THE 2015 NATIONAL HECA CONFERENCE (or, “My One Day, Ever, in Cincinnati”)

A report by Ben Bernstein.

Ben Bernstein PhD is a psychologist specializing in stress reduction and stress management. He has been a member of BATS since 2014.

The annual national Higher Education Consultants Association conference was held in Cincinnati, Ohio, and ran from June 15-19. The title of the conference, “Respecting the Past & Creating the Future,” was apt, as speeches and panels ranged from “Tips, Tools and Techniques for Finding the Best Fit” to “21st Century Steps to Developing Leaders in High School.” I was invited to give a breakout session, “Successon Tests: Helping Students Reduce Test Stress and Succeed Under Pressure for College Acceptance and Beyond.”

Spoiler alert: the rest of this post is about my one day at the conference, which was spent giving my presentation, manning my exhibitor table, attending the evening “Closing Social” at the Cincinnati Museum Center, and complicated travel arrangements in and out of Cincinnati.. Hence: little about the conference, lots about my experience.

For a person who specializes in stress reduction, I was put to the test by the travel arrangements alone. I had a speaking engagement in San Francisco on June 15, which meant I missed the first day of the conference, as well as the second, which was my travel day. Severe weather conditions on that day delayed and prevented the arrival of many attendees. Luckily, I was able to catch a flight from SFO to Dayton, arriving there at midnight. I rented a car, stayed at an airport hotel, and after a quick two hours of sleep got up and drove an hour plus to Cincinnati, to give my breakout session which began at 8 am. Room set up went swiftly, thanks to a great staff, and quickly the seats were all filled with about 80 bright eyed, eager-to-learn consultants.

I gave a 75 minute presentation that was packed with information, interaction, and even time for a Q&A! Talk about “stepping up to the plate”! They were a very engaged, knowledgeable, experienced audience. After that I went straight out to my exhibitor table, and spent the rest of the day chatting with HECA members, talking about test stress, and answering a lot of questions. As I’ve experienced many times before, mostly everyone is looking for the “magic bullet”— how to reduce a student’s test anxiety, overnight, in 3 easy steps or the wave of a wand.. With deep sighs and nods of recognition and understanding, these consultants—both the very experienced, and the newbies—know “it just ain’t so,” which led to deeper, more productive conversations about what they could do to help relieve a student’s test stress. At the conference I offered a year long membership program for consultants, at a very affordable rate, to give them, their students and the students’ parents access to monthly conference calls with me about test anxiety— a year-long membership program. There were some takers and the program is well underway.

From the exhibitor table I got whisked away to the evening Social (I don’t know if I’ve ever beento a “Social” before), which was held in the amazing Cincinnati Museum Center, the converted Union Terminal railway building. It houses four separate museums, cultural and historical archives, and an IMAX theater. Quite an architectural gem. The Social was a warm and welcoming affair; good food, conversation, networking, and, after eating and chatting, I returned
to the hotel to get ready for the trip back to Dayton. I had to leave Cincinnati at 3 am for a 6 am o’clock flight back to San Francisco. Your math is correct: about six hours of sleep over three days.

I’m glad I got to speak to this engaging, interesting crowd. I sure would have liked more conference!

For those interested in presenting at the 2016 HECA conference, I encourage you to go to their website and learn about how to submit a proposal: It’s going to be in Philadelphia. Much easier to get to, and a crowd well worth getting to know.

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