As summer slowly winds down, we at Symplicity are reflecting on the tremendous virtual Symposiums we held over the past couple months for our CSM, Accommodate, and Advocate clients. Combined, the three events saw a total of 1500+ registered attendees across 500+ institutions worldwide! While the uncertainty of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic led us to continue holding our events virtually, client attendees across the three symposiums were still able to connect and learn from each other and Symplicity support staff through product trainings, best practices, panel discussions on the unique issues facing higher education, and networking via virtual meetups and discussion boards.
Symplicity clients can now access session recordings from each event in the Symplicity Help Center. Read below for some additional highlights from each symposium!
Each symposium kicked off with welcome remarks from Symplicity President & CEO Matt Small, highlighting the significant accomplishments of our clients during a year of unprecedented challenges. Small noted that as offices were navigating the impact of COVID-19, forcing many institutions to go virtual, Symplicity products underwent swift advancements to meet our client’s needs from virtual career fairs, implementing enhanced reporting tools, improving user experiences, and building tools for better communication and collaboration with colleagues and students across campuses.
On behalf of the entire Symplicity team, we want to thank all of our presenters and attendees for a great summer of learning and sharing and look forward to continued collaboration throughout the rest of the year and into 2022!
CSM Symposium – June 15 - 16
Reopening was the focus for CSM Symposium ‘21 along with the specific challenges for different types of institutions and regions across the globe. The event kicked off with an opening panel discussion on the future of campus recruiting and reopening, featuring an all-star panel:
- Mike Nietzel, former Missouri State University President and Senior Contributor for Forbes;
- Allynn Powell, Associate Director of Professional Preparation at the University of Maryland;
- Vince Marigna, Executive Director for Newark at Braven Network; and
- Ray Angle, Assistant Vice President of Career and Professional Development at Gonzaga University
The panelists highlighted the significant changes that higher education has undergone in the last year and a half, including the necessity for universities to invest in career services which, as Powell stated is at the epicenter of providing students with “equitable access to connections and experiences regardless of background and social capital… Our work remains the same, but is all about building strong partnerships across campuses and creating champions for our work.”
In particular, Dr. Nietzel stressed that the pandemic accelerated the changes many were already seeing within higher education due to expanded competition and employer provided education, growing distrust of higher education institutions, short-term credentials, and more. Nietzel urged universities to focus on the issues of “access and affordability” and that if he were the President of a university now, he would put money into mental health services and second, “the career services office to boost it, give it more of a presence, allow it to be integrated earlier on…” All panelists emphasized that the career services office can be at the forefront of change to democratizing the job market and increase the value of higher education.
Throughout the rest of the event attendees from community colleges, law schools, the UK & Europe, Brazil, and Latin America had the chance to meet together to hear from their colleagues and discuss new ways to meet the needs of their students with their CSM system. Clients also engaged in workshops and showcases to deep dive on the various tools within CSM.
Finally, we closed out the event with a conversation on accessibility in career services in a session entitled, “Careers for All: The Necessity of Building an Inclusive Workforce.” Symplicity Client Manager Sue Walker (or as we like to call her at Symplicity “Mama Sue,”) acted as moderator and was joined by Carlos Taylor and Tonya Gaskins. Taylor, program manager at the Gregory Fehribach Center which provides internships for students with disabilities, and who himself is legally blind, reflected on his experience navigating his own career journey and the work and outcomes of the center. Meanwhile Gaskins, Assistant Dean of Career and Professional Development at The Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law described the challenges involved with advocating and supporting a student’s career journey as a parent of a child with a disability. Both argued the necessity for building an inclusive workforce, and how career services professionals can support their disabled student populations holistically.
Accommodate Symposium – July 13
Accommodate Symposium ‘21 featured focused sessions on the most anticipated challenges in the return to campus including flexible accommodations & the interactive process and collaboration involving students, faculty, and offices, reporting and data, and use cases for different accommodation requests. As one client said, “Each workshop was incredibly informative. I am new to using Accommodate and all of the information was not only helpful, but it was presented in a very engaging manner. I really enjoyed the panel sessions as well.”
Along with trainings and client best practice panels, the event concluded with a discussion on intersectionality in disability services. Panelists included researchers and Accommodate users discussing ways to support disabled students and their multiple identities whether it be by race, ethnicity, socio-economic class, gender, neurodivergence, and much more. Moderated by our own Symplicity Client Manager Holly Zuckerman, our panelists included:
- Birshari Green Cox, Assistant Director of Clinical Services at North Carolina Central University;
- Stacey Harris, J.D., Associate Director of Disability and Access Services at Boston University; and
- Jamie Butler, Mosaic Campus Coordinator at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
As Harris noted, “there is no cookie cutter way, whether you are first gen, a queer kid, etc. there is no one way to handle a certain population, so it’s our job to create a web of support… Our job is to create partnerships and dispel myths and stigma.” The panel addressed the necessity to support not only students, but staff as well in the wake of COVID-19, and that one silver lining of the pandemic is that it opened a lot of conversations on what is accessible to students that will hopefully continue as things “return to normal.”
Overall, the entire Accommodate Symposium was a great event with one attendee noting that it gave them, “a renewed enthusiasm and sense of camaraderie” and we look forward to carrying that energy into future Accommodate events!
Advocate Symposium – July 27
Our final event of the season was Advocate Symposium ‘21 which featured training sessions, best practices for CARE and Title IX case management, a virtual meet and greet, and a panel discussion focused on reopening and students returning to campus this fall. With student mental health and behavioral issues expected to rise this fall as many students struggled during the pandemic, we convened a panel of conduct, care, and support services experts to discuss how to prepare that included:
- Suzie Baker, Senior Assistant Dean of Students and Director of the COVID-19 Student Care Hub at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill;
- Carrie Smith, Assistant Dean of Students for Student Care and Outreach at University of Georgia;
- Mays Imad, Professor at Pima Community College and Coordinator of the Teaching and Learning Center at Pima Community College; The Chronicle of Higher Education; and
- Rosanna Curti, Assistant Dean of Students, Student Assistance and Accountability at University of Arizona
The panelists each addressed the ways that their university had responded to COVID-19, the increase in mental health support requested by students, and how they are each preparing for what will likely be a challenging fall semester. Dr. Imad addressed the challenges faced by institutions and the collective processing of the trauma of the pandemic, working from home, challenges faced by the economy, and our overall mental wellbeing. The rest of the panel discussed these issues while recognizing that this fall will see essentially two “freshmen” classes: one that just finished their senior year of high school fully online, and another that attended their first year of university virtually while missing out on many of the traditional activities that come with being a freshman on campus. The discussion allowed attendees to reflect on the challenges and successes of the past year and help encourage and prepare them to support not only their students, but themselves as well.