The Hub ASSC 2017: A smashing success!

ASSC 2017: A smashing success!

Last week, Athabasca University hosted the 34th annual Alberta Student for Services Conference (ASSC) in Athabasca, Alta., represented by 22 post-secondary institutions from across the province.

speaking with minister schmidt

Nearly 200 delegates attended the three-day event, this year aptly titled Going the Distance. Delegates from as far as Lethbridge made the several hundred kilometre trek to meet with fellow student services staff and attend daily sessions. The conference was spread over three buildings — the main administration building, the ARC building and the town’s multiplex facility

The festivities began on Tuesday evening with a welcoming wine-and-cheese event. As delegates registered at the AU multiplex (and received some amazing swag including a book donated by our very own AU Press), they were ushered up the stairs to begin networking, unwind from their long drives, and chat about the next couple of days. The Hon. Marlin Schmidt, Minister of Advanced Education, joined us for the get-together and took the time to talk with many delegates about student services at our Alberta universities. Dr. Cindy Ives, Interim VP Academic, welcomed the delegates and officially opened the conference.

AU President Neil Fassina welcomed delegates and introduced Minister Schmidt as the opening keynote. The event was livestreamed on the ASSC Facebook page. Sessions began early Wednesday morning — with 44 different discussions offered over the three days, including:

  • Lollipop Moments: Finding and Recognizing that Sweet Spot in your Student Services Role (Speaker: Cheryl Christensen, Athabasca University)
  • The Blanket Exercise (Speaker: Blair Cunningham, SAIT)
  • Silo-Busting 2.0 (Speakers: Fazer Andrews, Peggy Lynn MacIssac, Mike MacLean and Jennifer Rempel, Athabasca University)
  • Let’s Get Physical for mental health (speakers: Ron Griffith, Sonya Flessati, Kara Plotnikoff, Mount Royal University)
  • You’re the Peanut Butter to my Jelly: Integrating
    Career and Academic Advising (Speakers: Deanna Gonnelly and Amanda Guccione, Lethbridge College)
  • Wait…What Did You Say? Considerations for Effective Cross-Cultural Communication in Academic Advising (Speakers: Jordanna Chipiuk, Cindy Koziej, Grace Oresile, Serita Smith and Margot Young, Athabasca University)
  • Get the Word Out (Speakers: Yufei Zheng and Amanda Fusaro Smith, Bow Valley College); and
  • Everything International: A Conversation Café (Speaker: Gordon Pellerin, Grande Prairie Regional College)

Delegates just wanna have fun

sasquatch sighting

To wind down the day, before heading into the evening activities, six “fun” sessions were added (at the end of both days) to provide levity from some of the more “serious” sessions. From historic nature walks and painting and chocolate tasting, to yoga and exploring underwater Hawaii, there was a little something for everyone. All of these enjoyable sessions were led by AU staff — and we thank them for their hard work to make it so much fun.

One hairy highlight included a sighting of the local Athabasca Sasquatch, hanging out on the nature trails, behind the university. Reports say he was friendly and approachable enough to even pose for a picture! Bets are on whether the Sasquatch makes an appearance at this year’s convocation.

Evenings were full of food, laughter and great fun, too. Wednesday evening saw the annual awards banquet deliver exceptional food and an elegant atmosphere. The curling rink at the Multiplex was transformed into a black-white-and-silver soirée of elegant decoration and sophistication.

And the award goes to…

Two awards were handed out that evening. The Red Deer College Registrar group received the ASSC Team Award, and AU’s own Jody McGarry-Liddell was honoured with the Russ Guthrie Contribution to Student Services award. Following the banquet, there was a dance where party-goers rocked out to Athabasca’s Swing Cats Orchestra which provided the entertainment (word has it that a few AU staff are also members of the Swing Cats band…). Many would agree the highlight of the conference (as it usually is each year) was Thursday evening’s activities.

The theme Going the Distance encouraged delegates to dress up in their best costumes — from construction workers and marathon runners, to Mad Max, tourists, pilots, and flight attendants. The range of get-ups this year was exceptional. Visit the #ASSC17 Twitter page to see a couple entrants’ videos.

Additionally, the 2017 Spirit Award was bestowed upon the team that demonstrated the most spirit over the conference’s duration — in particular, the team that best embodied the theme of Going the Distance. It’s an annual award. Last year’s winner was Calgary-based Bow Valley College. And guess what? The latter announced this year’s Spirit winner as … wait for it … Athabasca University!


From there on, the party started. A local DJ had the dance floor hopping. A photo booth was set up for delegates to get their “goof” on and the saltiest of popcorn was available to those who need a midnight snack!

Friday morning marked the closing of this year’s conference. Dr. Janet Miller, a Registered Psychologist from Mount Royal University delivered the closing keynote and did not disappoint. Also announced that day, was next year’s host. The crowd was abuzz when Red Crow Community College heard its name called out. Delegates have much to look forward to with next year’s 35th annual ASSC conference moving to Southern Alberta.


Interactive shenanigans

From the #wheresgordon hashtag (and subsequent hiding of the ‘Gordon’ cutout to the kidnapping (albeit short) of the Spirit Award and the passport and hashtag (#ASSC17) contests on social media, this year’s conference featured a tonne of interactive activities that brought the conference to life, in real-time. The conference hashtag #ASSC17 was used hundreds of times throughout the event.

Over the three days, hundreds of pictures were shared across social media. People are invited to go and explore the fabulous posts and share their own stories from the conference.

Thank you!

A special Thank You to all of the delegates who attended #ASSC17, and who drove the distance to our beautiful main campus in Athabasca. And a million ‘thank-you’s’ to the dozens of volunteers who helped out in every-which-way they could to produce an incredibly successful conference — certainly, a magnificent showpiece for Athabasca University!




  • May 25, 2017