnessed. In the session “Navigating Legislative Challenges in Times of Change for Student Success“ student affairs leaders from two public institutions, one in Florida and one in Texas, discuss successfully maneuvering in and around the legislative landscape to ensure continued support for underrepresented student communities. Presented by current ACUI Board of Trustee members Keith Kowalka, University of Houston, and Dwayne Isaacs, University of Florida.

Student Learning

ACUI’s Student Learning core competency is defined as “The ability to create educational environments and experiences, grounded in theory and its application to practice, that intentionally provide students with opportunities for development.”

Chris “Sparky” Cvikota of Northwestern University will focus on the value that student employment has on one’s individual and professional development in “Mic Check 1, 2: Learning Outcomes for Student Employees in Technical Roles in Campus Venues.” Undergraduate students, new professionals, mid-level professionals, graduate students, and seasoned professionals alike will hear what learning outcomes students are achieving based on a nine-month master’s research study on the topic.

Excited for more? For a full directory of conference abstracts, visit https://events.rdmobile.com/Lists/Index/5433c228-5695-ee11-833f-066c9d773f8b. We cannot wait to see you in Denver!


  • Christine Preusler

    Christine Preusler, Managing Editor at The Wyman Company in Gainesville, Florida, writes The Lead for ACUI's biweekly newsletter, The Bulletin. Christine uses more than 15 years of experience in publication management and a master’s in mass communications from the University of Florida to highlight the latest industry news and create thought-provoking content. Contact her via email (cpreusler@thewymancompany.com) with story ideas and announcements you'd like to see in the newsletter.

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