Senior Director, Conference Program

Washington D.C.
Jul 26, 2018
Aug 30, 2018
Full Time

Position Summary: The Senior Director, Conference Program, leads the planning, development, and implementation of educational and networking offerings for the NAFSA Annual Conference and Expo, which brings together more than 9,000 international and higher education professionals from around the world.  A strategic and innovative approach is essential to effectively position the NAFSA conference as the largest international education conference in the market and requires collaboration with numerous staff colleagues.

Reporting to the Deputy Executive Director (DED), Knowledge Development, the Senior Director is the staff lead regarding conference content and drives the development of the strategic vision for the annual conference program, from the theme to the content to the event execution.   The successful candidate will lead a team of three, who partner with the volunteer member Annual Conference Committee (ACC) to develop the program, representing the full range of NAFSA members and conference attendees, and their diverse professional interests.

The Senior Director should have a broad knowledge of international higher education and stay abreast of trends in the field to guide program development and ensure comprehensive and trending content.  Overseeing the conference evaluation process to provide data analytics and information on previous content offerings is crucial for planning and budgetary decisions. 

The Conference Program team develops and maintains the conference session proposal system, and designs and implements special support services for the conference, such as the online networking system.  The team is responsible for all communication with presenters and maintains the database of conference educational and networking offerings. They compile information for both the printed program and online conference materials. 

Major Functions and Responsibilities

Research trends in international education and guide the development of content and networking opportunities for the annual conference

  • Identify current trends to ensure they are included in the conference content
  • Facilitate the discussion on the annual conference theme for the DED
  • Work with the ACC to develop the annual call for proposals to reflect new directions in conference content, networking needs, and new policies regarding conference educational offerings and networking events
  • Manage the ACC and staff in developing innovative proposals to showcase new ideas and expert presenters
  • Delve deeply into conference evaluations to discover salient participant reactions and potential areas for improvement in educational content and networking events each year

Achieve cutting-edge and comprehensive content for the annual conference and provide successful networking events

  • Ensure that effective systems are in place to bring strong content and networking opportunities to the annual conference
  • Lead the ACC to maximize their effectiveness; two ACC groups will operate concurrently for six months of each year
  • Ensure that the ACC understands the diversity of conference audiences and the importance of making decisions informed by evaluation and demographic data and association priorities
    • Develop the content creation timeline and proposal review and selection process for the committee and assist the chair in implementing the timeline
    • Provide strategic and statistical information to facilitate informed decisions and meet NAFSA strategic priorities
    • Prepare agendas for committee meetings and develop background materials for committee discussion
  • Communicate with the international education colleague organizations to provide opportunities for them to contribute to the conference content
  • Identify and manage the invited speaker sessions
  • Collaborate with senior director colleagues representing NAFSA’s five knowledge communities to seed session proposals, plan open meeting discussions, and conduct the review of proposals
  • Collaborate with the Professional Learning Services unit to ensure a complete of selection of preconference workshops
  • Develop strategies and implement procedures to address quality improvements for educational and networking offerings

Oversee creation of program-related content for the print and online publications/communications to ensure that all information is accurate and positions the conference as the largest international education event in the field

  • Work closely with marketing, communications, and web services staff to ensure high quality messaging about conference content and schedule
  • Adjust communications based on analysis of evaluation data, web trends, and communication statistics
  • Partner with the marketing department to determine specific audience segments and how to communicate conference offerings to those subgroups

Develop strategic new conference services and features that enhance the participant experience and revenue diversification for NAFSA

  • Develop a yearly proposal, budget, and implementation plan for new services or features for approval by the DED
  • Work with outside vendors on the development of new services and features
  • Develop and implement an assessment plan to measure the effectiveness of new services or features, and provide timely and accurate reports to the DED

Manage the conference evaluation design, collection, and reporting processes

  • Analyze annual conference data, summarize findings, and draft report for the NAFSA Management Team, Board of Directors, and ACC
  • Review evaluation design, collection, and reporting process annually and make recommendations to the DED based on data review and strategic priorities
  • Collaborate with colleagues in web services and technology support to ensure timely collection of accurate data to inform decisions making and strategic planning.
  • Partner with senior data analyst or outside vendors/consultants to ensure accurate and relevant data collection to inform decision making

Ensure successful conference program delivery both at the annual conference and through continuous cross-departmental collaboration 

  • Develop cross-departmental timeline on the conference planning process to ensure consistency and time management
  • Communicate with colleagues in the Knowledge Development department on the development of signature programs
  • Ensure that accurate records, data, and processes are maintained and accessible over the years to provide necessary information to the senior management, board, and conference committee as new needs arise and priorities change
  • Coordinate staff volunteers at the conference
  • Manage the delivery of all conference content at the conference, including sessions, seminars, poster fairs, open meetings, networking centers, signature programs, guest speakers, luncheons, and plenary speakers

Other duties as assigned by the Deputy Executive Director

Required Qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s degree with substantive work experience in educational conference programming
  • At least eight (8) years of project management experience including strategic planning, supervision of staff, and management of projects and budget
  • Demonstrated success in planning, coordinating, marketing, and executing conferences, symposia, exhibitions, meetings or related events and activities
  • Ability to collaborate in a team environment, with multiple project groups comprised of association members, volunteer leaders, and staff
  • Proven capacity for taking initiative, setting priorities, and exercising sound judgment in a complex, fast-moving environment
  • Excellent communication skills including writing, editing, oral communication and public presentations

Desired Qualifications:

  • Master’s degree in a related field 
  • Extensive experience with NAFSA or other higher education associations, membership or nonprofit organizations
  • Experience with innovative program development and idea generation
  • Experience with data analytics to inform business decisions
  • Proficiency with Microsoft Office suite products

Scope of Supervision

The Senior Director will manage a department with an associate director, senior coordinator, and coordinator. Ongoing coaching, mentoring, and constructive feedback to those supervised is expected, as well as completion of regular performance appraisals.

Work Relationships

As representatives of a membership organization with a broad and diverse range of activities related to education and training, NAFSA staff possess more than simply specialized capabilities. Each individual is expected to take the initiative to become knowledgeable about the organization as a whole. Association members and other staff expect colleagues to be accessible and responsive, to convey a positive attitude, and to exhibit a high degree of professionalism.

Office Environment

The workday is generally 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The week after Memorial Day to Labor Day, it is 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Friday.

Travel is required occasionally related to job responsibilities, especially for the annual conference or other leadership meetings. Participation in the NAFSA annual conference the week of Memorial Day, including the holiday itself, is a job requirement. The annual conference is held in varying cities.

About NAFSA: Association of International Educators

NAFSA: Association of International Educators is an organization of people dedicated to building a global community and fostering a more peaceful world through advancing international higher education. With approximately 10,000 members, NAFSA is the world’s largest professional development and advocacy organization committed to international learning and creating a more globally engaged, welcoming, and educated United States.

NAFSA believes that international education advances learning and scholarship, fosters understanding and respect among people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives, is essential for developing globally competent individuals, and builds leadership for the global community. We believe that international education lies at the core of an interconnected world characterized by peace, security, and well-being for all.

NAFSA is a workplace that not only appreciates diversity but believes it is our strength, and we strive to create an inclusive culture for all our team members. NAFSA is proud to be an Equal Opportunity Employer. Learn more about NAFSA at


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