HighEdWeb makes me cry.

I leave HighEdWeb in tears. Every year.

HighEdWeb volunteers work on packing up after the conference

I worked in broadcast journalism for eleven years before joining higher education in 2014. News is a challenging field for self-identifying optimists like me. In graduate school, a beloved professor once told our class that reporters “don’t cover houses that don’t burn.”

Harsh. But true.

If news burnt me out, the move to higher ed reignited me. I found serving prospective and current students, and alumni, rewarding. And there was so much to learn! So in 2016, I registered for my first HighEdWeb conference in Memphis. I hoped to hear new ideas about admissions marketing, learn about giving day campaigns, and discover new-to-me aspects of web design. My goal was to leave the conference with a few new ideas and best practices. That’s it.

I never expected to find all of those things and a professional home.

Here’s what I really learned at my first HighEdWeb: the community is brilliant and thoughtful. Members overflow with kindness, compassion, and encouragement. They’re selfless. They share. They lift each other up. At no other point in my life have I felt so inspired by the work of my peers yet so validated that my work matters, too. Sessions deliver incredible ideas and spontaneous conversations between sessions lead to new friendships.

Brendan seated at a session during HighEdWeb ’19

A few days of conference goes by so fast but means so much. Each year I’m overwhelmed by gratitude for time well spent with an extraordinary community and sadness for how short that time actually was. It’s emotional. I get misty-eyed.

So yes, HighEdWeb makes me cry. I can’t help it when surrounded by so many kind-hearted, supportive, and brilliant superstars.

I hope you’ll join me next year in Little Rock and experience it all for yourself.

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