We headed down on Sunday, after lunch with the kids.
Checked in to our hotel??? this year I didn’t stay at the conference center – I just couldn’t justify the price of the room, so we stayed across the street at the Marriott Residence Inn. The room was lovely and there was a breakfast buffet (no free breakfast at the Gaylord, thank you very much) every morning – being about $75 cheaper??? totally WORTH it! So our first night we took a wander around to see if there was anything new from last year and stopped by Harringtons Pub & Kitchen for a couple pints and a bite (we had a big lunch with the kids at Don Pablos so we didn’t need a full dinner). They had Magners hard cider on tap – I was Thrilled. The bartenders were friendly and chatty and the bar was not crowded. We just shared a plate of sausage rolls, not a huge serving but delicious and more than enough. We didn’t stay out late since my first session – Early Riser – was at 7:30am! &8 /
The opening session for DUG was not one of the best I’ve seen but Datatel has just merged with SGHE and they have become Ellucian so it isn’t really surprising how much of it was scripted rah rah and talking heads. It was ok. Monday was my busiest day including the Early Riser session for the Student Affairs track??? it was a disappointing session because they had us in a conference style room vs. tables where we could really chat. I went to Lots of session that day including the Enrollment & Student Services Track Opening Session / Retention Alert System – Mott Community College / Student Success: Does Anything Else Matter (which was one of my favorite sessions??? fast paced, funny, and pretty darned smart!) / Improving Student Retention: A Low-Cost Success – Oh??? there was a box lunch in there somewhere.. Honestly, Gluten-free sandwich rolls are just vile. I was thrilled with the vegetable chips though??? last year it was basically just a sandwich but this year it was a great meal including an apple and gluten-free chocolate chip cookies! (sorry, no picture??? I was hungry!)
After a long day, I definitely need a drink or two so we tried the Cadillac Ranch Bar & Grill – sadly no ciders but it was happy hour so 1/2 price beers for my Heart and 1/2 price house wine for me??? that worked. Also 1/2 price appetizers, which is great since the prices are pretty ridiculous in the area.. darned TOURIST prices! We had the pulled pork nachos…
..and the crab & artichoke dip. No Small servings – this was more than enough for dinner. We also sat next to a very nice young man who had just become the Executive Chef at Nordstroms cafe in Pentagon City.. no small feat for a 27 year old. Everyone was laughing because his friend was the Exec Chef at the restaurant so he had enough food for about six because his friend wanted him to taste all the best dishes. I hope to see his face out there on the Food Network someday!
It was a lovely night so we wandered around a bit but then felt like some dessert …
We stopped at the Gaylord’s Old Hickory Steakhouse for dessert (Bailey’s Irish Cream Cheesecake) and after-dinner drinks (wine for my Heart and my Cointreau) – delicious! We had a wonderful chat with a young woman who does their cheese cart – she was reading/highlighting a book about Cheese and we talked about how different American’s are about cheese and how competitive the French and English are. It was a lovely Foodie evening!
The next day (Tuesday) started slightly later, at 8am, with an amazing Keynote by J.R. Martinez – I can’t do justice to how amazing this talk was but I can honestly say??? hundreds of people in one room and there was complete and utter silence as he talked about the day the vehicle he was driving in Iraq hit a landmine and changed his life forever. What a great speaker and man!
I had a bit of a break in the morning??? there just weren’t any sessions that fit the bill – then I hosted one of the Networking Lunch tables (which is why there are no pictures of Lunch??? too busy chatting with my table mates) – it was fun and I think one of the highlights of the conference. The people at my table agreed and said that they wished there were more opportunities to network ??? not really at Social events but more like roundtables, etc. Sounds like the need for some UNconferencing sessions to Me!! &8 D In the afternoon I went to the Building the Roadmap from Student Information to Student Success session but I could tell it wasn’t for me.. we already have the Portal and Business Intelligence is in the pipeline so.. the Law of Two Feet came into action! Also went to the Herding Cats (Literally) session which basically talked about how Berklee College of Music got their stuff together and organized their IT future including some fairly dramatic changes. It was a pretty good session but I think utilizing PREZI for the presentation bothered some people. They didn’t like the SPIN-Y action! Then it was time for “my” session??? now let me give some background – in October or so I received an email from a woman another university. A former SU employee had sent her my way because she was looking for someone to sit on a panel talking about Co-curricular transcripts. Now.. I helped design, etc. our Co-curricular transcript but I was definitely NOT alone in this project??? unfortunately both of the other people primarily involved are no longer at the University so??? there you go. I agree to sit on the panel and did ask the Career Services / Learning Beyond person who is in charge of this project currently if she would also like to come along but she declined. So??? I told the woman from (unnamed University) yes and she said she would be in touch. In January, when I got the “so here’s how you upload stuff for your DUG presentation” email from DUG??? I emailed the woman again to say “Hi??? what am I doing? what are we doing? Hello???” She wrote back and said “I’m so sorry??? I will be in touch with more info soon”. Now – I KNOW that I should have reach out a few more times (I’m thinking Daily!) but February and March were pretty much Insane so I didn’t. So I got to our assigned room and Imagine my surprise when – 1. the woman I had been corresponding with was NOT the one presenting any longer and, while she had forwarded my emails to the new woman who was presenting who, of course, had NOT emailed me.. and 2. they had a PRESENTATION up on the screen. The other woman presenting (from a Different College) also had a presentation. I.HAD.NOTHING! Zip! Nil! NADA! And they pretty much acted like they didn’t know I was going to be there. It was Fantastic. I, of course, said??? “that’s fine – I don’t have to be here” but they were all “no no??? you should stay???” blah blah. Thank God for my Heart ??? I had put the Co-Curricular Transcript video we had made to help guide students through the process on YouTube. It wasn’t the perfect “presentation” but it definitely showed what we were doing??? what goes on our CCT??? what it looks like.. how we use the system. I talked during the movie to explain certain parts and, frankly, it looks pretty snazzy. I could go on to say some other snarky things about the experience but I think it all turned out ok and I don’t think the attendees were too bored or we looked too stupid. I will just remember next time to say NO !
So, after a good 20-minute RANT at my Heart (who is a wonderful, patient man!) re: the session fiasco, I definitely needed a drink. We went to Rosa Mexicano for dinner last year. This is definitely a tough choice because the wait is ridiculous long and very unorganized and the service is simply not great but the food !!! We started with a beer for my Heart and the red sangria for me.. perfect!
We watched the young man make our guacamole.. medium-spicy (they ASK!) – it just doesn’t get any fresher than that and the side sauces are wonderful – the green is a salsa de tomatillo y habanero, which has a wonderful light flavor with just a touch of heat and the other, my Favorite, is the salsa pasilla de Oaxaca which also has heat but a great underlying smokey taste
My main course: Lamb Carnitas (can we say Heaven??!!) – the lamb was perfect.. tender and wonderful with little crunchy bits topped with onions and poblano peppers and a salsa picante. I have NO idea what the corn esquires is but it was perfect with the lamb.. the creaminess and sweetness of the corn and my Heart loved the red bean-chorizo chili. I didn’t take a picture but they have adorable little handmade corn tortillas to wrap everything in. Amazing!
My Heart had an appetizer for his main course: Pork Belly & Sea Scallop Hand Tacos served up on warm corn tortillas with a citrus-habanero salsa – these were equally delicious.. the crispiness of the pork belly with the texture and taste of the scallops.. WOW! And, while he only got two, I definitely had more than enough on my plate to share!
Everything also came with rice and refried black beans – quite the feast. So??? while the bartenders (we ended up at the bar because seats opened up and we were getting nowhere with getting a table after an HOUR) had no personality (and that does make a difference !) and we waited for a long time.. I would not only recommend this restaurant (make a reservation!) but We definitely have to come back! YUM
Now??? I will admit??? I simply could not get to the last day of sessions – I think the weeks of working (I figured out – I was IN my office every day for twelve days straight) have really been catching up.. I had hoped to get to one session this morning but the only one that seemed to fit was on the Student Alert System which I know we won’t be getting and??? the Lie-In (I actually didn’t physically wake up until 10am and I went to bed at 11:30pm so that’s pretty amazing for me) was really needed! We grabbed lunch before we headed back home – I wish we had a Freshii closer to home because it is really good and very economical. I had the Spicy Lemongrass soup.. only 348 calories??? ok, a ridiculous amount of sodium but.. WAY Yummy anyway! I didn’t take a picture of my Heart’s Bliss Bowl but talk about health: brown rice, roasted red peppers, mushrooms, avocado, diced tomatoes, goat cheese, EVOO & aged balsamic. YUM! the perfect cap to our mini-vaca and a really good conference!