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How Educational Innovations Will Make—or Break— America’s Global Future

AAC&U Annual Meeting
January 22-25, 2014
Grand Hyatt Hotel / Washington, DC

Call for Proposals

The deadline for submitting proposals was Monday, July 15, 2013, and AAC&U is no longer accepting proposals for the Annual Meeting. We appreciate your interest and hope to see you in January.

AAC&U welcomes compelling session proposals that show how creative innovation—on-line, community-based, and evidence-based—can strengthen higher education, reinvigorate liberal education and, the ultimate goal, create new access to opportunity for all college students.


Proposals for AAC&U's Fifth Annual E-Portfolio Forum
Please note that—in addition to proposals for the Annual Meeting proper—AAC&U is seeking proposals for the Fifth Annual E-Portfolio Forum, which will be held on Saturday, January 25, 2014. Although we also encourage proposals on e-portfolios for inclusion in the Annual Meeting, you can move directly to this section if you are interested in the E-Portfolio Forum only.


A great democracy cannot be content to provide a horizon-expanding education for some and work skills, taught in isolation from the larger societal context, for everyone else. Yet this is what the postsecondary system, viewed as a whole, provides now. And this is what we must work together to change. . . . It should not be liberal education for some and narrow or illiberal education for others.

                                                     AAC&U Board of Directors 2010

Instructions for Submitting a Proposal

It is possible for you to skip ahead to the “Online Proposal Form,” but we suggest you read through the following information first. Once you have started completing the form, you will not be able to save the data for submission at a later date.

Description of the Meeting
Proposals for the E-Portfolio Forum Only

Information to Include
Writing a Strong Proposal
Session Formats
Interactive Sessions
How to Submit a Proposal
Final Reminders
Dates to Remember
If You Have Questions

If you are a potential sponsor of the Annual Meeting and would like to propose a session on the work of your product or services, please contact AAC&U’s Office of Development at 202-387-3760. Thank you.


Quality and the Big Questions
In an era marked by interdependence, economic uncertainty, and disruptive innovation, the future is global and the challenges urgent. To flourish in such a future, students must acquire both broad knowledge and high level skills—essential capacities—to deal successfully with complex opportunities and unscripted problems. 

These goals determine quality standards for higher education. How can we be sure that what we expect students to learn in college matches the essential capacities graduates will need to tackle the “big questions” of this generation and of a turbulent world? Are college degrees designed to provide students with many opportunities to practice and build these essential capacities?  Students, parents, employers, faculty members and other stakeholders should reject as insufficient any claims of quality education that do not centrally include students’ active and deep effort on research, projects, creative work, collaborative assignments, and other practices that foster deep learning and high level skills.  How do we ensure that, whatever their pathways through college, all students have continuous opportunities to apply their learning—with guidance from mentors—to significant problems and real-world challenges? 

E-Quality and Innovation
Technology continues to transform all aspects of higher education.  But in our fascination with the promise of technology, are we paying sufficient attention to the connection between innovation and educational quality?  Are we prepared to ensure that technological innovations should expand rather than further limit student engagement in practices—such as research, field-based learning and creative projects--that build high level 21st century capacities?   New evidence is published daily on “high impact practices” that help students both persist in college and achieve at higher levels.   As a community how are we using this evidence to draw educationally productive innovations from the digital revolution?

Inequality and the Opportunity Gap
As employers are the first to attest, the outcomes basic to an excellent liberal education are urgently needed in the economy and the workplace.  And liberal education is—literally—foundational to democratic vitality. Policy calls to move away from liberal education therefore represent a disinvestment in expanded opportunity, and a locking in of what is already a two-tiered higher education system.   In the current climate, how do we resist overemphasis on educational initiatives that are designed primarily to prepare students for their first-job? Can we instead judge the value of innovations by how well they create long-term opportunity, strengthen students’ capacities, and reverse the most inequitable features of U.S. higher education?   Can we work with employers, rather than around them, to strengthen the rigor, relevance and inclusiveness of a 21st century liberal education? 

We welcome compelling session proposals related to the following themes:

The Global Advantages of Liberal Education and the Quality of College Degrees

  • What evidence are campuses collecting to show that liberal education provides a comparative global advantage in preparing for work, citizenship, and lifelong learning?
  • How do campus leaders make the case that the learning outcomes fostered by liberal education have become more valuable to individuals and societies than ever before?
  • What are the implications of the shifting emphasis from credit hours to competencies?
  • What are campuses learning from experimenting with the Lumina Foundation’s Degree Qualifications Profile and other quality frameworks? How are campuses changing as a result?
  • What examples do we have of campuses reforming STEM education in ways that link evidence-based reasoning to democratic, as well as economic necessities?
  • Where is the assessment movement heading and how is it shaping broader higher education policy and priorities? What are the consequences—intended and unintended—of putting students’ actual work at the center of assessment efforts?
  • What are the markers of quality degrees and what role might e-portfolios play in providing more transparent forms of public accountability?

Innovations and Interventions to Support Success of Underserved Students

  • With students from groups traditionally underserved rapidly becoming the new majority in higher education, how are colleges and universities combining work on high-quality liberal learning with innovations intended to support higher levels of attainment for students from all backgrounds?
  • How are campuses making the case for liberal education as a civil right? How are they translating that commitment to practice?
  • How are campuses (especially broad-access institutions) focusing their systemic change initiatives on expansion and improvement of high-impact educational practices?
  • How are the roles of community colleges changing and how are aligning curricular both with common core standards and with four-year institutional goals and outcomes?
  • What are the most promising practices for reversing the loss of STEM talent? Are campuses testing the power of teaching STEM through “big questions” to support persistence and success for underserved students?

The Prophets/Profits of the Revolution: Technology and Transformation

  • Credits, competencies, and MOOCs: Who will gain; who will lose; and who do we believe?
  • What technologies are delivering on the promise to lower cost and increase access to higher education?
  • What technologies are delivering on the promise of increasing student learning outcomes?
  • Are campuses using technology to address the “big questions?” To engage and reflect global interdependence? To reshape democratic communities?
  • What evidence do we have about the impact of e-portfolios on student learning?
  • How are e-portfolios helping students and institutions clarify and demonstrate success? Does the use of e-portfolios deepen learning?

Faculties of the Future/Faculties for the Future

  • How are faculty roles changing in the context of technological transformation and in the context of emphasis on outcomes, competencies, and assessments?
  • Do we have the diverse faculty we need to help students engage today’s full range of perspectives and issues?
  • What evidence are we collecting about changing faculty roles and their impact on educational quality?
  • Can innovations succeed if they leave faculty behind?
  • What knowledge, skills, and capacities will tomorrow’s faculty members need?
  • How are the boundaries between academic and student affairs changing? What is the impact on faculty members, administrators, student affairs professionals, and students?
  • How is faculty innovation in student-centered teaching, learning, and assessment supported and rewarded? How is it undermined?

Curricula and Competencies for Complex Global Challenges

  • Who makes curriculum decisions?  What is the relationship between changing faculty roles and leadership for student learning?
  • What are the most promising efforts to remap general education, from first to final year?
  • How are campuses changing in order to focus study in liberal arts and sciences on “big questions” important to Americans’ global future and on developing the intellectual and practical capacities basic to collaborative problem solving?
  • As experiments with competencies and learning outcomes move forward, how does the curriculum as a whole change to provide students with multiple opportunities to develop and demonstrate knowledge and skills?
  • How are institutions immersing all students in analysis, discovery, problem solving, and communication to connect campus learning with complex problems?
  • How are institutions aligning efforts to improve global learning, STEM success, and inquiry-based learning? How are they linking them to new thinking about general education?

E-Portfolios and Student Learning

  • What evidence do we have about the impact of e-portfolios on student learning? Evidence that e-portfolios are a useful mode for communicating student success?
  • How are e-portfolios helping students and institutions clarify and demonstrate success?
  • How are institutions using e-portfolios to deepen learning?  Are e-portfolios a high-impact practice?
  • How are e-portfolios helping students and institutions understand student learning as students transfer among and between campuses, or transition to jobs and graduate programs?

Aligning Policy with Commitments to Quality

  • How are newly proposed state and federal policies related to efficiency and effectiveness facilitating or harming efforts to improve the quality of student learning?
  • How can state policies advance expansion of access to high-impact teaching and learning practices?
  • How are higher education leaders and practitioners productively working with K-12 partners to advance college readiness agendas?
  • How are new approaches to assessment influencing state-level accountability systems?  How could accountability systems advance a quality learning agenda?
  • Can new student transfer policies within and across systems facilitate progress toward degrees while also increasing student achievement of cross-cutting learning outcomes?



AAC&U is pleased to offer the Fifth Annual E-Portfolio Forum, which will be held January 25, 2014—also at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, DC—in conjunction with the AAC&U Annual Meeting.

The E-Portfolio Forum will showcase two tracks. A robust Research Track will showcase the latest e-portfolio research, and an Essential E-Portfolio Track will offer basic information about how to start an e-portfolio program.

Please note that individuals accepted to present a session for the Research Track only will be asked to write a 3,000-7,000 manuscript on the research being presented. The manuscript will be published in a special issue of the International Journal of Eportfolio (IJeP).  This special issue—a collaboration of AAC&U and IJeP—will be published in March, 2014.  More information about the submission of articles is available here.

E-portfolios are now being used in departments, programs, and schools on more than half of colleges and universities. This means that many faculty and other educational professionals will be new to creating and using e-portfolios. We invite session proposals that will provide hands-on, practical steps based on experience in creating and implementing student e-portfolios. Sessions could, among other topics, focus on:

  • How to use e-portfolios to help students reflect and integrate their thinking, learning, and performing across the curriculum and cocurriculum through multiple pedagogies; and how workforce development requires the same skills as liberal arts degrees.
  • How e-portfolios can move from a practice of a few innovative faculty to a core aspect of every college and university through systematic institutionalization, resulting in a campus culture of integration and reflection among both faculty members and students.
  • How tried and true methods for picking an e-portfolio platform can be implemented to ensure student learning, while providing the data institutions need for assessment and accreditation.

E-portfolios have been used on many campuses for several years as teaching and learning approaches. Individual campus and consortia of colleges have conducted research on various aspects of e-portfolios.

Sessions in this track will provide the results of information and data on e-portfolio use that are informing faculty and students about the effect of engaging with e-portfolios for enhanced student learning, effective pedagogy and student success. Sessions could, among other topics, focus on:

  • Effect of using e-portfolios on student performance on deep learning, GPA, completion, reflective practice, etc.
  • Instructional approaches, including use of signature assignments, high impact practices, etc., and their impact on faculty development and student learning.
  • Assessment strategies and practices in an e-portfolio environment and how data can be used for formative and summative improvement, accountability, and reporting.



Proposal Abstract (400 words)
The abstract should describe the content and significance of the session, as well as how it relates to the theme of the meeting.  Participants will be most interested in new information, innovative programs, and proven results. 

Brief Description (100 words)
This description will be used for the final program.  Please remember that—should your proposal be accepted—a participant’s decision to attend your session will be based in large part on this description.  We encourage you to make it as accurate, and compelling, as possible.

Intended Audience (25 words)
Please indicate who would best benefit from attending this session.

Expected Learning Outcomes (50-75 words)
Please describe—or list—the outcomes with which you hope the audience members will leave the session—i.e., the “takeaways.”



All proposals should reflect current work, recent findings,
and/ or new perspectives.

  • Priority will be given to proposals that link the work of multiple institutions and reflect diverse perspectives, innovations, disciplines, and programmatic areas.  Joint submissions from across campuses, consortia, and campus-community partners are encouraged, and we particularly welcome student perspectives.
  • The AAC&U audience particularly appreciates sessions that illustrate the perspectives of different organizational roles (e.g., faculty members, department chairs, deans, provosts).
  • AAC&U is committed to presenting an annual meeting at which sessions and participants reflect the pluralism of our campus communities.  Please include presenters who bring diverse perspectives and life experiences to the topic or issue your proposal addresses.
  • We encourage proposals that address the challenges encountered – not just the successes.   As noted in a meeting evaluation: “I appreciated hearing about how well a new program was working, but I found it more valuable to hear about some of the challenges that were eventually overcome.”
  • Sessions should engage participants in thinking about how they might translate and adapt this research or project/model/innovation to their own institutions or professional settings.  “Show and tell” submissions that have little or no applicability to other institutions will not be considered.  
  • We ask that you present work that has proven effective and is well beyond the planning stages.
  • Do not read your paper at the Annual Meeting. This is the top complaint from audience members each year.  Proposals that refer to the presentation as “this paper” will be not be considered.
  • Please keep in mind the time reserved for dialogue when determining how many speakers you include with your proposal.


  • A proposal that simply describes the work of one particular program or project, and is not applicable or of interest to a broad audience, is likely to be scheduled as a 30-minute session or roundtable discussion, rather than as a stand-alone session.
  • Proposals that promote products or services available for purchase will not be considered through the regular proposal process, but will be referred to AAC&U’s Sponsorship Program.  More information about sponsorships for the Annual Meeting is available by writing to



  • The AAC&U audience continues to appreciate—and request—shorter sessions.  We strongly encourage presentations that are crisp, current, and creative.
  • All sessions will be 30, 60, or 75 minutes in length.   (HEDs Up sessions will include five 10-minute presentations within a 75-minute session.)
  • With the exception of the 10-minute session, all must include opportunities for dialogue with participants.  

“HEDs UP” – Higher Ed Session
HEDs UP is a format in the model of “TED Talks” – the Technology, Entertainment, and Design conference.   HEDs Up presentations are limited to 10 minutes.  The presentation should focus on an innovative project or program, compelling research, or “the next big idea” – about the curriculum, the campus, or higher education in general. 

HEDs Up presentations should be provocative, challenging, and, above all, interesting.   (Bonus points for being entertaining, as well.)   One moderated 75-minute session will consist of five presentations to ensure that the session is lively and moves quickly to the next speaker.   It is especially important in this format that no papers be read.

The following formats can be presented in 30-, 60-, or 75-minute time slots.

E-Portfolio Session
Please include a demonstration and/or links to student or institutional work, if possible.

Panel Presentation
Traditional format with presentation(s) followed by discussion among the speakers and/or with the audience. 

Homepage Session:  A Focus on Technology
Presentation of curricular models or programs that use new technologies to enhance teaching and learning.

Research Session
Presentation of findings, works in progress, or new methodologies pertaining to teaching and learning.

Discussion Session
Brief presentation(s) with the primary focus on discussion with or among audience members.


NEW: Flipping the Session
Inspired by those flipping the classroom, AAC&U invites you to “Flip the Session.”  Meeting participants are used to (and often bored with) listening to speakers present their work with limited time for interaction and in-depth discussion.  In this format, we invite you to provide background readings and/or other materials before the Annual Meeting, which AAC&U will then make available to registrants. The session itself will focus on roundtable discussions and significant participant exchange. Speaker(s) will provide a brief introduction and framing for the session, as well as concluding remarks.

We ask that you include with your proposal a description of and/or references for two (2) background readings (or videos, etc.).  If your proposal is accepted, we will ask you provide PDFs of (or links to) these and/or other items by November 1.  (Please note that if links or PDFs are not provided to AAC&U in November, we will not be able to include this session in the Final Program.)

NEW: Seminar Sessions
Seminar Sessions will be small group discussions—limited to 20 participants—on topics being actively discussed and debated within higher education today.  Speakers for Seminar Sessions will facilitate discussion and provide opening statements and/or provocative questions to open the discussion.  It is understood that attendees who attend a Seminar Session will have some prior interest in and/or knowledge of the topic.  Background readings are welcome but not necessary.

Proposals for Seminar Sessions should include a description of the topic, the approach the Seminar will take, and supporting evidence that the topic is one of significant interest to the AAC&U audience.

NEW: Office Hours—Roundtable Discussions
“Office Hours” will be scheduled for late Thursday and Friday afternoons.  Similar to Seminar Sessions but more informal, Office Hour Roundtables will provide an opportunity to discuss topics of general interest to a higher education audience.  We also invite proposals that focus on a particular program, curricular or cocurricular model, or institutional approach. Participants will be welcome to rotate among several Office Hour Roundtables or focus on one.

Internet Access and the Potential for Interactive Sessions

  • Annual Meeting participants will have Internet access available at all sessions of the Annual Meeting.  We encourage speakers to take advantage of this opportunity and provide a more interactive experience for the AAC&U audience.
  • We encourage you to post your PowerPoints and Handouts prior to the Annual Meeting—and provide those links to AAC&U—so participants can access this information before, during, and after your presentation.
  • If you have links to such materials at this time, please provide the URL address with your proposal.  AAC&U will also write to all speakers in the autumn requesting session materials.



Electronic Submission:
Please submit your proposal electronically as directed on the form. If you need assistance, please contact Suzanne Hyers at or call 202-387-3760.

Please submit your proposal on or before Monday, July 15, 2013.

You should receive an automatic message indicating receipt of your proposal when it is submitted. If you do not receive this message, please send an e-mail to Suzanne Hyers at

Final Confirmation re: Receipt of Proposal:
AAC&U will send an e-mail on or before August 1 to every Contact Person as a final confirmation of receipt of your proposal. Please make a note of this. If you do not receive this e-mail, it is possible that your proposal was lost in the data transfer.

You will be notified via email by September 30, 2013, regarding the status of your proposal.

Registration Fees:
All presenters at the Annual Meeting are responsible for the appropriate registration fees. Please be sure all presenters submitted in your proposal have this information. Registration materials will be available online beginning September 16, 2013.

Final Reminders:

  • Please complete all fields, including information pertaining to all additional speakers.
  • Please include links to supplemental materials, if available.

By submitting a proposal, you agree to:

Register and pay fees, if the proposal is accepted.

Inform your co-presenters about the proposal’s status and the need for all presenters to register and pay fees.

Dates to Remember:

July 15, 2013
Proposals due to AAC&U

September 16, 2013
Registration materials available online

September 30, 2013
Acceptance (or rejection) of proposals sent to all Contact Persons

If You Have Questions or Need Additional Information

Please do not hesitate to contact us at or to call AAC&U at 202-387-3760. We look forward to receiving your proposal.


Session proposals must be received by July 15, 2013.