That’s A Wrap! Reflections on the 2018 CPN Summit

The 2018 CPN Summit is now behind us. If you missed it, you missed the most successful Summit since 2009, when 40 campus leaders gathered in a classroom at Babson College to hear about the latest insights in the field of alcohol prevention. Nine years, three additional topics, and an additional 500 attendees later, this year’s Summit celebrated not only the history and impact of the Campus Prevention Network, but the 300-year history of its host city, New Orleans.

It’s difficult to identify what exactly made this year’s CPN Summit, as more than one attendee put it, “the best professional experience” of their career. In setting out to answer that question, there is no shortage of potential reasons, beginning with the location. It was New Orleans, after all. As one of America’s most popular cities, New Orleans has long been a beacon of cultural fluidity and influence, aligning seamlessly with the free exchange of shared insights, best practices, and progressive strategies that are at the core of the CPN Summit. It truly is difficult to imagine a more fitting location. But that was only one part of a carefully orchestrated plan to provide the proper balance of intellectual stimulation and personal attention that would leave attendees both renewed and energized for the coming year.

Starting with the plenaries. There were four. Each one provided insights on the “State of” each of the four conference tracks: Alcohol and Other Drugs, Sexual Assault, Wellbeing, and Diversity and Inclusion. With the changing marijuana laws and the national opioid crisis looming, this year’s State of Alcohol and Other Drugs plenary put particular emphasis on “other drugs.” One of two new topics this year, the State of Wellbeing highlighted some of the great work being done on campuses and within national organizations to create healthy communities that will best support healthy students. The State of Sexual Assault provided inspiration and actionable insights for administrators who are grappling with the ongoing and growing challenges of gender-based violence. And the second addition to the growing body of work by the CPN, the State of Diversity and Inclusion, reminded everyone that while there is much work to be done, some of the best ideas to ensure diverse and inclusive campuses come from the students themselves.

There were also two thoughtful and inspirational keynote speakers. Dr. Jean Twenge, author of the book iGen, opened day one with some good news about the generation currently inhabiting our campuses: they drink less and are focused on their health. On the flip side, they also sleep less, socialize less, and exercise less. The implications of these insights for our work fueled lively conversations throughout the rest of the conference. On day two, we were privileged to host Tarana Burke, founder of the “Me Too” movement and one of the “Silence Breakers” named Time’s “Person of the Year” in 2017. Her story reminded attendees that the #MeToo movement is about healing and empowerment and that we must find a way to translate that to our campuses. Her personal truth and experience left the audience feeling inspired and empowered to find ways to elevate the voices of those who are so often silenced.

Beyond the main ballroom walls were opportunities to glean additional topic-specific insights from experts, colleagues, and members of the EVERFI team. Throughout the two and a half days, attendees could choose from over 20 breakout sessions and four workshops. Session topics ranged from using bystander intervention to address microaggressions, to developing a holistic wellness approach to address college retention; from instructions on conducting an environmental scan of campus health culture, to building collaborations with athletics; and from using change management theory to leverage policy change on campus, to creating a prescription drug abuse prevention program. There were even eight dedicated attendees who spent their breakout time in the Technology Pavilion, earning their technology certification. Others were lured to the Tech Pavilion by great snacks and an opportunity to preview the latest courses being developed by EVERFI, and demo the new technology, which will be supporting the implementation of those courses.

Everything worked in concert to create an experience. The thoughtfulness that the session presenters put into their content. The incredible food that reflected and celebrated the local cuisine. Definitely the Second Line parade, complete with costumed characters on stilts and a jazz brass band leading everyone from the hotel lobby through the streets of the French quarter to the reception site. The extended networking breaks that provided the opportunity to connect with long-time colleagues, make new acquaintances, and engage with thought leadership partners like the JED Foundation, It’s On Us, and the Association for Recovery in Higher Education. The innovation labs that engaged participants in the process of creating a unique way to address a challenge and then finding out that EVERFI’s first innovation grant will potentially fund one or more of the ideas from the workshops. The Prevention Excellence Awards and the opportunity to recognize and celebrate the incredible work that schools are doing to make progress on these seemingly intractable issues. Those in New Orleans refer to these things as lagniappe – “that little something extra.”

The content, the camaraderie, the location, the lagniappe. It didn’t happen by accident. Every year, the CPN Summit is designed to provide an enriching and inspiring experience for its attendees. It is designed to feed the intellect. To feed the body. But it’s also designed to feed the spirit; the part of us that often needs to be reminded, especially after a particularly challenging year, that our work matters, and it does make a difference. If you forget that over the course of the next 11 months, just keep in mind that the 2019 Summit is just around the corner.

2019 CPN Summit date and location coming soon!

If you missed the CPN Summit, check out the highlights here.