(All times listed are in the eastern time zone)

Wednesday, Feb 17
Time Session
12:00 pm–1:00 pm New to NAACO Pre-Conference

This program is intended for first time conference attendees and current members who elected during registration to participate in the Conference Cohort program*. During this program you’ll learn about NAACO as an organization, participate in networking breakout rooms, and hear more about the conference platform, Pathable. All first-time attendees are strongly encouraged to attend.

*Conference Cohorts will be contacted prior to the program. The deadline to participate in Conference Cohorts is January 22. If you are interested in being part of a cohort but did not select this during registration, please email to update your registration. Cohort participation is not required to attend the New to NAACO Pre-Conference.

Monday, Feb 22
Time Session Session Speaker(s)
11:00 am–11:10 am Opening Remarks
11:10 am–11:20 am Graduation Ceremony
11:20 am–11:30 am Welcome
11:30 am–12:30 pm Opening Keynote

How can we make gatherings more meaningful? The power of ritual can transform an ordinary gathering into a source of meaning and connection. Join Harvard Divinity School fellow Casper ter Kuile to explore how to create extra impact and depth in ceremonies and gatherings large and small through the power of ritual.

Casper ter Kuile
12:30 pm–1:00 pm Break/Corporate Showcase
1:00 pm–1:45 pm Educational Sessions  (If you are not in the Certificate Program, you may attend any session you like.)
Certificate Program Year 1 Welcoming a New Indigenous Chancellor

The University of British Columbia appointed its first Indigenous Chancellor, Hon. Steven Point, OBC, on July 1, 2020. Based on a fall 2020 installation date, ongoing work continued toward this deadline to Indigenize The University of British Columbia’s academic regalia for systemwide senior administrators, including the Chancellor and President. Teams also worked to carefully blend university traditions and academic protocols with Indigenous culture and protocols, reflecting the university’s two Host First Nations—Musqueam and Syilx Okanagan—and the Chancellor’s own traditions from the Skowkale First Nation. Join us to hear about the process behind the work, stakeholder engagement and community consultation, planning for this unique and special ceremony (further made unique as a result of the pandemic), and more.

Eilis Courtney, Liaison, Musqueam-UBC Special Projects, The University of British Columbia
Liz King, Director, Ceremonies and Events, The University of British Columbia
Certificate Program Year 2 University of Blockeley: Commencement as a Minecraft Extravaganza

A Minecraft Ceremony? What on earth is that? Join for some lessons learned from a Minecraft commencement, including how to be nimble and adapt traditions in a digital world, survive technical challenges, manage national media attention, blending live and recorded parts and how my 14-year-old saved the day! Lots of tips you can apply to any virtual ceremony.

Maya Goehring-Harris, Director, External Relations, UC Berkeley
Put the Pomp in your Virtual Circumstance

The W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University celebrated graduates beyond the virtual ceremony. We will review how we designed and mailed more than 3,000 custom celebration kits; used a local production company to produce Club Carey, a live virtual “after party” featuring a DJ and hundreds of graduates; created virtual ConGRADS cards where faculty, staff, family members, and alumni could leave well wishes; and virtually recorded student memories for our convocation year in review video.

Liz Schaefer, Special Events Manager, Arizona State University
1:45 pm–2:00 pm Break/Corporate Showcase
2:00 pm–2:30 pm Ignite! Sessions
2:30 pm–3:15 pm Educational Sessions (If you are not in the Certificate Program, you may attend any session you like.)
Certificate Program Year 1 Investiture in 60 Days

Georgia Tech’s new President started on September 1. His Investiture was Oct. 28, giving the events team 58 days to plan the event. When time is a factor, how do you compress planning without sacrificing quality? Learn how Georgia Tech leaned into campus partners, virtual resources, and the NAACO network to execute a memorable event.

Serena Wallace, Institute Event Manager, Georgia Tech
Certificate Program Year 2 Contingency Planning, Because “Stuff” Happens!

If every event went smoothly, our jobs as event planners might be easy. Instead, we need to be creative and resourceful multi-taskers who run really fast behind the scenes and in the dark. Contingency planning prepares us to run in the dark!

This session is for you, whether your event is virtual or in-person, indoors or outside and no matter the size. Learn how to plan for the unexpected, open up to possibilities, build a team of support and message out the optional plans in advance. Come turn on the flashlight to the unforeseen and be more confident for your next event.

Mary Beth Rehrer, Manager of Special Events and Programs, Rutgers University
Finding a Virtual Solution in a COVID World – How Gonzaga Utilized A Virtual Celebration as New Alumni Engagement

Like many universities during the pandemic, Gonzaga faced the realization that a traditional commencement wasn’t going to happen. With only a short amount of time to pivot, Gonzaga partnered with StageClip to develop a personal plan for successfully recognizing graduates with a high-quality experience. Find out about the hurdles of internal concerns, the detailed planning process, and how working with an outside vendor changed the “normal” but ultimately made things easier than expected. The results offered exciting new opportunities for engagement that also served institutional needs beyond the normal commencement expectations

Matthew Redd, VP of Sales/Marketing and Strategic Partnerships, Stage Clip
Angela Ruff, Manager of Academic Events, Gonzaga University
Planning for Commencement During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic brought forth challenges to every college campus, particularly regarding the manner in which we hold classes and events. This session will detail how Texas State University planned and implemented commencement ceremonies to honor nearly 10,000 spring, summer, and fall 2020 graduates.

Kristin McDaniel, Commencement Coordinator, Texas State University
Dr. Vedaraman Sriraman, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, Texas State University
3:20 pm–3:30 pm Daily Wrap Up
Tuesday, Feb 23
Time Session Session Speaker(s)
11:30 am–12:45 pm Pre-session Commercial Corners
1:00 pm–1:10 pm Opening Remarks
1:10 pm–1:55 pm Educational Sessions If you are not in the certificate program, you may attend any session you like.
Certificate Program Year 1 Accessibility, Inclusion, and Allyship—A Case Study of BCIT’s Distinguished Awards Gala 2019

In Fall 2019, the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), located in the Pacific Northwest, had the honor of being one of first academic institutions in Canada to celebrate a deaf award recipient at a signature event. BCIT will present the story of this journey taken with their alumni recipient, Jamie Finley, research assistant in applied research. Along the way, there were some missteps, successes, opportunities, and learnings. We would like to share with you the importance of being an ally and present some best practices in accessibility.

Melissa Picher Kelly, Manager, Events and Experiential Marketing and Communications, British Columbia Institute of Technology
Ali Siemens, Manager, Alumni Relations, British Columbia Institute of Technology
Certificate Program Year 2 The Camera as Microscope

The camera, which is our way into the virtual world, is a microscope that exposes and elevates visual elements in a much more intimate way. Because of this, translating the ritual and traditions of graduation into a virtual environment can be tricky. As event planners, we need to be aware of some pitfalls and address the camera as a medium as we plan virtual ceremonies and/or celebrations. This session will investigate the camera’s revealing perspective. Using tangible visual elements, you’ll consider how videography impacts an audience and take away several tips and tricks to leverage the medium for a better quality viewer experience.

Zarrah Holvick, Ceremonies and Protocol Officer, University of Northern British Columbia
What’s the Contingency Plan for the Contingency Plan?: Planning for the Expected and the Unexpected

What might derail a commencement ceremony? A bomb threat, a natural disaster, having more guests than expected, a global pandemic? Planning for the expected is hard enough, but as commencement officers, we must plan for both the expected and unexpected, modifying plans and developing contingency plans for the contingency plans. We knew we had limited accessibility parking options, but what we didn’t expect was for the elevator to stop working in the middle of a ceremony. We expected to have an extra ceremony, but we didn’t expect the Chancellor to lose her voice after one. Learn how Western Carolina University commencement officers have learned from these and other surprises to improve planning and response for a variety of circumstances.

Dr. Lowell K. Davis, Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Scueess, Western Carolina University
April Newland, Conferral Specialist, Western Carolina University
Amelia Schlott, Senior Assistant Registrar for Technology and Graduation, Western Carolina University
2:00 pm–2:30 pm Roundtable Discussions/Networking
2:30 pm–3:00 pm Break/Corporate Showcase
3:00 pm–4:00 pm Workshop: Tips for Event Risk Management. The Method Behind the Madness

So you want to create a risk management plan. The question is, where do you start? That is certainly a loaded question, with a lot of answers depending on who you talk too. The Robson Risk Management Model (RRMM) was created to give you guidance on how to create a risk management plan that is personalized and customized for your events. This TED-talk style presentation will use tips as a jumping off point to discuss your concerns and experiences.

Dr. Linda Robson
4:00 pm–4:15 pm Break/Corporate Showcase
4:15 pm–4:50 pm Roundtable Discussions/Networking
4:50 pm–5:00 pm Closing Remarks
5:30 pm-6:30 pm Brag and Brew Join our poster presenters for a conversation on what they did in 2020 and gather new ideas for 2021!
Wednesday, Feb 24
Time Session Session Speaker(s)
9:30 am–10:45 am Pre-session Commercial Corners
11:00 am–11:10 am Good Day NAACO
11:10 am–12:00 pm Panel – Safety & Security

Dominic Housiaux (Lankey & Limey Ltd.), Janet Sellery (Sellery Health + Safety/Event Safety Alliance Canada), and Eric Stuart (Gentian Events/Chair, U.K. Crowd Management Association) will talk about how to keep faculty, graduates, and their loved ones safe during convocation celebrations.

We would love to pretend COVID-19 never happened, but unfortunately it did. But at the same time, none of the other risks have gone away!
There is no doubt that COVID has changed live events and may continue to do so for years to come, but live events have always had to adapt to new risks, and COVID is simply the latest.

Join us as we discuss the “new normal”—you may be surprised by how familiar it all sounds.

In the final analysis, COVID-19 may be the catalyst for safer events for everyone.

– Dominic Housiaux, Principal, Lankey & Limey Ltd.
– Janet Sellery, Health & Safety Consultant, Sellery Health & Safety
– Eric Stuart, QPM, BA, Director, Gentian Events
12:00 pm–12:30 pm Break/Corporate Showcase
12:30 pm–1:30 pm Educational Sessions If you are not in the certificate program, you may attend any session you like.
Certificate Program Year 2 Psychology of Crowds

This session will briefly attempt in one hour to dismantle the human brain and its operating systems during emergencies. Yes, an impossible task, so this will not be a deep dive—we can barely do that in the two-day training course.

However, we will examine what drives our behavior, particularly if we panic in an emergency, and how we as organizers can use tools to influence crowds to react more safely.

Enhancing the Graduation Experience 2.0

The 2020 graduation experience was unlike any we have seen. With it, brought multiple opportunities for collaboration, creativity and new tactics to extend the university brand. Learn how the University of Guelph shifted its view of convocation to create additional touch points, higher engagement, and increased audience satisfaction. Through experiential interactions and social media engagement University of Guelph extended the experience beyond a single moment, building a stronger alumni connection and increasing the impact for all stakeholders.

Aaron Miller, Director, Marketing and Digital Engagement, University of Guelph
Virtual or Hybrid? Which Is Best for Honoring Your Graduates?

In February 2020, pre-COVID, Purdue Global experimented for the first time with having a 360° virtual graduation experience for those graduates who could not attend the in-person ceremony in Los Angeles. By spring 2020, the graduation had gone online in a 100% virtual environment. In planning for the December 2020 graduation, Global utilized third-party software to streamline their registration and prepare for their ceremony. This session will cover how the institution moved from live in-person ceremonies to live virtual ceremonies and the plans they are taking to produce hybrid ceremonies in the future.

Mark Hommerding, Business Development, North America, GradPak
Beth Smith, Sr. Campaign Manager, Purdue University Global
1:30 pm–2:00 pm Ignite! Session
2:00 pm–2:45 pm Educational Sessions If you are not in the certificate program, you may attend any session you like.
Certificate Program Year 1 Commencement During COVID—Navigating Ceremonies at a Safe Distance

William Paterson University in New Jersey held multiple in-person ceremonies in August 2020 under state-mandated restrictions for commencement ceremonies during the COVID pandemic. The university was the first school to collaborate with MarchingOrder to implement their various touchless ceremony solutions to comply with the mandated restrictions. In this session, we will review those restrictions and how MarchingOrder’s touchless solutions were implemented and streamlined our processes.

Rebecca Alptekin, Vice President of Client Relations, MarchingOrder
Pamela Fueshko, Director Technology Services, William Paterson University of New Jersey
Fernann Yozviak, Director of Sales and Marketing, MarchingOrder
Certificate Program Year 2 Reimagining Honorary Degree Conferrals in a Virtual World

2020 provided post-secondary institutions around the world with an opportunity to reimagine time-honored traditions and prestigious honors. At The University of British Columbia, teams across the system came together to creatively honor and pay tribute to 16 honorary degree recipients who accepted the honor pre-pandemic, imagining an in-person ceremony and celebrations on one campus or another—and ended up being recognized all together, virtually, and over the course of several weeks and months. Liz King and Alanna Vernon will share the guiding principles they established to help influence their planning through a three-part process to honor 2020 UBC honorary degree recipients from the Vancouver and Okanagan campuses. Join them as they share the ins and outs of special mailings, tricky problems and creative solutions, digital content, and more!

Liz King, Director, Ceremonies and Events, The University of British Columbia
Alanna Vernon, Associate Director, The University of British Columbia’s Okanagan Campus
Social Media – The Virtual Event Differentiator

On July 18, 2020, Walden University celebrated its first Virtual Graduate Celebration. As an element to the celebration, a Facebook event was created alongside the registration to foster engagement and connectivity, provide updates, and answer graduate questions. Since then, we were able to apply our learnings to our 64th Commencement Ceremony on February 6, 2021. In this session, we will cover how we partnered with the social media team, including getting their buy-in for support; how we promoted this element of the event; the impact of the Facebook event, including metrics; and some key takeaways and lessons learned. Join us for a cohesive overview and come prepared with questions of your own. After this session, you will have a better understanding of how you might be able to partner with your social media teams or implement some social media elements on your own, and how this can be a point of differentiation for your virtual event.

Jessica Hicks, Events Manager, Walden University
Monica Nelson, Senior Events Manager, Walden University
2:50 pm–3:00 pm Daily Wrap Up
3:00 pm–4:00 pm New to NAACO Happy Hour

Whether this is your first conference or your tenth, join in on the fun and help welcome the newest conference attendees with an hour of conversation. Select your topic of choice from the list and join the chat. Feel free to jump between chats and stay as long as you’d like.

Chat Room Topics 

  • Quarantine War Stories
  • Favorite Recipes; drinks, food, blog tips, etc.
  • Hobbies picked up over the past year
  • Conference or Commencement conversation
    What are you looking forward to doing in the “new normal”
  • You decide the topic!
Thursday, Feb 25
Time Session Session Speaker(s)
11:30 am–12:45 pm Pre-session Commercial Corners
1:00 pm–1:10 pm Good Day NAACO
1:10 pm–1:40 pm Membership Meeting
1:45 pm–2:45 pm Educational Sessions If you are not in the certificate program, you may attend any session you like.
Certificate Program Year 1 Fundamentals: Names, Titles, and Forms of Address

Every event professional needs to be knowledgeable about forms of address. This session will focus on written forms of address (e.g., in a program) and how to formally say the names of officials who are recognized from the stage. Included will be use of honorifics, ranks, and courtesy titles, including “The Honorable” with U.S. officials and “The Honourable” with Canadian officials. We will also cover formal use of titles and ranks with former officials; punctuation and abbreviations; and names on name badges, place cards, and tent cards.

This session will be of interest not only to those new to their job but also to more experienced professionals with questions on how to formally address their official guests

– Robert Hickey, Deputy Director, The Protocol School of Washington
Certificate Program Year 2 Transitioning to Digital Diploma Services

Transitioning from print-only diploma setup to incorporate secure .PDF digital diplomas requires a campus to address a number of considerations to ensure that students receive documents of equal quality in both formats. This session will detail how The University of Texas at Tyler navigated this process, with information on decisions that had to be made throughout the process and lessons learned.

Julie Anderson, Commencement, Graduation & Athletic Certification Coordinator, The University of Texas at Tyler
Dr. Sam Carrell, Associate Registrar for Graduation, Curriculum, and Policy, The University of Texas at Tyler
Preserving Tradition and Embracing Inclusion: A Conversation

Academic ceremonies are steeped in tradition and history, and the symbols that are included in them offer a way for institutions to communicate their values. From ceremonial maces to regalia and beyond, do these symbols always say what we intend for them to say? Join Liz McMahan in a conversation about how we as academic ceremonies professionals can help identify gaps in accessibility and advance the conversation about inclusivity at our institutions. Rather than look for one “right” answer, this session will allow participants the opportunity to participate in a conversation about how we can preserve the tradition that is so valued in our ceremonies through a lens of inclusivity. The presentation will begin by giving an overview of the history of York University’s ceremonies and symbols and how small changes have made their ceremonies more accessible for all. Come prepared to share what your institution has done to champion inclusivity and accessibility in your ceremonies.

Liz McMahan, Manager, Convocation & Special Projects, York University
2:45 pm–3:15 pm Break/Corporate Showcase
3:15 pm–4:00 pm Educational Sessions If you are not in the certificate program, you may attend any session you like.
Certificate Program Year 1 Creating A Memorable Virtual Commencement Experience

This session will look at the production of the MGH Institute’s first-ever virtual Commencement Ceremony and will review who the key players were, how they contributed to the project, and what made their contributions become a memorable experience for our graduates, their families, and our community. We will discuss how our values were incorporated into the virtual experience while maintaining our commencement “branding and traditions.” Our goal is to present ideas that you could incorporate into any virtual ceremony that you may be faced with as we all continue to maneuver our way through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Anna Cottrell, Associate Registrar, MGH Institute of Health Professions
Selena Craig, Assistant Director, Digital Branding for the Office of Strategic Communications, MGH Institute of Health Professions
– Jorge Sanchez de Lozada, Director of Technology and Web Services, MGH Institute of Health Professions
Elizabeth (Liz) Pipes, Chief of Staff, MGH Institute of Health Professions
James Vitagliano, Assistant Dean of Enrollment Services/Registrar, MGH Institute of Health Professions
Certificate Program Year 2 Launching a Professional Events Network on Campus

Are campus staff, faculty, and event planners regularly reaching out to you and your staff on planning events, including event protocols, templates, marketing and branding strategies, and, more recently, best practices on how to plan a virtual event? If so, developing a professional events network on campus would be valuable for the university, your colleagues, and your team. An events network is an excellent campus resource and helps ensure that university events are delivered professionally and are appropriately branded and that protocols are followed. During the pandemic, Simon Fraser University’s On-Campus Event Professionals Network (OPEN) has been instrumental in advising university leaders on events and sharing information with event planners across the university. OPEN was launched in October 2019, and we have a membership of 250, with consistent participation of 85–90 attendees at monthly virtual workshops and gatherings. Join this session to learn how we launched the network, what we offer, and how we manage this extra work. Learn why having a network is so important for the university, your team, and your colleagues.

Gloria Chu, Developing a Professional Event Planning Network on Campus, Simon Fraser University
Make Them Say Yes!: Volunteer Management 101

Every event manager knows that volunteers are the backbone of running successful events when you do not have the budget to hire more temporary staff. This workshop will go over the basics of volunteer management and creating a culture of engagement for faculty and staff. Attendees will leave with the fundamentals of volunteer management and some ideas of how to engage your faculty and staff in the programs you put on. While this presentation is geared toward events in general, this presentation is still very useful toward academic ceremonies and will include examples from our respective ceremonies.

Marcus Jones, Assistant Director, Special Projects, Arizona State University
4:00 pm–4:15 pm Break/Corporate Showcase
4:15 pm–5:00 pm Closing Keynote

Ineffective responses to stress frequently fall into two categories – avoidance coping and/or rumination. For instance, there’s a financial decision you need to handle but doing so triggers thinking about past mistakes (rumination), so you lose confidence and put it off. Or, last time you spoke to your boss their tone was bit flat and unenthusiastic, and find yourself endlessly mentally replaying the conversation wondering what that might mean. This talk will unpack the most common self-sabotaging responses people have to stress, and present alternative coping strategies that will help participants both feel better and be more productive. We’ll cover how to understand when habits are stress-generating (e.g., failing to plan or reinventing the wheel instead of creating a template or checklist), why this happens, and what to do about it.

Alice Boyes, PhD, Clinical psychologist and bestselling author of The Anxiety Toolkit and The Healthy Mind Toolkit
5:00 pm–5:10 pm Wrap Up!



Rebecca Alptekin is the vice president of client relations at MarchingOrder. She has been working in this position with MarchingOrder for the past 10 years and has been a key player for strategy and client management as the company has grown significantly. Previously, Rebecca held the position of commencement & operations manager at the University of Phoenix for six years. Her expertise and experience bring many solutions to the table as we continue to develop products to assist coordinators in the ever-changing environment of commencement ceremonies. 

Julie Anderson is the commencement, graduation & athletic certification coordinator at The University of Texas at Tyler. She oversees the entire diploma compiling, ordering, and distribution process from start to finish at the university. Her responsibilities also focus on NCAA athletic certifications and compliance, graduation processing and reviews, and commencement proceedings.

Alice Boyes, PhD, was a clinical psychologist before turning to writing. Her first book, The Anxiety Toolkit, hit the Wall Street Journal Bestseller list. After several years as a popular writer for Psychology Today (where her articles have over 14 million reads), she started blogging for Harvard Business Review and found an incredible response. Her articles for Harvard Business Review average over 125,000 reads. The immense popularity of her posts on anxiety and self-sabotage reflects that these problems affect many individuals in the workplace, and employees have an unmet need for strategies to address the ways these issues impair their productivity and functioning. Alice is a native of New Zealand and currently resides in Las Vegas.

Dr. Sam Carrell is associate registrar for graduation, curriculum, and policy for The University of Texas at Tyler and has worked with commencement at some level since taking on a role two weeks after being hired in Spring 2008. He previously served as the primary coordinator for several years and currently oversees the student check-in, lineup, and processional functions each semester. Other areas of responsibility are focused on graduation reviews, curriculum, academic policy, and compliance. 

Gloria Chu has been producing and advising on award-winning ceremonies, events, and protocol in academia, government, nonprofit, and private sectors for 20 years. In the past nine years, she has been the director of ceremonies and events at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada. The Ceremonies Office leads and manages convocation and the university’s high-profile presidential, ceremonial, government, advancement, and alumni events. The office also serves as the Office of the Chancellor, advises on university and events protocol, and is the main event planning resource for campus colleagues. Pre-pandemic, the department of 10 produced 80+ events annually. During the pandemic, the department has reimagined many of these events and has creatively delivered them online. Having launched the university’s On-Campus Professional Events Network in October 2019, the ceremonies team was well-positioned to advise the university leadership and campus event professionals on the direction and management of in-person and virtual events on campus.

Anna Cottrell is the associate registrar at MGH Institute of Health Professions. In conjunction with the academic departments, Anna is responsible for the creation of the class schedules and space assignments each term. She is also the contact for students who wish to use their veterans benefits. Anna has 16 years of experience in various positions in registrar’s office environments and has extensive experience in the production of commencement ceremonies.

Eilis Courtney. As former director of ceremonies and events, Eilis has over 28 years of experience in ceremonies and protocol, having overseen multiple graduation ceremonies as well as high-level VIP visits by royalty, world leaders, and high-ranking Canadian dignitaries. She presently works part time with the UBC Campus & Community Planning Office on special projects primarily related to the Musqueam First Nation, and she also provides support and avice to the Ceremonies and Events Office and other units on Indigenous projects. Eilis is a former Board member and past President of NAACO and has been a member since the inaugural conference in 2000. She is a member of Protocol & Diplomacy International–Protocol Officer’s Association (PDI–POA) for the past 10 years, has served on their Board, and is a current member of the Education Committee.

Selena Craig is the assistant director, digital branding for the Office of Strategic Communications at the MGH Institute of Health Professions (IHP). With an extensive background in digital marketing content and strategy, Selena’s role at the institute focuses on creating engaging multimedia pieces such as video, graphics, blogs, and photography. In addition to digital content creation and managing the social media channels at the Institute, Selena plays a major role in enhancing awareness of the IHP brand within the digital space through search engine optimization, online branding, and social media campaigns.

Lowell Davis serves as associate vice Chancellor for student success at Western Carolina University (WCU). He came to WCU from the University of Alabama, where he rose through the ranks of both academic and student affairs. At both universities, Lowell devloped programs to support students from the foster care system, students experiencing homelessness, and students who had been emancipated from their parents. He was recently selected as the staff member of the year for the Southern (athletic) Conference and elected as the President-Elect for the North American Association of Summer Sessions. He serves as the Polemarch/President of the Asheville alumni chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., and recently completed an American Council on Education Fellowship for the 2018–2019 year at University of California Davis. Lowell is a Paul Harris Fellow for Rotary International, serves on the Board of Advisors for the Baptist Children’s Home of North Carolina, is a member of the Health and Human Services Committee for Haywood County, and is involved in several other social and civic organizations. 

Pamela Fueshko is the director of technology services at William Paterson University, of which she is also an aluma. During her 42-year tenure at the institution, she has managed numerous capital projects, initiatives, and departments. Currently, her responsibilities include telecommunications, access control, print services, 25Live scheduling, emergency management solutions, and commencement. Her role in commencement began in 1981 coordinating logistics and, with her transition into IT, she has initiated and implemented significant use of technology into commencement data collection, processes, and ceremonies. Pam has been a member of NAACO since 2004 and has previously presented and attended regional and national meetings.

Maya Goehring-Harris fell in love with collegiate pomp and circumstance in 1994 when she first volunteered to work at a commencement ceremony. She loves the crazy excitement and closure the ceremonies bring for the students. In her spare time, her unit also produces all the Chancellor’s events, alumni relations and development events, public ceremonies, and any weird things the campus can dream up to throw their way. In this new virtual world, Maya has produced all of the large campus events, switching daily between the role of TV producer and technology therapist.

Robert Hickey is author of Honor & Respect: The Official Guide to Names, Titles, and Forms of Address. Available in hardcover, as a Kindle and Apple iBook, Honor & Respect is the standard reference on the use of names and titles of elected and appointed officials, the armed services, clergy, diplomats, academics, and international visitors on invitations, place cards, programs, in introductions, and in conversations. He has led protocol and cross-cultural trainings in Bahrain, Germany, Iraq, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Trinidad and Tobago, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States.

Jessica Hicks has 1.5 years of event planning experience with Walden University. During this time, Jess has supported Monica Nelson in the planning and execution of two commencement events in two different venues and one virtual celebration. At Walden, she is focused on managing the graduate registration and communication process, creating valuable partnerships within the university and identifying new ways to improve the graduate experience. Her favorite part of the commencement experience is seeing Walden “come to life” on site and how meaningful the experience is to the graduates.

Zarrah Holvick, as UNBC’s ceremonies and protocol officer, has been a member of NAACO for seven years and is a 2020 graduate of the Certificate Program. She is currently the Canada-West Regional Director for the Membership Committee and a member of the Certificate Program Review Committee. She also holds a membership with PDI–POA. Her production expertise not only stems from her work in large-scale events like convocation but also from her diploma and years of experience in professional theatre. Zarrah also has relevant experience with film production (cinematography, editing, and sound design) as well as a bachelor’s degree, with a focus on film theory and psychology.

Mark Hommerding has been working with higher education institutions at commencement events for over 30 years. Until the “year of Covid,” he attended approximately 100 ceremonies each year in various capacities. Both Mark and Beth Smith have worked together at the Purdue Global Commencements for a number of years. This year, as Purdue Global has transitioned from live-streaming to a hybrid live/virtual ceremony and finally as a 100% virtual ceremony, Mark has worked to support Beth during each of these transitions.

Dominic Housiaux is the principal of Lankey & Limey Ltd., which offers strategic, creative, safety consulting, technical, production, and labor services in worldwide.

Lankey & Limey Ltd.’s mission is “Shaping a Safe Space for Creativity” for clients, vendors, and crew through the implementation of procedures that functionally improve event safety. A creative process and risk analysis are used to facilitate practical measures that quantifiably improve event safety without compromising creative intent. 

Dominic’s work focuses on the empowerment of individuals within organizations and how individual participation, the prevailing environment, a person’s mental health, and a sense of agency can impact strategic, safety, and operational goals. He can often be found leading workshops that aim to put people and their well-being at the center of any organizational philosophy.

Dominic is an OSHA 1910 and 1926 outreach trainer, focusing on practical safety for the entertainment industry. He also serves as co-chair of the Event Safety Medical and Electrical ANSI Standards Committees and is a member of the Crowd Management, Planning & Management, Structures, Communications, Fire Safety, Security, and Venue and Site Design ANSI Standards Working Groups, writing ANSI standards for the entertainment industry.

In 2017 and 2018, Dominic led the content development team for the Event Safety Alliance’s Event Safety Summit. He has presented on subjects such as safety leadership, coaching the client, risk assessment, stress impacts, and resilient teams at several conferences, including the Event Safety Summit, the New World Rigging Symposium, and the Actsafe Entertainment Safety Conference. 

As a member of the Behind the Scenes Mental Health Steering Committee, Dominic is working to help provide accessible information, tools, and resources about mental health to the entertainment industry. Dominic has been a member of I.A.T.S.E. A.C.T. since 2000.

Liz King is the Director of ceremonies and events at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and has worked in customer service, project and service coordination, and event management roles for nearly 20 years, across several university portfolios. She has collaborated with different communities of volunteers, students, faculty and staff, First Nations partners, constituents, and dignitaries. Highlights during her career include delivering in-person and virtual events for the start of an evolution campaign, organizing UBC’s centennial celebrations, and launching the Blue & Gold Campaign for Students. Liz provided leadership and oversight as UBC pivoted to the virtual space for key academic ceremonies like biannual graduation ceremonies, installations, and honorary degree programming. She led a special joint honorary degree ceremony for His Highness the Aga Khan and participated on the teams responsible for hosting HRH The Duke of York and TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Liz has led teams to deliver annual homecoming events featuring great Canadians like Rick Mercer and William Shatner. Liz holds a BA from UBC and an MBA from Royal Roads University and has completed programs in event marketing and public relations at the British Columbia Institute of Technology.

Kristin McDaniel is the commencement coordinator at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. Kristin earned a bachelor’s degree from Texas State in 2005 and was immediately employed by her alma mater. Kristin is now responsible for coordinating Texas State’s 17 annual commencement ceremonies and is the chair of several committees, including the Commencement Team and the Commencement Safety and Transportation Committee. During her time at Texas State, Kristin has played a role in 180 commencement ceremonies.

 Liz McMahan is the manager, convocation & special projects in the Division of Advancement at York University. She is responsible for the planning and operational and budgetary oversight of the university’s 19 convocation ceremonies, along with Orientation Day and Remembrance Day. In addition, the ceremonies team plans and coordinates groundbreakings, building openings, and installation ceremonies and supports pan-university ceremonies and special events. Prior to joining York, Liz spent several years in arts administration, overseeing large festivals and events and also worked as a stage manager for theatre productions and events, including the Vancouver Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony.

Aaron Miller is the director of marketing and digital engagement at the University of Guelph, located in Ontario, Canada. His role focuses on integrating digital into all university marketing, including convocation. With over 15 years of experience working in universities and colleges Aaron has seen social media transform from a niche social networking tool to become the cornerstone for brand marketing and student engagement. His social media campaigns have garnered him multiple CASE (Council for Advancement and Support of Education) awards and he has been recognized as a thought leader in digital marketing.

Monica Nelson has 12 years of event planning experience with Walden University. Throughout that time, she has planned 19 commencements across three different institutions within the Laureate Network (University of Liverpool, National Hispanic University, and Walden University). She has worked in seven different venues and hosted one virtual celebration, leading the charge in all aspects of the event. With so much change, the one constant is learning, and she has learned a lot along the way. Her favorite parts of the commencement experience are branding and production.

April Newland has been with the Office of the Registrar in the role of conferral specialist since summer 2016. April assists with getting students to apply for graduation on time, communicating with students and faculty about degree clearance, and coordinating with other campus staff to facilitate a positive commencement experience for students.

Melissa Picher Kelly was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, and is an accomplished and strategic event producer with over 30 years of experience in the academic milieu. Her passion is bringing teams together to create moments that matter. Melissa has been leading BCIT’s Events Team since May 2019, where she leads a team of six to produce over 70 events per year, including recognition and award events, government announcements, convocation, student recruitment tradeshows, informational sessions, and experiential events and activations. Melissa has enjoyed the innovation and gathering in spirit that we have all experienced in 2020, but she craves human connection and looks forward to when we can gather again in person.

Jorge Sanchez de Lozada has over 22 years of experience in information and technology, as Director of Technology and Web Services, Jorge Sanchez de Lozada is responsible for the management and planning of campus technologies, management of the user support group, system administration of software applications and leading and managing the institutes web development initiative.

Elizabeth (Liz) Pipes joined the MGH Institute of Health Professions in 2004 as program manager in the Medical Imaging Program. In 2011, she was promoted to executive assistant to the President and assistant secretary to the Board of Trustees. Over the past nine years, Liz has transformed the operations of the Office of the President, and has built strong relationships within the IHP and across the Mass General Brigham Health Care System Network. Liz works very closely with the Institute’s Board of Trustees. She was named chief of staff in July 2018. 

Matthew Redd is currently the vice president of sales/marketing and strategic partnerships for StageClip. Prior to his role at StageClip, Matthew was the director of commencement and special events at Vanderbilt University, where he transformed the office into an industry leader. During his tenure he expanded the team to oversee several large-scale events for the university, including commencement, first year orientation, conferences, VIP dinners, and various other high-profile events. He’s also worked at Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, producing more than 80 events per year for their 2,500 employees and spent two years in Europe planning events and programs for youth. Matthew is also involved with a number of boards, including the International Live Events Association (ILEA), where he served two terms as the President for their Nashville chapter. Outside of work, Matthew spends time with Music City Improv as a performer and is their business manager.

Mary Beth Rehrer has been planning large scale events for the past 15 years. Previously running the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Bike MS events in NJ to overseeing Rutgers University Commencement. One of her biggest professional achievements was managing Rutgers’ 250th Anniversary Commencement, at which the then-sitting President Obama spoke to a full stadium of 50,000 guests. Mary Beth believes that running outdoor events require heaps of energy, a good sense of humor, flexiblity in planning and a terrific rain jacket. 

Dr. Linda Robson is the author of The Robson Risk Management Model (RRMM) and is an associate professor at Endicott College in the School of Hospitality Management. Before becoming a professor, she worked as an event planner for over 20 years, planning events in New Zealand, Europe, the United States, and Canada. Linda’s combination of experience and education has given her a unique perspective, and passion, for the events industry. She is an active member of MPI and NACE, and she has written articles, case studies, and book chapters for both industry and academia about risk management and the events industry. She has spoken at Risk 360, ILEA Live, The Special Event, PCMA’s Annual Conference, NACE Experience, EventWorld, and MPI’s WEC, as well as numerous association chapter events.

Angela Ruff is currently the manager of academic events at Gonzaga University, giving focus the past 10 years in this role to positive guest and participant experiences for commencement, honor convocations, family weekend programs, and high-profile speaking events.

Liz Schaefer is a special events manager with the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. She has been with the university since 2008 and the business school since 2011. Managing large-scale events and convocation ceremonies for the largest business school in the country has been an awesome (and sweaty) experience. In spring 2019, Liz planned, coordinated, and executed W. P. Carey’s Convocation ceremony in Sun Devil Football Stadium with more than 3,200 graduates and 18,000 guests. Spring 2020, however, brought about a complete reversal in scale and scope. Liz had to do a complete 180 as she figured out how to create the same awesome experience for W. P. Carey graduates who could not be together. Switching to all virtual events this year has allowed her to think even further outside the box and expand her skillset.

Amelia Schlott is the senior assistant registrar for technology and graduation at Western Carolina University. Amelia has spent 10 years honing the backend processes of graduation and degree conferral, including making data readily available to stakeholders, providing appropriate student data to various campus partners to facilitate timely production of web lists, the commencement bulletin, lineup arrangements, and official degree conferral.

Ali Siemens is a self-declared people person with a passion for building relationships and community. She has worked at BCIT for three years and thrives in the busy environment where she and her team work to engage 200,000 alumni. With a decade of experience and a passion for education and leadership, Ali is a serial-overcommiter who is dedicated to her board and committee work outside of work hours.

Beth Smith, senior campaign manager at Purdue University Global, manages the university’s commencements, graduation week activities, department meetings, and conferences. Beth is a member of the Alumni Engagement Team, where she collaborates with the director of alumni on fundraising efforts, alumni outreach, and scholarship development. She is currently assisting in the expansion of Purdue Global’s Conference Center to make it available for other organizations to host virtual meetings and conferences. Beth serves as a Purdue Global Ambassador, where she co-coordinates employee engagement events and national community outreach programs.

Eric Stuart, QPM, BA, is the director of Gentian Events and the chair of the United Kingdom Crowd  Management Association (UKCMA). He has been involved in crowd safety for 17 years and currently is a crowd safety manager for events ranging from summer festivals and concerts to Edinburgh Hogmanay. Eric is also engaged with crowd management at many complex “crowded space” environments, including large shopping centres and religious gatherings across the United States, Canada, and the UK. He has supported crowd management operations of 600,000 in Vancouver, on St. Patrick’s Day in Toronto, and during the largest Diwali celebrations outside India in Leicester, UK. He delivers Crowd Safety Management training in Europe, the United States, and Canada. Most recently he supported the U.S. Event Safety Alliance in its successful efforts to launch an ANSI Standard for Crowd Management, which was approved and launched in 2020.

Eric holds an FdA and a BA in Crowd Safety Management and was the co-author of the 2015 UK Good Practice Guide to Working in Safety Advisory Groups. He also supported the UK Government Cabinet Office “EPC” in its rewrite and relaunch in 2019. He was an advisor to the British government counterterrorism Crowded Places Guidance. He has spent much of 2020 supporting government and industry in writing guidance for the return of mass attendee events in a COVID environment.

Vedaraman Sriraman is a Piper Professor and University Distinguished Professor at Texas State University. He oversees the university’s curriculum, continuing education, commencement, distance learning, education abroad, international services, and several other programs. He has served as the associate director of the LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research at Texas State. Dr. Sriraman’s degrees are in mechanical and industrial engineering. His research interests are in engineering education, sustainability, and applied statistics. In the past, he has implemented several grants from the NSF, NASA and SME-EF. He has served as the Foundry Educational Foundation Key professor and as the faculty advisor to the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, the American Foundry Society, and the Society of Women Engineers. He has also received several teaching awards at Texas State. Currently, Dr. Sriraman serves as the associate vice president for academic affairs at Texas State.

Casper ter Kuile is the author of The Power of Ritual (HarperOne) and the co-host of the award-winning podcast Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. In the midst of enormous changes in how we experience community and spirituality, he connects people and co-creates projects that help us live lives of greater connection, meaning, and depth. He is helping to build a world of joyful belonging. He is a Ministry Innovation Fellow at Harvard Divinity School and the co-founder of startup Sacred Design Lab. His work has been featured in the New York Times, Vice, The Atlantic, and the Washington Post. He holds a Master of Divinity and Public Policy from Harvard University, and before moving to the United States, co-founded Campaign Bootcamp and the UK Youth Climate Coalition, both training and mobilizing young activists. He lives with his husband in Brooklyn.

Alanna Vernon joined the Ceremonies Office at the inception of the Okanagan campus in 2005 and has managed every UBC Okanagan graduation ceremony since then. Besides the annual graduation ceremonies, she is responsible for over 30 annual and special events each year, ranging from award ceremonies to building openings to royal visits. No year has been more challenging or creative than this past year as we all made the pivot to a virtual world and required special consideration for successful virtual events. Alanna has been a member of the NAACO board since 2017 and is currently finishing her term as past President. Alanna holds a bachelor of arts in Canadian history from the University of Alberta.

James Vitagliano has been in higher education for 41 years, starting his career at Boston University, where he served as the schedules coordinator, registrar for the School of Social Work, and registrar for the School for the Arts. He then moved on to the Boston Conservatory, where he was registrar for five years. Currently, he is the assistant dean for enrollment services and registrar at MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston and has been in that role for 20 years. In each of these institutions, one of his primary responsibilities has been the coordination of all commencement-related events. He is a graduate of the NAACO certificate program and plans on becoming more active in leadership roles within the organization.

Serena Wallace serves as event manager in the Office of Special Events & Protocol at Georgia Institute of Technology. She and her team are responsible for the execution of high-level, award-winning institute-wide events; consultation; and production of training resources. She has served as president of Event Coordinators’ Network, a campus network of over 600 faculty and staff with event planning roles or interest. Before coming to Georgia Tech, Serena had experience in nonprofit organizations and social events. She holds master’s degrees from Georgia State.

Fernann Yozviak is the director of sales and marketing at MarchingOrder. She has been working in this position at MarchingOrder for the past 6 years. Fernann has had a direct impact on the growth of MarchingOrder and provides sales presentations to coordinators worldwide. She brings to the table 20 years of experience within the commencement industry, previously working with GradImages in many roles and positions.