2021 speakers Series recap

Below is the line up for the virtual 2021 Speakers Series, hosted by the National Student Success Conference in spring 2021 to keep the student success conversation flowing during the global pandemic. We are looking forward to offering an equally dynamic line up for Speaker Series 2022.


January 2021

That’s What We Reckon: Observations on Efforts to Equitably Transform
Student Success in the Present and Future

This session will provide participants with perspectives gleaned by two student success experts through their respective and collective work with hundreds of institutions both before and during the pandemic. The two panelists, Drew Koch of the Gardner Institute and Charlie Nutt of NACADA, will focus on ways in which efforts to improve academic advising, course and curriculum redesign, and other higher education systems have and have not succeeded in the past and present, and what these outcomes might mean for the future of equitable redesign of the undergraduate experience. Part interview, part “Ask the experts,” the 60-minute session will allow the two panelists to share responses to the moderator’s and the audience’s questions alike. Join this interactive discussion to learn more about and shape the conversation about equitable approaches to student success.


Drew Koche photo

Dr. Drew Koch, President and Chief Operating Officer, Gardner Institute

Charlie Nutt Photo

Dr. Charlie NuttExecutive Director, NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising

Melissa Irvin image

Dr. Melissa Irvin (moderator), Assistant Dean of Advising & Analytics, University of South Florida


February 2021

Re-Imagining Higher Education to be Latinx and URM Responsive:
Developing Asset Based Approaches to Support Students

This session will provide an overview of some of the critical challenges students of color have faced in this COVID pandemic, while also bringing to light persistent inequities that first generation, Latinx and URM students experience in their academic journeys. This particular socio-political moment calls for a critical examination of approaches to pedagogy, financial support, student academic supports and interpersonal services. Culturally relevant approaches to serving diverse first generation students using equity focused and asset based frameworks are necessary for higher education institutions and systems that strive to remain relevant in this changing postsecondary context. This session highlights how to translate these frameworks into practice.


Frances Contreras photo

Dr. Frances Contreras, Associate Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and Professor of Education Studies, University of California San Diego


March 2021

A Look into the Crystal Ball:
How Financial Aid Will Change in the Near Future and Beyond

The ongoing COVID crisis and the election of President Joe Biden has ushered in a rapidly changing higher education landscape. Nowhere else does that change seem to be as paramount as in evolving strategies and changes to Federal Financial Aid. This session will allow a panel of leaders in financial aid participants to communicate their thoughts and predictions on what the next few years will bring for students trying to fund their education during interesting times.


Justin Draeger photo

Justin Draeger, President and CEO, National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators

Charleita Richardson photo

Charleita Richardson, Executive Director, Florida College Access Network (FCAN)

Brent Tener photo

Brent Tener, Director of Student Financial Aid, Vanderbilt University

Braulio Colon photo

Braulio Colon, Vice President, Florida Student Success Initiatives, Helios Education Foundation

Billie Jo Hamilton photo

Billie Jo Hamilton (moderator), Associate Vice President - Enrollment Planning and Management, University of South Florida 


April 2021

Academic Advocacy as a Holistic Support through the Student Lifecycle:
A Model for Student Success

From early implementation of a coordinated care model to addressing critical institutional transitions, the integration of data-informed outreach allows Academic Advocates to meet students where they are and connect them to the network of support services for increased student persistence and graduation. This session highlights the Academic Advocacy model applied to student success efforts at the University of South Florida and the University of Maryland Baltimore County.


Amanda Knapp photo

Dr. Amanda Knapp, Associate Vice Provost and Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Academic Affairs, University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC)

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Leslie Tod, Director - Office of Academic Advocacy, University of South Florida

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Dr. Michelle Bombaugh, Instructor - Higher Education & Student Affairs, College of Education, University of South Florida

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Dr. Delana Gregg, Director of Academic Learning Resources, Assessment, and Analysis, University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC)

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Kim Williams, Data Manager - Office of Academic Advocacy, University of South Florida

May 2021

The Future of Higher Education

What are the major forces reshaping higher education?  In this session, Dr. Alexander begins by examining how digital technologies and tech-enabled practices are already transforming the academy, from data analytics to open access, AI, and ubiquitous computing. Next, we consider other change drivers, including some from outside higher ed: demographics, macroeconomics, and geopolitics. Other drivers at work within academia are also discussed, such as changing enrollment and new commitments to both better learning and racial justice. The presentation concludes by imagining future colleges and universities.


Bryan Alexander photo

Dr. Bryan Alexander, futurist, researcher, writer, speaker, consultant, and teacher