Snow, EdTalks, and innovation make PACRAO 2017 sparkle

by James Miller, director of admissions, University of Washington Bothell and

PACRAO Past President


The members of Pacific Association of Collegiate Registrars (PACRAO) gathered on November 5-8 in Spokane, Washington, for their Annual Meeting. The meeting themed “Shining a Light on Innovation” was PACRAO’s 91st annual meeting. Our meeting is always a highlight of the year for the PACRAO membership. PACRAO’s gatherings are famous for their warm and welcoming atmosphere, sharp and incisive content, and a general sense of togetherness and fun. What follows is a brief recap of our awesome meeting.


If you aren’t familiar with the weather in the Pacific Northwest, snow in late October/early November is a bit of rarity. Even in Spokane, known for its high desert climate, our members were surprised by a snowy Sunday morning.

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Snowflakes and Coffee Photo Credit – Ching-Fang Tu, University of San Diego

Dynamic Keynote Speakers

The PACRAO Membership had an opportunity to hear from four keynote speakers who each brought messages in keeping with the annual meeting’s focus on innovation; in particular each of our speakers encouraged our members to transform our work through an outcomes orientation that focuses on student service:

Runninghorse Livingston, a nationally recognized expert in math education and a proponent of using stories to connect cultures shared a message that wove stories from his life, stories from Native American culture, and pertinent facts and trends from education. Horse’s message to the membership was that to transform the lives of our students, we had to be like “Coyote”: a wise and cunning teacher and guide. Our job is to provide guidance and wisdom to our students.

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Runninghorse Livingston Photo Credit – James Miller, University of Washington Bothell

Dr. Wayne Sigler, a senior consultant with AACRAO Consulting brought us an excellent message that was focused on moving our departments in the direction of continuous improvement and an outcomes orientation. Dr. Sigler asserted that obsessing about processes, important as they may be, at the expense of driving excellence in outcomes is a pitfall that we must escape if higher ed is to meet the challenges we currently face. Wayne also shared important lessons in the power of empathy and that basic kindness or “flowers for the living” is a vital skill for every higher education professional.

Dr. Sheetal Patel and Natalie Smolenski (PhD ABD) co-presented a session for us on the need to reach out to students where they are and the importance of good and relevant communication. Additionally, a mind-bending overview of the blockchain and its future in record authentication.


In the spirit of innovation, the Program Committee brought an innovative session to the membership. On Monday afternoon, we all gathered to hear four “EdTalks” (because TED Talks was already taken) from our members. Soraira Urquiza, Registrar, Los Angeles College of Music; Stephen Shirreffs, Associate Registrar, Stanford University; Mike Reilly, executive director, AACRAO; and Sue Eveland, assistant vice president for enrollment, University of Oregon (retired) shared messages about what inspired them to get into the profession, how technology and innovation has touched their work, and inspiring lessons for the future.


At the conclusion of our meeting, the members gathered for dinner, great Latin music from the band Milonga, and good times together. Our gala theme this year was “Ready, Set, Glow.” Black lights illuminated the dance floor and eluded to our conference theme of Shining a Light on Innovation.

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Milonga Photo Credit – James Miller, University of Washington Bothell