Looking Forward to HI-TEC 2022 with Executive Committee Chair Mary Slowinski

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High Impact Technology Exchange Conference - Educating America's Technical Workforce

The 2022 High Impact Technology Education Conference (HI-TEC) will be held on July 25-28 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Recently, we asked Mary Slowinski, PhD, Chair of the 2022 HI-TEC Executive Committee, to share what attendees can anticipate about this year’s conference. Dr. Slowinski is PI of Working Partners Project & Workshops at Bellevue College in Washington state.

ATE Central: What is HI-TEC? How does it support the goals of Advanced Technological Education?

Mary Slowinski: HI-TEC (the High Impact Technology Education Conference) has provided a national forum for addressing critical issues in advanced technological education since its inception in 2009. The conference grew out of the NSF-ATE community and is produced by a consortium of ATE centers and projects in collaboration with industry and education partners. The conference is a marvelous gathering of this community, with opportunities for all to present, share and learn from one another and to acquire new skill sets, new understandings of industry needs, and new engagement with questions of diversity and inclusion, as well as gaining practical insights into improving technician education overall.

Who typically attends HI-TEC?

HI-TEC attendees are educators, industry representatives, workforce development personnel, technician-students, and educational researchers who share an interest in improving technician education at community colleges. In terms of numbers, HI-TEC historically has attracted 500-600 attendees of these like-minded folk. However, when the conference pivoted to a virtual environment for the last two years in response to the pandemic, many people attended who might not have been able to do so otherwise. For example, in 2020 alone, HI-TEC had 1000 registrants with over 700 people attending all or part of the two-day virtual event! But virtual or in-person, HI-TEC definitely brings together practitioners, policy and program administrators, technological experts and researchers, and educators and their students to learn from each other and to collaborate on finding solutions to core issues facing advanced technological education today.

What kinds of sessions will be featured at this year’s conference?

The conference focus is on pedagogy, technology and innovation, program/pathway building for workforce development, and increasing workforce opportunity and diversity. As such, many of the sessions highlight one or more of these topics in application to one or more industry sectors. Remember also that all of this occurs in an environment in which participants are encouraged to share and discuss their knowledge and skills. As a result, the 87 interactive workshops and sessions (along with poster sessions, keynote addresses and a packed exhibit hall) allow participants to follow their specific interests and engage with their peers concerning technician education in general, but also to explore overarching related topics such as recruitment of diverse and underserved student populations, integration of research into the classroom, best practices for managing instruction during disruptive times, faculty development techniques, and developing robust education-industry partnerships. Truly, there is something for everyone who is interested in advanced technological education at this year's HI-TEC!

What has been challenging and/or exciting about returning to an in-person format?

Well, clearly, it is exciting to have our community coming back together in-person for the first time in almost three years. It will be genuinely nice to find ourselves face-to-face again and to reconnect in that "large event haphazard fashion," to run into each other during session breaks, to discover a shared interest with a new colleague, to grab a cup of coffee or a meal with old and new friends, and to find new and exciting ways to collaborate, to share and to learn from one another.

In terms of challenges, first would be the fact that the pandemic is not "over." The committee has had to keep "plan B" – or more like multiple "plan Bs" – on the table given the uncertainty of the times. Travel is still challenging, and costs continue to climb. There is also the fact that HI-TEC experienced a tremendous surge in participation when the conference was offered virtually; will we have those kinds of numbers – or even pre-COVID numbers – at the face-to-face conference this year? Time will tell, but we sure hope everyone who can come, does!

What are some “can’t miss” opportunities available to members of the ATE community at this year’s conference?

All of them! But seriously, we have two inspiring and innovative speakers who will provide keynote addresses, so I'd be sure to be in the audience for those. The exhibit hall is open throughout the conference and is a great spot for meeting, mixing, and learning about the tools and resources available to participants from ATE projects and centers and from vendors who are education-centric. Then there are the sessions and poster presentations… and the pre-conference meetings and tours… truly, I think that for each attendee, there will be numerous "can't miss" opportunities! And did I mention the caricature artist? Oh yes, don't miss getting your caricature drawn!!

Anything else you would like to share/highlight about HI-TEC 2022?

The organizing committee is really excited to be welcoming everyone back to our first face-to-face community gathering in almost three years. This is a very connected community, and we have missed seeing one another.  And I know I speak for all the committee members when I say we feel honored to be facilitating this particular gathering and very much looking forward to learning and celebrating each other in person once again. See you in Salt Lake City!

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