Professional Development > Conferences and Workshops

Conferences and Workshops
(Click here for the 2019-2020 Professional Development Series PDF)


Admissions Trends, Data & Creative Marketing
Donna Orem, Aimee Gruber & Shelly Peters

May 6 - 7, 2019

ISACS Classroom
Chicago, IL

***Registration Update as of 4/2***
Due to the high demand for this workshop, ISACS has relocated this workshop to the Hotel Allegro, 171 West Randolph Street, Chicago, IL

ISACS has brought together national experts to support the efforts of admissions and marketing/communications teams in ISACS schools. It is clear that the independent school admissions landscape is shifting. Please plan to join this essential two-day conversation to learn the most current trends, data and effective approaches to telling and marketing each school’s unique story.


  • Day One: 9:30 am - 3:30 pm
  • Day Two: 8:30 am - 2:30 pm

Day One: 9:30 am - 3:30 pm

The Great Shift: Understanding & Preparing for the Tipping Points Ahead with Donna Orem, NAIS
The next decade will bring many shifts in society--there will likely be more change than we have seen in the last 100 years. Demographic and economic shifts will significantly alter the market for independent schools. External forces will put unprecedented pressure on long-standing institutions and systems, causing them to transform or perish. Business models will evolve rapidly and continue iterating  as exponentially advancing technologies create new opportunities and challenge the status quo. We are at the beginning of not just an evolution, but a revolution. We’ll discuss both the challenges and opportunities for independent schools in this changing landscape.

Donna Orem was named president of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) in November 2016. She had served as the interim president since November 2015. NAIS provides services to more than 1,800 schools and associations of schools in the U.S. and abroad. Orem served as the chief operating officer for NAIS for 11 years before becoming president. She joined NAIS in 1998 as the vice president for educational leadership, later becoming the vice president for strategic initiatives and research. Prior to joining NAIS, she served as the vice president for products and services development at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). In her 15 years at CASE, she also served as vice president for independent schools, managing all services for the independent school advancement community including the annual CASE/NAIS Conference. She also served as associate director for The American Association of University Women (AAUW). Orem speaks frequently about leadership, governance, trends in independent education, and workforce development. She is the author of numerous books and articles and is the co-author of the NAIS Trustee Handbook, 10th edition. She holds a BA in English from St. Joseph's University (PA) and attended graduate school at the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

The State of the Independent School Admission Industry with Aimee Gruber, Enrollment Management Association (EMA)
The goal of The Enrollment Management Association’s biannual survey of independent school admission directors is to determine the industry’s current state and future needs and, when applicable, to compare the results across survey years. This trailblazing research has provoked national significant dialogue on the changing conditions of, and expectations for, independent school admission and enrollment professionals. Results have provided illuminating insight into the structure, process, and enrollment operations of the independent school admission office—as well as the significant challenges faced by many schools to reach their enrollment goals. This presentation provides enrollment leaders with key findings and themes from our research. ISACS partnership with EMA on this survey ensures that results are representative of admission challenges and opportunities in the central states. 

Aimee Gruber is the senior director of global outreach at the Enrollment Management Association (EMA). Gruber’s decades-long commitment to the private school admission and enrollment industry gives her a first-hand understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing our members. She uses that understanding as she helps serve schools and expand EMA's membership reach within the larger international education sector. Before joining The Enrollment Management Association in 2006, Gruber was associate director of The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) where she managed professional development workshops, organized international student recruitment fairs in Asia, developed marketing materials about boarding schools, and represented TABS worldwide. Prior to her position at TABS, she worked in admission at The White Mountain School (NH), Tilton School (NH), and the Webb School of Knoxville (TN). She served on the board of the Independent Educational Consultants Association foundation and is a recipient of the Western Boarding Schools Association's Hilton Award for outstanding contributions to the association. Gruber holds a bachelor’s degree in communication and anthropology from the University of New Hampshire and a master’s of education from Plymouth State University.

Day Two: 8:30 am - 2:30 pm

When Don't You Want a Line Out the Door? 
Answer: When the line’s not full of right-fit families.
As admissions and communications professionals, your jobs are more complex, subtle, and significant than simply bringing more people in. As you attract prospective families and choose to whom you say yes—and no—every season, you continually craft your school’s culture and ensure its long-term sustainability. You’re not attracting buyers but cultivating believers, at admissions time and throughout their entire school journey. And it’s crucial that both admissions and communications teams work together to achieve these goals. In this session, Shelly Peters of CRANE | Atlanta shows you how to help the right families find and stay with you—by working together to unfold and articulate your school’s own unique story.

Shelly Peters is the strategic and organizational leader of CRANE. She believes your brand should serve as one of your organization’s most powerful and unifying assets—and you must steward it accordingly. While driving each program’s strategic approach and creative development, Peters has employed her keen perception, wise diplomacy, and inner drive to ensure that clients and team members alike all achieve their highest aspirations. She draws on years of experience across a spectrum of CRANE roles—therapist, problem-solver, advocate, curator, and generator—to lead our teams and serve institutions with a balance of big-picture thinking and careful attention to detail. Peter's nonprofit education consulting and corporate management experience provide her with a broad context for understanding institutional challenges. She holds a dual BA in psychology and educational studies from Emory University and studied learning and organizational change at Northwestern University.

The workshop will take place at the Hotel Allegro, 171 West Randolph Street, Chicago, IL

Directions & Public Transportation
The Hotel Allegro is located in the heart of Chicago, with easy access to public transportation. Click here for directions to the Hotel Allegro including driving, parking, and public transportation.

Parking at the Hotel Allegro
Overnight valet parking at the Hotel Allegro is $63/night with in and out privileges. There is no need to rent a car.

Daily valet parking for the ISACS event is $29/day with no in and out privileges. 

Air Travel
Both Midway and O'Hare airports are easily accessible to the Hotel Allegro. Fly into Midway (on Southwest Airlines) or into O'Hare and take the "L" (Chicago's public transportation) and be at the ISACS classroom in less than an hour.  

​Ground Transportation from O'Hare and Midway Airports
Taxis from O'Hare and Midway airports cost approximately $40-50 to downtown. Uber/Lyft options are offered at both airports and will be less expensive.

ISACS has negotiated a special rate with GO Airport Express (shared van shuttle service) for ISACS members – 15% off the standard rates. Reservations MUST be made in advance and online to receive the discounted rate.  The standard rate per person to/from O’Hare is approximately $28 one-way; $49 round-trip. The standard rate per person to/from Midway is approximately $24 one-way; $40 round-trip. To receive the 15% discount off the standard rates, please click here for the Go Airport Express website to make a reservation in advance. A credit card is required and charged at the time of reservation. Airport walk-ups are not eligible for the discounted rate. Parties of two more reserving at the same time receive a discount. Please visit their website for more information.  

Hotel Accommodations 
For those registering for the workshop after April 2, ISACS has secured a limited number of rooms at the Hotel Allegro at the rate of $209/night
 for the nights of Sunday, May 5 and Monday, May 6. Please note the Hotel Allegro only has rooms with one queen bed available at this time. To make a reservation call 1 312-325-7211 and use Group Code: "ISACS Admissions & Marketing" to receive the discounted rate. The discounted rate is available until Friday, April 19. To make your hotel reservations online, click here for an online link: Online Booking Link

For those attendees, who made reservations prior to 4/2 at the Hotel Palomar, we request that you honor your reservation at the Hotel Palomar. The Hotel Palomar is less than three-quarters of a mile from the Hotel Allegro. You can easily walk in less than 15 minutes or take a quick taxi, Lyft, or Uber. Please call the ISACS office if you have any questions at (312) 750-1190. As of April 1, the room block at the Hotel Palomar has reached capacity.

Attendees must make their own hotel reservations. ISACS has secured special discounted room rates at the Hotel Palomar, 505 N. State Street, Chicago at the rate of $229/night plus tax (single or double occupancy) for the nights of May 5-6. To make a reservation call 1-800-546-7866 and use group code: C9N or ISACS May 2019 Room Block. The discounted rate is available until 5:00 pm CST on April 14, 2019. If availability allows, the hotel will honor extended reservations three days before and three days after the workshop. We recommend making your hotel reservations early as rooms at the discounted rate are limited.

If you need any assistance making your hotel reservations, please call the ISACS office at 312-750-1190

Hotel Palomar is located in the River North area of Chicago near the Chicago River and North Michigan Avenue. Complimentary highlights of the Hotel Palomar include: a 24-hour fitness center, indoor pool, pet friendly policies, and complimentary coffee and tea and evening wine reception in the living room from 5:00 – 6:00 pm. To receive complimentary Wi-Fi in your guest room, click here to sign up for the IHG Rewards Club. For more details on the Hotel Palomar, visit

Registration Fee

  • $300 member fee
  • $400 non-member fee
  • The first person pays the full fee, each additional registrant from the same school receives a $20 discount
  • Workshop includes light breakfast, lunch, and daily refreshments daily
  • Register early as this workshop will reach capacity
  • Please review the Registration Confirmation information below

Registration Confirmation Communications from ISACS
Once registration for the workshop has been completed the following communications will be sent from ISACS:

  • Once registration is complete, an email will automatically be sent to the contact person on the registration confirming that registration has been completed.
  • Approximately three weeks prior to the workshop, ISACS will send a confirmation email to the registrant with details for the workshop.
  • Approximately one week prior to the workshop, ISACS will send a final confirmation email to the registrant with details for the workshop.

If you do not receive these emails prior to arriving at a workshop, please call the ISACS office at (312) 750-1190. It is possible your email address was entered incorrectly OR your registration was not completed.

Cancellation Policy
Cancellations for workshops held at the ISACS classroom must be received in writing to ISACS by emailing 10 business days prior to the event to receive a refund. ISACS will determine the refund amount, if any, on a per workshop basis and may be unable to determine the refund amount until the workshop’s conclusion. At any time, registration may be transferred to another member from the same school. If a workshop has a waitlist and ISACS can identify a replacement, a full refund will be provided. ISACS reserves the right to cancel the workshop for insufficient enrollment. In this case, participants will be notified and given a full refund. 

Contacting the ISACS office
If you have any questions related to any aspect of your attendance or travel, please contact the ISACS office at (312) 750-1190 or email


Member Cost: $300     Non-member Cost: $400


55 West Wacker, Suite 701 · Chicago, IL 60601 · Telephone (312) 750-1190 · Fax (312) 750-1193
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