My Top 5 Session Picks for AMA Higher Ed 2017

Last year, I was honored to be named in Kristen Ingel’s list of selected 2016 AMA Higher Ed sessions. Kristen can’t make it to the conference this year (sad!),  so I’ve decided to choose my own. These represent the sessions that I’m most looking forward to, and I plan to attend all of them.

2017 AMA Higher Ed Top 5 Sessions

Selection Criteria

My “short list” had 14 sessions on it, which goes to show how great the agenda is this year! To narrow it down to five, I used the following criteria.

  • No more than one session per time slot
  • New and innovative concept in higher ed marking, or a fresh take on foundational marketing topics
  • Appealing to mid-level professionals like myself with 10+ years of experience in higher ed marketing
  • Data-driven or outcomes-focused


My Top 5 2017 AMA Higher Ed Session Choices

It’s probably not surprising that my top five come from the Digital Strategy and Market Intelligence tracks, with a few extended sessions thrown in. That’s where I spent most my time at the 2016 event. So, let’s get to it! (Sessions are listed in the order they appear in the program.)

Get in the Game: How Content Marketing Scored Siena College More Qualified Apps

Session Description: When Siena College got in the game of content marketing, we quickly realized: there’s much more to this buzzword than just creating content and hoping it gets read. Learn the five content marketing tactics we implemented from the start that boosted inquiries, applications, and deposits.


  • Ned Jones, Vice President for Enrollment Management, Siena College
  • Melissa Fiorenza, Senior Editor, CCA
  • Daniel Kehn, Vice President Strategy and Marketing, CCA
  • Allison Turcio, Director of Digital Recruitment, Siena College

My Thoughts

Content marketing is a double-whammy—it provides value and builds trust. And according to Siena College, it converts. I’m looking forward to this session not only for the content marketing tips, but hopefully learn how they correlated their content marketing tactics to the outcomes of inquiries, applications, and deposits.

Mythbusting Marketing: What Pieces of Your Marketing Mix Impact Student Decisions and Awareness

Session Description: What do you believe to be the best channels for boosting visibility among prospective teen students and encouraging them to apply to your institution? Our research reveals what teens really pay attention to and what’s most important to them and when — and what marketers know about their likes and dislikes.

  • Gil Rogers, Director of Marketing, NRCCUA
  • Michael Stoner, Co-founder/President, mStoner

My Thoughts

I missed out on Michael and Gil’s session last year because our session was scheduled at the same time. I’m looking forward to the third installment of the myth busting series, in part because I participated in the research with marketers. They do a really good job of presenting robust data that forces marketers to confront their biases and listen to the voices of their customers.

Athletic Brands Vs. Academic Brands

Session Description: It’s a constant blurred line. But as this evolution toward unification accelerates, a major issue remains: what should the relationship be between athletics and the rest of the institution which can include the academy, research organization, and in some cases academic medical centers. This diverse panel of senior marketing, branding and communications practitioners will tackle this issue by reviewing the current state of athletic/academic branding across the higher ed landscape and address some common challenges and opportunities.


  • Bill Faust, Managing Partner, Ologie
  • Dave Sonntag, Associate Vice President Marketing and Communications, Gonzaga University
  • Tracy Vosburgh, Senior Associate Vice President, Virginia Tech
  • Christie Harper, Assistant Vice President for University Marketing, California Lutheran University

My Thoughts

I’v been doing a lot of research lately into the online conversation about campuses. Particularly, small private campuses. One thing that surprised me is that amount of campus conversation that is dominated by athletics, even at schools that are not known for their academic programs. My hypothesis is that athletic stakes up much more mindshare for the higher ed audience than we ever expected. (I’m going to write more about this after examining some more data.) With this in mind, I’m very interested to hear from this panel on the current state of academic and athletic branding.

Learn from The Atlantic: How Your Marketing Team Can Act Like a Media Brand

Session Description: More and more, universities are finding themselves in the content business. They are asked to grow, engage, and convert audiences, and act like media companies. Discover how one university is transforming its traditional marketing office into a digital-savvy newsroom, with insights from the creative consultancy of The Atlantic.


  • Frannie Schneider, Marketing Consultant, St. Edward’s University
  • Jason Tomassini, Associate Director for Editorial, Atlantic Media Strategies

My Thoughts

You know I’m still thinking about Richard Edelman’s keynote from 2016, in which he mentioned that colleges can no longer rely on the media to spread their message and must instead become media companies themselves. It sounds like St. Edward’s University is pioneering this, and and I’m particularly excited to hear about the collaboration with The Atlantic.

Predict and Influence Student Conversion + Success Using CRM

Session Description: Learn how Franklin University synthesized data from multiple sources into CampusNexus® CRM to model recruitment and retention efforts. By joining demographic, behavioral, and historic data within the CRM, Admissions and Student Affairs predicted, prioritized and targeted students for proactive, impactful outreach.


  • Dr. Lynne Hull, Dean of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, Franklin University
  • Lyndsey Clark, CRM Business Analyst, Franklin University
  • Jess Skala, CRM Engagement Manager, Campus Management Corp.

My Thoughts

They had me at behavioral data and predictive modeling. From what I can tell, the staff at Franklin University have been all-in on CRM for awhile. I’m excited to hear more about their results, as long as this doesn’t turn into a commercial for a particular product.

What Sessions Are You Looking Forward To?

So, those are my top five. There are plenty of other fantastic sessions that I hope to get to. The 3:00 slot on Monday looks particularly impressive! Take a look at the schedule and let me know what sessions stand out to you, and why.

Note: AMA asked me if I would be interested in taking part in a trial influencer program for this year’s conference. I accepted, because I was talking about the conference all the time anyway. All the thoughts shared in this post are authentically mine – they’re based on my actual notes from the conference. In exchange for participating in the influencer program, AMA is providing me with one free year of membership.

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