Reflections from our 2nd President, Donnie Brown

SoACE Reflections

As I thought about our soon to be 10th Anniversary of the Southern Association of Colleges and Employers, the first thing that came to mind was our amazing group of members and the dedicated and passionate leaders who have contributed to our organization.

As our SoACE history recounts, “The 2007 merger of SACE and SWACE to form SoACE was the final step in the consolidation of seven regional associations down to four: SoACE, the Midwest Association of Colleges and Employers (Midwest ACE); the Eastern Association of Colleges and Employers (EACE); and the Mountain Pacific Association of Colleges and Employers (MPACE). Leaders of these four regional ACEs then met twice a year to discuss and plan collaborative efforts and exchange best practices and network professionally across regions.  They now meet once each year at the NACE conference and hold 3 additional conference calls throughout the year.”

My second thoughts turned to our State organizations and Consortiums that support SoACE on such a high level.  SoACE is quite fortunate to have the excellent support of these organizations.  In addition to their support throughout the year, these organizations provide valuable assistance to our annual conferences.

As a Board member of SACE, I saw the contributions first hand of the Task Forces from both SWACE and SACE.  The members of the Task Forces who developed the strategy to merge both organizations were seasoned, thoughtful, and dedicated professionals who considered a myriad of issues in order to bring the two organizations together successfully.  Although there were far more similarities than differences, the differences were very important to the membership and our transition team discussed them in detail and developed plans that were beneficial to both organizations.

Our first SoACE Annual Conference was held San Antonio in November 2007.  The theme was “Synergy in San Antonio”.  70% of SACE and SWACE members attended the conference.  Not only was the conference a success in numbers, it was a success in bringing together the members of both organizations for the first time.  The Conference also continued the strong professional development activities that both SWACE and SACE had been known for providing their members.

Karen Thompson was our first SoACE President.  She and the first SoACE Board of Directors, comprised of leaders from both the SWACE and SACE organizations, did a wonderful job laying the foundation for our Organization.  I followed Karen as the second President of SoACE and the first Employer President, and I consider this opportunity the most fortunate benefit in my professional career.  I was blessed with strong and experienced leadership on our Board.  If you want a wonderful opportunity in your professional life, I recommend highly volunteering for leadership positions in SoACE.  I promise that you will value the experience the rest of your life

One of the major responsibilities of the President and the Board of Directors is the oversight of the annual conference.  As with both prior organizations, the conference was usually moved around the region for a lot of reasons.  The Board discussed and recommended that the second conference be held in Florida.  Since the conference was held in December, the Florida weather would provide a respite for most to escape the onset of winter.  A task force was formed to evaluate locations; although, I distinctly remember Matt Berndt indicating a strong preference when he stated, “Let’s go to Disney World”.  As it turned out Matt’s suggestion was prophetic and after vetting several locations, our second conference was held at the magnificent Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

Again, I was blessed as President to have a talented group of Conference Committee members.  It was certainly an advantage to have Disney employer members in our organization.  With Kent Phillips and Wayne Hampton there to support us; how could we not have a great Disney experience?

And so, began the strong legacy of SoACE.  After ten years as an organization with continued strong leadership, I envision a bright future for SoACE in meeting the goals of the organization and continuing to provide leadership in our profession.  Congratulations SoACE and best wishes to our SoACE members.

Donnie Brown

Reflections from our 1st President, Karen Thompson

Wow!  Has it been ten years since SoACE has been in existence?  I can remember so many things like it was just yesterday.  In the summer of 2007, specifically August 1-3, the team of experts that had worked together in some form or fashion with the merger met at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina for three days of intense work.  Our goals were to move the newly formed Southern Association of Colleges and Employers into action and collectively commit to the success of the newly formed mega association.  After two plus years of research, legal work to dissolve two corporations, form a new corporation, write bylaws, create a fiscal policy manual, write standard operational procedures and develop a leadership team with stamina, vision and leadership charisma, the team met with much anticipated excitement.

Officers participating in the first official meeting included:

  • Donnie Brown-President-Elect
  • Matt Berndt-Past President/Secretary
  • Patricia Blum-Finance Director
  • Curt Schafer-Director External Relations and Communications
  • Toni McLawhorn-Director Professional Development
  • Jay Killough-Director Technology
  • Dana Smith-Director Employer Membership
  • Nash Montgomery-Director College Membership
  • Karen Thompson-President

A couple of pictures from our meetings:

To get to that first meeting, I would be remiss if I did not share a bit about the preceding years of work that took place to even have a SoACE.  Following conversations with the two previous groups – SWACE and SACE  – two prior groups laid the foundation for the merger, they included a strategic planning committee and a merger team committee.  A few of those members included:

  • Kasey Arceri
  • Matt Berndt
  • Randy Wilson
  • Tracey Powers
  • Patsy Hammett
  • Kent Phillips
  • Tony Magaro
  • Therese Steifer
  • Donnie Brown
  • Karen Thompson
  • Curt Schafer

So what was the first conference all about? 

A few quick facts included:

  • There were four conference chairs – Two from each previous association
    • Patsy Hammett, Milliken & Company
    • Shelly Garcia, St. Mary’s University
    • Sue Martin, East Carolina University
    • Woody Wentworth, Enterprise Rent-A-Car
  • Conference Theme – Synergy in San Antonio
  • Approximate number of attendees – 920
  • Key Note Speakers-
    • Jason Dorsey – Small Actions Lead to Big Synergy
    • John Alston – Building Synergy: In Your Life, In Your Work & Your Service
  • Conference Dates: Wednesday, November 28 – Friday, November 30 , 2007
  • Largest Sponsors were: Enterprise, Boxlight Corporation, Milliken and Company, Tindall Corporation, Auburn University, First Investors and Vector Marketing
  • Exhibitors – 26
  • Gala Theme on the final night of the conference – “Denim & Diamonds” held at the Sunset Station Depot.

The first conference exemplified the commitment of individuals, colleges and corporations to create a new association and support its success. A tremendous amount of time, talent and resources created the synergy.  Conference attendees left with confidence that the SACE/SWACE merger decision was the right thing for our future and the opportunity to build upon the talent of corporate and college professionals throughout the new region.



Introducing a Series of Webinars at Texas Tech University Career Center

Donna Srader, Lead Counselor at the Texas Tech University Career Center, contributed this blog post about their experience introducing a webinar series at the Career Center. The Center found that utilizing webinars was an effective method of reaching students in a format that was easily accessible and reformatted materials already in use by the Center. For more information, feel free to reach out to Donna at If you have a topic you’d like to see as part of the Advising KG blog or want to contribute, please reach out to Jen Harlan, Career & Internship Advisor, Kennesaw State University at

Problem Identification and Resolution

As career counselors, we are always looking for new ways to reach students and provide them with relevant information. At the Texas Tech University Career Center, we noticed that our in-person workshops were not being well attended, and we wanted to create a new feature that allowed us to present relevant information in a format that was easily accessible to students. Webinars fit that bill perfectly because we could utilize our existing presentations while reaching local and distance students and alumni in one presentation.

As we brainstormed the possibility of webinars, we tasked one of our student ambassadors, Elo, with the project of identifying possible webinar platforms, with the attendant advantages and disadvantages. Elo came through with flying colors, taking such ownership of the project that he came to work on his day off to make sure that we would be successful in setting up and presenting our webinar. So my first suggestion for any career office seeking to introduce webinars is to have a student as dedicated and tech savvy as Elo! Second, you might also contact your IT department to see what knowledge and help they can provide.

Nuts and Bolts

  • We chose GoToWebinar as our platform because it allowed us to use the service for 30 days free of charge and present multiple webinars. Within that timeframe, we saw exactly how successful the webinars were and proceeded to subscribe to the service annually.
  • We identified a volunteer staff member who manages the scheduling and organizational details of the GoToWebinar software and ensures that all the details are correctly presented on our website and in our promotional materials. Thank you, Nicole!
  • Every staff member was invited to create webinars, including our counseling interns. With the depth and breadth of interests among our staff, we have been able to present a number of basic informational webinars about how to write a resume or cover letter, as well as more in-depth topics such as Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace and a six-part series called The First Year Student’s Survival Kit that covers such topics as how to talk to professors and social media responsibility.
  • Many of the webinars utilize PowerPoint and, recently, we have been incorporating Canva into the presentations to increase the visual appeal and professional look and feel. Canva is a free image-creating software with more advanced features for purchase. We urge webinar developers to limit the amount of text in the slides and incorporate visuals and graphs where possible.
  • At this time, we project only the PowerPoint/Canva presentation. We are exploring more interactive options such as utilizing cameras to include real-time video of the presenter.
  • Webinars are not complete until a complete, word-for-word script is written. In this way, we ensure that the webinar can be presented if the original developer is not available. Generally, we read the script, but interact with attendees in normal conversation to answer questions.
  • For students requesting accommodation, we provide a PDF of the presentation slides, including the script. Many presenters are happy to share the PDF version of the presentation with all attendees when requested.
  • We utilize the Listen-Only mode in GoToWebinar so we can control the interaction between presenters and attendees. Instead of the chat section, we use the questions section for listeners’ questions and comments and usually address questions at the end of the webinar. We leave our contact information slide up on screen as we discuss questions.
  • To help students feel more at ease, we have some starter questions that we answer while students are thinking up questions and typing them in. We have found that if we say, “Our first question is . . . .” and use one of our starter questions, the students are much more likely to type in their questions.
  • Most of our webinars are 20 to 30 minutes in length – although we block an entire hour in GoToWebinar. This strategy allows us to answer questions for as long as the attendees continue to ask. We have found student attendance increases substantially with the smaller time commitment of 20 to 30 minutes compared to an hour webinar.
  • Several professors support the Career Center efforts by offering extra credit and the TTU Graduate School accepts our webinars as professional development for their students. For extra credit, the students must identify themselves at the beginning of the webinar with the name of the course and their professor. After the webinar, we utilize the Attendee Report from GoToWebinar to identify students asking for extra credit and email the appropriate professor.
  • We also utilize the GoToWebinar reports to identify the webinars that are highly attended and learn more about attendee engagement during the webinars. With these reports we continually improve the information and the visual presentation to connect with more students and alumni.

We have found that our numbers have increased substantially and we are reaching students who would not generally attend in-person workshops. We have expanded our webinar topics and have reached out to professors of online courses and distance students to provide webinars at times that meet their needs. We are always seeking new ways to provide engaging and relevant information to all our students and alumni and the webinars have been a successful strategy in those efforts.

Webinars have not replaced class and organization presentations – we continue to provide services to any group who requests a presentation. However, we expect to expand our webinar topics and introduce new technologies such as podcasts in the future.