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Higher Education Symposium Features Unique Blend of Academics and Fun for Alumni

An article recapping the 2008 HEPAC Symposium

About 80 alumni of Penn State’s Higher Education program came together in June to participate in the program’s first alumni symposium. The event, held June 27–29, proved to be a weekend of learning, laughter, and remembrance.

dooris.jpgThe symposium, organized by the Higher Education Program Alumni Council (HEPAC), featured a unique mix of business and leisure that set it apart from most other academic conferences. The blend proved to be popular among the attendees.

“It was a big hit,” said Mike Dooris, associate professor of higher education and president of HEPAC. “The symposium hit a nice balance between two kinds of goals—it had the professional elements of a true symposium, and it was an enjoyable social opportunity for old friends to reconnect and have fun.”

Titled 
“Penn State’s Higher Education Program: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow,”
 the HEPAC Symposium brought together higher education graduate students with faculty members and Penn State higher alumni—scholars and practitioners from around the country—to share observations and perceptions about issues, trends, challenges, and opportunities in the field of higher education. The program included eight formal presentations and a keynote panel discussion.

The symposium’s social aspect was quite evident. “To open the conference, we played a higher education Jeopardy game in the time slot that more typically would have gone to a plenary session speaker—and that was just a laugh riot,” Dooris noted.

Other fun activities included an evening ice cream social at Berkey Creamery and whiffleball on the Old Main lawn.

“The weekend was a summary of our program’s strengths,” said Susan Richardson, HEPAC vice president and chair of the symposium planning committee. “Yes, we are about excellence in the research and practice of higher education, but I think that our group also possesses a joy about being together.

“This was a team effort with our co-sponsors—the College of Education and the Alumni Association,” added Richardson. “Roger Williams and his staff at the Alumni Association, as well as Ellie Dietrich's staff, most especially Craig Eozzo and Wanda Wasilko, helped us with everything.”

This event was the first symposium organized by HEPAC. Interest appears strong for a follow-up symposium. “We don’t have a timeframe, but I think an event like this every three to five years would be similarly well attended and successful,” said Dooris.

The purpose of HEPAC is to unite and facilitate interaction among and between the constituencies of the Higher Education program. HEPAC is one of six affiliated program groups (APGs) that are chartered in the College of Education. An APG is a university-recognized group of alumni who are focused on a specific academic program or population within a College.