URMIA Matters

Episode 24: The Value (and Fun) of the Conference Gathering

August 26, 2020 URMIA Season 1 Episode 24
URMIA Matters
Episode 24: The Value (and Fun) of the Conference Gathering
URMIA Matters
Episode 24: The Value (and Fun) of the Conference Gathering
Aug 26, 2020 Season 1 Episode 24

Kathy Hargis, associate vice president of risk management & compliance at Lipscomb University – and co-chair of URMIA’s 2020 annual conference – chats with host Jenny Whittington about conference sponsors, social events, meditation breaks, and the value of being together at roundtable discussions to assess COVID-19 and the start of the fall semester. They even provide a sneak peek of the attendee goodie box contents!

Show Notes {URMIA member login required}

Show Notes Transcript

Kathy Hargis, associate vice president of risk management & compliance at Lipscomb University – and co-chair of URMIA’s 2020 annual conference – chats with host Jenny Whittington about conference sponsors, social events, meditation breaks, and the value of being together at roundtable discussions to assess COVID-19 and the start of the fall semester. They even provide a sneak peek of the attendee goodie box contents!

Show Notes {URMIA member login required}

Jenny: So, hello everyone, and welcome to URMIAmatters. This is Jenny Whittington, Executive Director of URMIA, and again I have a wonderful special guest with me. Today I have Kathy Hargis, and Kathy and I are going to talk a little bit more about the virtual conference because it’s such a big, new thing for us and Kathy is the other co-chair, so on the last URMIAmatters we had Kim Miller from Ball State University, the other chair of the conference. So, today I have Kathy, my good friend, and Kathy welcome to the podcast! 

Kathy: Thank you, Jenny, it’s a pleasure and an honor to be here. I’m so excited, it’s getting towards the end of August, so that magical September moment is right around the corner. So, it’s going to be great.

Jenny: It is. So, like all the other podcasts I’ve been doing, I love to hear a little bit about how you got involved in higher education risk management, and specifically URMIA, so for everybody out there that knows Kathy, she was a president of URMIA, so for three good, wonderful years of her life she was kind of my boss, so it’s been such a pleasure keeping Kathy involved and being the conference chair, so, yeah, tell me about how you got involved in higher education risk.

Kathy: Absolutely. You know, I wish that I had a wonderful story of how my path led me to higher ed, but I think like a lot of people, it's just one of those things that kind of evolved. I had worked really for insurance companies being a risk manager but also in the underwriting world for a number of years, and my background then took me from that to banking where I served really as an associate vice president for a long time for a large banking entity. And then from there actually someone that I knew told me about a position with Lipscomb University that they were starting this new role of risk management, and I knew a lot of people. It sounded like something that would be so much fun, and so had an interview, and it was all history from there, and it has been such a great experience being in higher ed is I like to say, no two days are ever alike, which is something fun, which makes the job really really interesting.

Jenny: So, how long have you been with Lipscomb, remind me?

Kathy: I started in 2005, which is the same year you started at URMIA, so it’s always a great way to remember that and kind of a convenient connection that Jenny and I have, so I’ve been here going on 16 years now, so it’s gone by quickly. 

Jenny: It’s amazing. As I was thinking about our podcast today, I think I told you I looked at your record in the URMIA database and you’ve registered for like a gazillion URMIA events. You almost have as many as I do, maybe you do, maybe you have more. But I remember you being at the regional conference in New Orleans at that wonderful property back in the day when we traveled.

Kathy: Yes, those wonderful days. 

Jenny: Yeah, and that hotel I’ll never forget it. Anybody who’s listening who was there with us, they had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and milk I believe at like 10:00 at night and people were supposed to come in their pajamas, that was so fun. 

Kathy: It was fun. I think it was hot chocolate, but it was pretty much, I think just melted chocolate. I don’t think I’d had hot chocolate exactly like that before. It was wonderful, so it was such a treat, and yes that was a great regional conference.

Jenny: So, today we’re here to talk a little bit more about the virtual conference. So I know I had asked Kim a couple questions last week, or the last time we did the podcast, so I want to ask you the same thing: what things about this year’s annual conference do you think attendees will be most surprised by? 

Kathy: Wow, that’s a tough question, you know. I, when I say this I really mean this, I think this will be such a great conference for our attendees. There’s just so many things that we have put together and I mean mostly the national office has done an outstanding job in making this different. I think for some of us that have been living virtually for a while, this is going to be something out of the box that people have not thought about before. I know on some of my virtual things, I haven’t had the virtual lunch that we’re going to have, which I think is going to be very cool and to have that community together all at the same time I think it’s going to be great. And, you know, there’s some fun things that we normally do at our annual conferences that I think that we have done a great and outstanding job in repeating that in a virtual way that’s really going to be a neat thing, and of course all the sessions I think that we have, we’ve got some outstanding speakers and topics, and so I think all of that combined is just going to be something that people are going to be very impressed with and very surprised I think, and this conference is going to be different than any that we’ve maybe listened to up till now. 

Jenny: Yeah, I’m so glad you brought up the lunch. So that is something special that we’re doing, and compliments going out to FM Global for being a wonderful supporter of URMIA. They are helping to support that lunch, so the concept is that we will send each full registrant a door dash coupon so that they can, if they can get door dash in their area, and that they can order lunch or dinner, really anything that they want to do and the idea is to so it in conjunction with the URMIA conference, and for those of you who don’t have door dash, we will find an alternative possibly like a visa gift card that we’ll send your way so that you can get lunch from any place that you would like to. So, again, compliments to FM Global for doing that. I think I touched on this in the first podcast, but you know a big sense of our community is gathering and dining together and experiencing things together so another special thing about this conference is that a box of goodies that we’re going to be supplying, so I’ve been at the URMIA office the last couple weeks and these items keep arriving. I don’t want to give all of our secrets away, but we have a couple masks in there that everybody can use a couple different masks, we have a lot of COVID friendly items, a little antibacterial lotion that’ll come in handy, we all need that, and then we will have some tasty treats as well. So, the box is definitely unique and there is some urgency that you need to register early to get it, so we are planning to send those out the first week of September, so get it and register early. 

Kathy: Yes, definitely and Jenny has shared some of the content. I can tell you that you’re going to be very pleased, so make sure you go ahead and get your registration in so you can be one of those special, lucky people that receive that box and I can’t wait to receive that in the mail. That’s going to be a good day for sure. And one of the things, Jenny, I wanted to just mention about some things that are great with this is we, for me, I’m at a mid-size to smaller school and we’ve talked about that over the years, and so one thing I really like about this conference is that from a price point standpoint here, anybody can afford to join this. So, I hope that this will be an opportunity for those members that may not have ever been to a conference or maybe it’s been cost prohibitive at your particular institution to be able to come, this will be a great opportunity and I want to encourage all of our members not to miss that opportunity. For this price, everyone I think can afford to attend and get to know some other URMIA colleagues around the country and around the globe, and so I just encourage everybody to really not miss out on this opportunity.

Jenny: Yeah, I’m really glad you said that as well because I have seen a trend while we’ve been watching the registrations roll in, that it’s typically more than one person per institution that is coming, so I think that is great, and we’ve also seen a pickup in membership. So people are adding additional members to their roster, which we always encourage. Everybody has a certain number of spots in their roster according to what kind of tier member they are, and we always want people to get the full member benefits out of their institutional membership, so everybody’s welcome to add more people to their membership and take advantage of the member pricing, so I think that’s great. I did also want to talk… I mean one of my favorite things and the feedback I’ve gotten from members over the years are the institutional roundtables that we do at the annual conference, so we’re definitely doing those on the first day of the conference and they’ll be separated into small, medium, large and technical colleges, and then the affiliate members will have their own meeting. So we’ve been collecting a lot of topics that people want to talk about, obviously COVID is a hot topic.

Kathy: On the hot topic list, yes definitely.

Jenny: Yeah, so I think, I mean that is a great opportunity for people who are new to URMIA, too. I mean even if they just listen to the conversation, those are really valuable conversations, and I know you’ve participated in those over the years.

Kathy: I always look forward to that, those sessions,  and I can remember even when I first started coming to URMIA, my first conference was in 2006, I guess it was that next year. These can really be eye opening way for you to make initial contacts with your colleagues, and I feel that in these there’s always those questions that come up that are really relevant to whatever your institution is, whether it’s technical colleges or community colleges. There’s really all of those questions that all of us have that really apply to probably us as all universities, but then more specifically to whatever subset that you’re in and so those are great so I’m so happy that we are continuing that this year and in the virtual conference world and I think that that will be really helpful. I know I’ve got a ton of things I want to hear from my colleagues about and so I can’t wait to have that opportunity to kind of chat with them and hear all the great things that they’re doing so you can hopefully duplicate that somewhat on your campus as well. 

Jenny: Definitely. We’ve been doing the technical sessions to get our members kind of trained on the technology that we’re going to use and the staff earlier today, we were practicing the breakout  rooms in zoom, so I’m not sure if you’ve experienced this yet, but they’re kind of fun and I think it’ll really… from going to a large group of people to a smaller group of people, I think we’re going to have a lot of fun with the breakout rooms. I know we’re planning to use breakout rooms at the happy hour that is on September 23rd… I want to give a shoutout to Gallagher for sponsoring that. We’re going to have some fun at that social session, and it’s, you know, bring your own beverage kind of thing. We will be providing a tumbler in your box so we can all share that experience together, so that’s going to be really fun.

Kathy: That will be fun, and I have been in a little bit of a conversation, I won’t say with which of the speakers, but one of them is very excited about this and has actually put a lot of work into coming up with some really innovative things for that. So, I think that will be a session you don’t want to miss for sure.

Jenny: That’s terrific, and I also want to give a shoutout to our two kind of general session and keynote sponsors. Beasley is sponsoring the broker panel that we’re doing, special thanks to them and then to Belfor who’s been our keynote sponsor for a few years now. They’re going to, they;re sponsoring the closing kind of motivational speaker on the last day, so big thanks to those two. 

Kathy: Definitely. We want to thank all of our sponsors because all of us know that have worked on conference planning before, that without their support it would be really difficult to have these types of great sessions for our members, and so we’re truly appreciative for all that they do to support URMIA and to step up to the plate to help us in these endeavours. 

Jenny: Absolutely. You know, last year in the conference at Boston, we had the living room space. This was kind of a special like the 50th conference special room, but Aetna at the time sponsored that room and it was kind of a relaxation room. I don’t know if you experienced that last year, but they gave little shoulder massages 

Kathy: Yes

Jenny: Which was so wonderful, so Aetna is doing, sponsoring a meditation break this year, so that will be a continuous thing that you can visit throughout the whole virtual conference, so a special shoutout to Aetna, and they had some great promotional products that were some of them were lavender and they were very relaxing, so.

Kathy: Yes, hopefully they can do something this year. So, definitely the meditation, we can all use that in the midst of I think this year in particular and how stressful that it’s been. Also I’d love the pre conference sessions that we have on the books and I want to encourage all of our members to check those out. We have ERM, the two levels, and we also have a pre conference session on mental health, which is, if you look at I think the list of our risks that I would say looking forward, mental health has been there for a while but I think in this particular year, the predictions are that it’s going to be even more of a risk and an issue on college campuses then it’s ever been before. So I do want to get a little bit of applied for both of those sessions, and if our members haven’t looked at those, please take a further look and sign up for those because they will be really really well worth your time.

Jenny: Yeah, again I’m glad you brought that up. Pre conference sessions are complimentary, they’re included with the $99 registration fee for members or $199 for nonmembers, so those do take place on the day before the first like kick-off day. A lot of people have been registering for the mental health or some of the ERM sessions are pretty popular, too. So definitely check those out and if you didn’t sign up at the time you registered, just give us a call send [email protected] an email. We can add it to your registration super easily. Last, I wanted to make sure that we recognized our great partners with Marsh. They have been a wonderful supporter of URMIA over the years and sponsors of what was formerly known as the Gala that we have had fun with over the last few years renaming different things, night at the museum. Just want to give a shoutout to Marsh for their past underwriting and their current underwriting, we really appreciate all of our sponsors. So, Kathy I have one other question for you. Are there any things that we haven’t talked about that you are most looking forward to? 

Kathy: I’m looking forward to just seeing faces, you know I think in this time period where maybe we all feel a little disconnected I would say, I think just hearing from those that are in the trenches, I’m really looking forward to that. I think it will be very uplifting and inspirational as well as informative, but I’m really looking forward to that a lot. I've already signed up for a lot of the sessions, so there’s some of those that I’m extremely looking forward to because this is a different place that we find ourselves in right now. I’ve been working for the last really six months on a very small task force that our president has put together for COVID, and it’s been pretty all consuming, so just being able to hear from other institutions and how we’re handling things I think just really mean a lot during this time there’s more, to me what I have found is it seems like there’s more questions than we have answers in trying to plan our, our university opens next week, so there’s a lot of apprehension, nervousness around opening and have we done everything we need to do, and hoping for the best, so I think that I’m more really, truly looking forward to just that, maybe as much as anything else for this particular unusual season that we find ourselves in, is my take. 

Jenny: Absolutely. I mean the URMIA community, I think that’s what makes our people so special and URMIA such a great organization is the support that we receive from each other and while we’d all like to be in person, this virtual conference is going to be a great simulation and we’re going to have a lot of engagement. We added some fun things to the website, Ronna has been busy doing some of her great web design. We added some music, a playlist to the website recently and the community is alive, so again I encourage everybody that’s not registered to register. Folks that have questions, just give us a call. We are really happy to bring everybody together through those four dates in September and I think that’s it. Do you have any closing comments, Kathy? 

Kathy: No, I’m just looking forward to seeing everyone there and again it will be here.. But I wish everybody a great opening of school, whether that is in person, virtual, or somewhere in the middle. I hope that will go well, and I’m just excited about this conference and excited to see all of you all there come September. 

Jenny: Excellent. Everybody get your camera’s ready, because we do want to see you, we will be using the Zoom platform for several of these sessions, so we encourage your camera, so we will see everybody in September and thank you, Kathy, for being my guest and that’ll be a wrap on URMIAmatters this time!

Kathy: Thank you Jenny.