#NEPCA2020 Conference & the Pandemic

A chalk board with Scrabble letters spelling out "NEPCA is coming" in the center.Greetings members,
I write to you today to provide you with an update about NEPCA and our plans for the fall.  Our goal is to be transparent about how we are moving forward and let you know that we’re trying o make the best decisions in a process where we don’t know how things will go and thus have to anticipate lots of different challenges.
We don’t know the endgame of how COVID-19 will continue to impact higher education (currently, 2 out of 5 college presidents are uncertain about a face-to-face fall semester) and society in general.  Given this uncertainty, the NECPA leadership has decided to think strategically about the fall and move forward on two tracks for now.
Track 1: Hybrid.  Yes, we may be face-to-face by October but many folks may still not be comfortable being in large crowds and we know the financial impact of COVID-19 will impact people individually but also will impact institutions. This means it will be financially harder to physically attend conferences that require significant travel or lodging.
A hybrid conference would consist of face-to-face sessions but also a contingency of folks who would present in a video-streaming environment to other folks who are also attending virtually (members attending the face-to-face sessions could also attend these too).  To be clear, this is not a talking-head video feed to a physical room full of people but each individual logs into the video-streaming space.  We might do something like 1 panel for each section virtually.  In all likelihood, the virtual conference fee would be cheaper.
Track 2: Entirely online. Many campuses including Southern New Hampshire University are deciding what to do with the fall. Many have decided that Summer is going to be remote. SNHU is likely to decide about Fall in July.  We’ll follow their lead and if they say no F2F, we have to acquiesce.  There’s also a chance that we may decide to acquiesce regardless but would look to make that decision in July.  Since all of this is so new, it’s hard to speak with finality.
In an entirely online conference though, we might reconsider how we do it and rather than do it 2 days back-to-back of hours of video-streaming, we might break it up into 3-4 hours chunks over 3-4 days. We’re still looking at that.
I know that none of this is ideal and that we all want to be face-to-face on a campus somewhere.  Trust me, I do too.  But these are new circumstances and being smart about pivoting to keep people safe AND keep the conference affordable to graduate students and PT faculty who are unlikely to have as much funds in the fall is also as important.
For the current CFP, I have added a new question that states the following:
We’re recognizing COVID-19 might disrupt or challenge people’s ability to travel to the conference. We are currently thinking of two conference formats:  1. a hybrid conference where there will be a face-to-face conference with virtual tracks; 2. an entirely virtual conference. In light of that, would you be interested in presenting at a virtual conference?
[Select one]
  1. Yes, I am interested if the conference is entirely virtual,
  2. Yes, I am interested f there is a “virtual track”, even if there is a face-to-face conference.
  3. No, I am not interested in presenting virtually at all.
Thank you everyone and if you have thoughts or ideas about any of this, I am always happy to hear them.  Please send them to Lance Eaton, Executive Secretary.
In the meantime, please be sure to continue to share the current CFP with friends, colleagues, listservs, social media networks, and anyone else you think would enjoy joining our community of punk-rocking, video-game playing, movie-watching, comic-reading, celebrity-gossiping, nerding-out scholars!
Much appreciation,
Lance Eaton
Executive Secretary
NEPCA

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