WWU's Conference Services Pivots to Virtual Event Formats in 2020-21 Due to COVID

  •  screenshot from the Salmon Recovery Conference, from the attendees’ view during one of the case study sessions.
    screenshot from the Salmon Recovery Conference, from the attendees’ view during one of the case study sessions.

Conference Services (CS), Western's expert team of event coordinators, not only assists with university conferences and events, they also provide support to other entities outside of Western. This year they supported local, regional, national, and international conferences while navigating the COVID pandemic and adapting for the effects it had on in-person events. In 2020-21, CS organized and coordinated events for 7,000+ registered attendees with over 600 presenters, and led 43 technical training sessions. Their services and specialties include registration, abstract management, virtual platforms and software, conference design consultation and logistics management, and more.

Some of this years' highlights include:

The Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference, which focuses on the health of the Salish Sea in our region, was originally scheduled for April 2020 in Vancouver, BC. This conference is unique in that it supports transboundary collaboration between the U.S and Canada. When COVID hit, CS had less than three weeks to assist the Salish Sea Institute in pivoting from an in-person event to a virtual one. 3,400 people registered, which is a 50% increase in registration year-over-year. The virtual event was so successful that the decision has already been made to go virtual again in April 2022.

The Salmon Recovery Conference, which brought together over 1,300 individuals to discuss on-the-ground salmon recovery projects in the state of Washington, recent research, and policy relating to salmon recovery and its benefits to human society. This biennial conference is an important event for sharing information and improving salmon recovery throughout the state of Washington.

The National Association of Presidential Assistants in Higher Education (NAPAHE) event brought together over 300 individuals from a broad range of roles who work in service of presidential leadership and higher education. This conference required CS to work with numerous other higher education entities across the nation.

The Children's Literature Conference, a staple on Western's campus, was moved to virtual format for the first time in its 19-year run. CS is very thankful to be able to help continue the conference's legacy.

The Pigments Revealed Symposium focused on creating a space for people from all pigment backgrounds to share knowledge and create a global pigments community. The spotlight was on mineral and earth pigments. This unique event was CS' first international conference and featured presenters from New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and South Africa.

CS assisted with two public lands advocacy events -- Hike the Hill and the National Trails System Fall 2020 Workshop. Whereupon, CS provided technical support for meetings, including a USDA Forest Service (USDA FS) briefing with Huxley alumni and the 19th USDA FS Chief, Victoria Christianson.

Other internal and external events that CS helped with includes:

  • Salish Sea Shared Waters Forum, which allowed diverse entities to come together to share information and challenges in protecting the Salish Sea from oil spills.
  • Oil Spill Task Force, which includes representatives from state and provincial environmental agencies in the Pacific coastal area.
  • Scholars Week, featuring outstanding research and creative works by Western students.
  • Ethnic Studies Conference, featuring a keynote and multiple panel sessions that covered topics such as what ethnic studies is, the histories of ethnic studies, and contradictions and future possibilities for ethnic studies in higher education.
  • Northwest Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society, known as NORM, which featured an online technical symposium and poster sessions, and an exposition.

"Conference Services is proud to have been able to step in during this challenging year and transform a diverse array of events via the use of technology. We're ready and willing to assist with both the anticipated return to in-person events, as well as the continuation of virtual events," said Chelsea Bodamer, Event Coordinator. “Our focus is providing the expertise and knowledge to reduce the stress and unknowns of planning a large event,” continued Caleb Klein, Event Coordinator, “so our clients can focus on the content and program.”

The upcoming 2021-22 year brings the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference, technical support for summer academic advising, two collaborations with the Department of Ecology in the fall, the Oil Spill Task Force, and more.

If you're interested in Conference Services' assistance for a multi-day event or medium to large conference, please visit oce.wwu.edu/conference-services, where you can see testimonials, submit an inquiry, and more.


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Wednesday, August 4, 2021 - 8:54am