SEM Conference - Conference Leaders Perspective

November 14, 2022
  • SEM Conference
  • SEM Leadership
  • 2022 SEM Conference
Photograph of outgoing SEM Conference director Clayton Smith speaking in front of an audience.

We recently welcomed AACRAO's new SEM Conference Director, Jack Miner, to the position and spent some time speaking with him and Clayton Smith, former SEM Conference Director, about their experience with the Conference, renewed focus, and hopes for the Conference going forward. Mr. Smith commented on his tenure as SEM Conference Director saying:

For the past six years, it has been my pleasure to serve as director of the AACRAO Strategic Enrollment Management Conference as we made stops throughout North America in Phoenix, Dallas, Washington DC, Miami, and Toronto, as well as a virtual conference along the way. Working with a strong cadre of AACRAO staff and members from throughout the land, I have enjoyed every moment. With an enrollment career that has taken me from student recruitment, marketing, and outreach to student retention, student affairs, academic governance, and internationalization, and now as a faculty member, I see my time as director of the SEM Conference to be the capstone achievement of my 36 years in AACRAO. As I continue my work as editor-in-chief of SEM Quarterly, I will remember these years with great fondness.

When asked about the changes he envisioned when originally accepting the role of SEM Conference Director, Mr. Smith commented:

When I accepted this role, I committed to “apply SEM to SEM.” This led us to develop a broad-based and deep environmental scan that allowed for the conference to develop to attract conference participants from nearly every walk of life in higher education, from enrollment managers to student affairs professionals, faculty, vice presidents, and presidents. I am especially proud of our strong Canadian presence and the growing number of folks from around the world that have chosen to join us at SEM each year.

Perhaps the thing that I am most proud of is our growing commitment to social justice, equity, diversity, inclusion, and decolonization. I remember, at the closing of our 2020 virtual conference, we asked those who could to commit to social justice, which has had a lasting impact on so many of us. We also added the practice of doing a land acknowledgment at the conference opening, recognizing the land we stand on is Indigenous land. And in Toronto, we open with a session delivered by two Canadian colleagues that brings forward a conversation on equity and unconscious bias. I am hopeful that our concern for those without privilege will continue to guide us as we look to enhance SEM in the days to come.

Jack, who will be taking over as Director next year at the 33rd annual SEM meeting, shared his unique journey into the field and the opportunities conference attendance had on his understanding and implementation of SEM saying:

As I move into the SEM Director role, I can’t help but reflect on how I am a product of this conference. While I have been active in AACRAO for more than 25 years, I came into a Senior Enrollment Manager role through a fairly unusual pathway. Most of you know that I spent the bulk of my career in the Registrar’s Office including more recently serving as University Registrar at The Ohio State University. 

I mention my pathway for two reasons…first as a reminder that the SEM profession is continuing to evolve. It is so critical to have conversations about everyone’s role in student success and enrollment management. Second, it is important to recognize the value that SEM has had for me. This conference has been an incredible opportunity for me to expand my knowledge and understanding of the field.

Continuing, Jack spoke on his outlook and goals for the SEM Conference going forward and what he hopes to achieve during his tenure:

When I think about my goals for SEM in the coming years, they are rooted in those principles. First, my goal is to expand the reach of SEM. I want to see the identity of SEM go beyond the traditional AACRAO reach and become an opportunity for partnerships across all of the enrollment and student-focused areas of higher education. I want us to be THE premier enrollment management conference. I also want to use the SEM meeting as an opportunity to grow our profession. I want to see us not only as a vehicle for the development and training of new SEM professionals but also as an opportunity to expand the value of enrollment management on our campuses and within higher education.

I want to share an enormous thanks and recognition of Clayton for building SEM into such a foundational part of our profession but also for those before him who created this meeting as an opportunity to strengthen the role of enrollment management within higher education.

The 2022 AACRAO SEM Conference is happening now in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. If you weren't able to attend, stay up-to-date by reading our member-supported LIVE from SEM series covering various sessions throughout the conference in this and upcoming issues of AACRAO Connect.