Sharing the SXSW Spotlight, 2018 Edition

One of my very favorite things about South by Southwest (happening this year in Austin from March 9-18) as a conference experience is their programming selection process. Rather than relegating the choices to a small group of individuals, the Panel Picker process allows the general public to weigh in as a means to narrow selections.

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As with last year, I want to draw attention not only to my own proposals – for I loved the support we received last year, and it sent us there! – but to others I’m really excited about. Voting runs through August 30th, so get your upvotes and comments (both matter!) in while you can by clicking on the titles of the sessions you like, and sounding off!


Chuckles + Civility: Humor in Educational Climates

After the success of last year’s panel with Jason Meier, Keli Dailey, and Matthew Broussard, Jason and I are excited to continue the conversation at SXSW EDU in an educational capacity. From our proposal:

The notion college students can’t take a joke has been an ongoing narrative in media, perpetrated by comedians like Jerry Seinfeld and Wanda Sykes and news outlets such as Fox News, The Atlantic and Vice. But can they? How are college students navigating the intersection between social justice, inclusivity, civility and humor? Join in an open discussion on how this impacts campus climate and how educators can help facilitate this dialogue.

Rethinking Equity and Justice with Design Thinking

I love South by Southwest, and it is in dire need of more programming and conversation not just about the nature of inequity in the workplace, but concrete ways to start these conversations. This talk has become one of my most popular as a means to use a familiar framework – design thinking – to start regretfully unfamiliar conversations. From my proposal:

Most conversations we have about diversity, social justice, and inclusion work surround adoption of best practices and replication of strategies that have worked elsewhere. But little is discussed at the outset about how these strategies fit our populations, and what adaptations will be needed for our game plans to feel “at home” at our institutions.

Using the frequently embraced design thinking model and a creativity framework developed by the presenter, participants will have a greater understanding of what institutional knowledge, creative thinking, and a commitment to exploration can do to promote justice and equity in companies and organizations- and will get to test these strategies out with real issues within their organization.

Intrapreneur: I Turned My Day Job Into a Startup

Liz Gross is a force. She took a professional area of interest – social listening – and built a startup called Campus Sonar to offer this important service to institutions of higher education. I look forward to seeing her share her story at SXSW, but she needs your help to get there!

From her proposal:

Pursuing a new business idea may not mean quitting your day job. With the right support from executives, entrepreneurial employees can become intrepreneurs—concepting and launching new products, and even launching new a business.
Campus Sonar, a specialized social listening agency, launched in 2017 through intrepreneurship at Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation. Liz Gross shares her 5-year path from social strategist to founder. It wasn’t a straight path, but the outcome is a win-win for her, her company, and their customers.
Lessons learned will inspire innovative professionals to consider intrepreneurship as an alternative to launching their own startup. Executives will learn how to attract, retain, and nurture entrepreneurial employees who continually add value to the business.

Zen Your Work Book Reading

Last year it was a joy to finally see Karlyn, whose work I’d been following in writing for quite some time, take the stage with her no-nonsense advice for how to improve your life at work. Since that time, she’s written a book – and will be offering a preview of the book at the conference. From her proposal:

Zen Your Work will teach you how to use mindfulness techniques to handle toxic stress in the workplace and to create your ideal professional experience from the inside out. While working in a particularly toxic environment, Karlyn Borysenko came to this liberating realization: she couldn’t control other people, but she could control herself, her perspective, and her actions. Now an organizational psychologist, consultant, and executive coach, Borysenko shows us how to bridge the gap between where we are now and what will bring us the most professional success and happiness. You’ll learn to apply mindfulness techniques in a highly practical way to achieve professional success, create game-changing relationships (even with the most negative people in the office) and decrease overall stress.

From Idea to iTunes: Developing a Podcast

One of the first podcasts I appeared on was highered social, hosted by Jackie Vetrano and Lougan Bishop. Each has also served as an architect for institution-specific podcasts, and that’s what Jackie and her co-presenter Katy Oliviera will be speaking about at SXSW- with your votes, of course!

From their proposal:

Podcasts are not only entertaining, but a fantastic way for individual educators or institutions to easily produce high-quality content for students, the campus community, and alumni. Learn a step-by-step process for developing content for this new medium. We’ll share how to select equipment, set-up studio space, develop content, find online hosting space, build an audience, and much more. Great for those starting out or looking to grow their current content.

How Power and Privilege Show Up At Work

In my time in Boston, I’ve been lucky both to meet with Thomas Harwell, and to participate in events with the women’s networking group She Geeks Out. Each is hugely invested in creating equitable and just workplaces, so I’m really looking forward to the session they could present to SXSW on the topic. We talk about power and privilege, equity and inequity; what does it look like?

From their proposal:

We are all familiar at this point with #metoo and many of us have read the headlines about how we are most definitely not living in a post-racial society. We may think we can leave the headlines behind when we get to work but the reality is we all experience power and privilege in a variety of ways. Whether it’s conducting a performance review, making a hiring decision, interacting with our co-workers on Slack, or participating in a team meeting, we’ll take a look at why and how power and privilege come into play and examine ways each of us can participate in creating a more equitable place to work.

Making Space for Disability in Media

Last year, at a panel on disability in media, a young woman spoke up about her experience challenging a producer at an earlier panel about hiring and working with actors with disabilities. Her brief contribution to the panel via question, in many ways, was more memorable than the panel in which it was broached. So I’m hugely pleased to see her angling to present this year!

From her proposal:

Despite an increase of awareness about people with disabilities in Hollywood, there is a large disparity between the percentage of people living with disability in the United States and the number of speaking characters with disabilities in film. This disparity spills over to the media in general. Do Hollywood and the media have a responsibility to represent disability equitably and honestly? How can we begin to move the needle toward more inclusive, honest representation of disability in the media? Actress Angel Giuffria, will explore these questions within the context of her own experience of being passed over for able-bodied roles due to her upper-limb loss, as well as the irony of not being considered for parts where limb loss is central to the character.

PBS Student Journalists Know a Lot About Learning

“Hear from unique student journalist perspectives about the stories that matter to youth and how to address issues of fake news and mistrust.” Given the moment we’re in, how could you not want to see this SXSW EDU proposal from the producers of PBS’ NewsHour, and their astute young interns, come to life?

From their proposal:

In an era of “fake news,” polarization and distrust, student newsrooms are places of collaboration, empowerment, idea exchange, respect for multiple perspectives, efforts to understand complex forces in society and the search for truth. Hear from youth journalists in PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs about their experiences covering elections, school shootings, immigration and student mental health. Learn how we’re using influential media platforms as outside-the-box education partners.

Where Have All the Latinx Gone?

One of the highlights of my SXSW experience last year was a panel with Robin Thede, Matthew A. Cherry, and April Reign about #oscarssowhite and its impact on representation. This year, Reign (founder of the diverse hiring search engine Akuarel) is teaming up with the National Hispanic Media Coalition to talk about the dearth of Latinx representation in media.

From their proposal:

Despite representing nearly 18 percent of the population and the biggest movie-goers in the country, Latinx are consistently underrepresented on the screen and this has a harmful effect on our community. TV networks and streaming services must commit to increasing diversity and inclusion of people of color in casting, writing, producing and directing by exploring new strategies and creating impactful pipeline programs. Television networks also still have a long way to go until diversity, inclusion, and culturally relevant programming are responsive to American audiences. Of more than 11,000 speaking characters surveyed in film and TV, only 5.8 percent were Hispanic or Latinx.

Design = Equity in EdTech

In keeping with the needed theme of equity, this SXSW EDU proposal discusses how the Boys and Girls Clubs are creating and supporting educational technology tools that are equitable for all who want and need to use them.

From their proposal:

All students deserve the very best from their digital learning experience. Access to technology is important, but not enough. Truly equitable learning products grow from an empathic design approach that considers the whole student. We create products with disadvantaged students in mind, with varied cultural backgrounds, accessibility needs and academic levels. I will discuss our work with the Boys & Girls Clubs and others to create digital resources that are equitable for all learners.

Trying Small: How Creativity Can Change Your Life

There can be a lot of pressure to create constantly, so I love this proposal about “trying small,” or moving incrementally to achieve your creative goals. Brit + Co and Maxie, Inc. are teaming up to talk about the push and pull between hustle and exploration- and I can’t wait to see it!

From their proposal:

The internet and social media have created urgency among Millennials and Gen Z to have it all figured out. The constant hustle, need to keep up, and expectation that you have to know where you’ll end up leaves little room for exploration. In a world where so many people get stuck in the monotony of their daily tasks, how can trying new things actually help you excel? This talk will discuss the importance of “trying small” and how building up a sense of self can propel creative professionals.


Again, SXSW voting runs through August 30th- so act fast and get your votes in!