Last week I attended the NACAC (National Association for College Admissions Counselors) annual conference in Denver. It was my first time attending the conference and I loved it—and not just because I woke up to snow one morning and the other morning had the most phenomenal mini-doughnuts at a funky breakfast-all-day joint called Jelly. I always enjoy presenting to practitioners because I believe they are an invaluable gauge as to if what we are researching, writing about, and creating is meaningful. I was quickly struck by how engaged NACAC attendees were. The conference was incredibly well organized with relevant sessions and a buzzing exhibition hall.
I presented on two sessions, one focused on games and technology for college access and the other highlighting the Pullias Center’s SummerTIME Writing Program. It just so happened that the keynote speaker for the conference was Jane McGonigal, a self-described “futurist” and game designer. She walked the audience through the potential of games to foster critical thinking, learning, and engagement. Knowing that our session on games was set to follow the keynote, my colleagues—Diane Yoon from Pullias, Leslie Aaronson from Foshay Learning Center, and Alison DeLucca from SoCalCan—and I had to stifle a giggle or two as she set the foundation for what we were going to discuss.
We are about to launch Mission: Admission to a national audience at the end of the month—so I was particularly excited to share the project and solicit volunteers to pilot test the game in their schools and organizations. You know how after a presentation, if you’ve shared something the audience believes is helpful, a handful of people approach the podium to discuss the talk? Well, this NACAC crowd had a much more active approach. We had about 50 audience members (of approximately 250) come up to us after the session, offering business cards, ideas, and enthusiasm for the project. After our talk about SummerTIME, we also had many people approach the panelists to ask follow-up questions. My initial reaction to the conference attendees was reiterated though these interactions—you could tell that the practitioners shared a deep, heartfelt commitment to improving college access and college completion rates. With the challenges facing postsecondary institutions due to budget cuts and fewer opportunities for students interesting in pursuing college, their concern and enthusiasm was almost tangible. I am hopeful that Mission: Admission will be a useful tool in the toolkits—and I look forward to attending NACAC again next year.