Resources for Senior Student Affairs Officers
Vision and Voice for Catholic Higher Education      Learn More

Senior Student Affairs Officers


Senior Student Affairs Officers Conference

In 2017, ACCU launched a conference specially designed for senior officers in student affairs. Bringing together expert speakers and representatives from Catholic colleges and universities across the country and beyond, this annual session equips senior leaders in student affairs with new skills and new ideas for working through the evolving challenges of their profession. 


2023 Senior Student Affairs Officers Conference

ACCU SSAO Conference AttendeesStill We Rise

Saturday, February 4, 2023

9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. (EST)
The Capital Hilton Hotel | Washington, DC  (immediately before the 2023 Annual Meeting)

As Catholic higher education senior student affairs officers, our lived mission is to seek and provide opportunities to inform and equip students to advance their personal, intellectual, and spiritual growth within a framework of Catholic values. We rise to answer the call to bridge disparities and nurture the student experience. We rise despite challenges and obstacles, both personal and professional, that have impacted and modified our “new world”. And STILL WE RISE to meet the need and support the advancement of our profession, our students’ holistic well-being, and innovatively reconfiguring the student experience for today’s student in today’s world. 

Convene in Washington, DC with your colleagues at this year’s ACCU SSAO pre-conference as we share and receive practical advice on leading student life in light of today’s headwinds of higher education: workforce, mental health, diversity, mission identity on our campuses.


   CampusESP logoThe Virtual Care Group Logo

Sponsored by CampusESP and The Virtual Care Group 


Schedule At-A-Glance

Friday, February 3, 2023

Senior Student Affairs Officers Reception
7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
The Capital Hilton Hotel, Washington, DC, New York Room

All Senior Student Affairs Officers registered for the February 4th conference are invited to attend a reception the evening before the conference.

Risk Strategies Logo

Sponsored by Risk Strategies


Saturday, February 4, 2023
Conference Program (PDF)
7:00 a.m. - 9:00 a.m.

Continental Breakfast Available

Capital Terrace/Upper Lobby (Seating in Federal B)

9:00 a.m. - 9:15 a.m.

Opening Prayer, Welcomes, Introductions, and Conference Overview

Opening Prayer and Welcome
Xavier Cole, Vice President for Student Affairs, Marquette University; Conference Planning Committee Chair

ASACCU Welcome
Linda McMurdock, Vice President for Student Affairs, Mount Saint Mary’s University, Los Angeles

Charlotte Johnson, Vice President for Student Affairs, University of San Diego

Conference Overview
Dr. Cole

9:15 a.m. - 10:15 a.m.

Opening Session: Rising with Our Mission

Rev. Gregory Kalscheur, SJ, Dean of Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Law, Boston College

Kathleen Byrnes, Vice President for Student Life, Villanova University

Moderator: Dr. Cole

10:15 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. Break
10:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Continuing to Rise: Developing Sustainable, Thriving Models for the Student Affairs Profession in Catholic Higher Education

Sandy Estanek, Professor Emerita and Special Assistant to the President for Mission, Canisius College

Chris Haug, Provincial Assistant and Director of Apostolic Mission & Charism for the United States Province, Congregation of Holy Cross, and Visiting Practitioner, ACCU

Moderator:  Mary Geller, Associate Provost for Student Success, College and Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University

12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Working Lunch & Fellowship

Moderator: Ronald Gray, Vice President for Student Life, Manhattan College

1:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.

Rising to the Challenge: Responding to the Pressure on Mental Health Support Services

Charlotte Johnson, Vice President for Student Affairs, University of San Diego

Vanessa Pena, Executive Director, Health and Wellness Programs, St. Mary’s University, TX

Emily Pettit, Vice President for Strategic Partnerships, The Virtual Care Group

Jeanne Rosenberger, Vice Provost for Student Life, Santa Clara University

Scott Smith, Vice President for Mission and Student Engagement, Barry University

Moderator: Tim Bessler, Vice President for Student Development and Dean of Students, St. Mary’s University, TX

2:30 p.m. - 2:45 p.m. Break
2:45 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Roundtable Conversations

This session will focus on issues and topics related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. The session will also explore the ways in which our support of students and our ability to help advance our institutions correlate with the extent to which our organizations embrace the concept of inclusive excellence.

Moderator: Dr. Johnson

SSAO Roundtable Suggestions Submission Form

4:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Closing Remarks & Prayer

Dr. Cole and Dr. Bessler


Many thanks to our 2023 SSAO Conference Planning Committee for their assistance in planning this year's conference!

Tim Bessler, Vice President for Student Development and Dean of Students, St. Mary's University, TX
Xavier Cole, Vice President for Student Affairs, Marquette University, and Planning Committee Chair
Mary Geller, Associate Provost for Student Success, College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University
Ronald Gray, Vice President for Student Life, Manhattan College
Charlotte Johnson, Vice President for Student Life, University of San Diego

Additional gratitude to ASACCU for their support in planning the conference!


Check out last year's conference highlights!

2022 Conference Details & Resources


Questions? Please contact ACCU.

Available ACCU Resources

Student affairs professionals provide opportunities for personal growth and help students make healthy decisions within a framework of Catholic values. Given their pivotal role on a Catholic campus, ACCU offers these resources to assist them professionally and personally:

  Student Life in Catholic Higher Education: Advancing Good Practice   Principles of Good Practice for Student Affairs at Catholic Colleges and Universities   Strengthening Catholic Identity: Student Affairs
Student Life in Catholic Higher Education: Advancing Good Practice

Containing the collected wisdom of both current and former student affairs leaders, this book offers a blend of practical advice and personal reflection on leading student life at a Catholic institution.

Principles of Good Practice for Student Affairs in Catholic Higher Education

Reprinted in 2022, this document has long been the standard for understanding and assessing a vision of student affairs at Catholic colleges and universities.

Strengthening Catholic Identity: Student Affairs 

This installment of a 12-part brochure series provides an overview of how student affairs seeks to develop students spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and physically in the context of Catholic values and Christian community.

Additional Leadership Development Opportunities

In addition to the Senior Student Affairs Officers Pre-conference that occurs immediately before the ACCU Annual Meeting, ACCU is proud to offer additional leadership development opportunities:

Principles 101 Webinars Fall 2022


Principles 101 Webinars

ACCU will be offering two FREE Principles 101 webinars in October 2022 which will provide attendees with a 60-minute overview of the 3rd edition of the Principles

  • Wednesday, October 12, 2022 at 2:00 p.m. (EST)
  • Tuesday, October 18, 2022 at 2:00 p.m. (EST)
Principles 101 Webinar Registration




Regional Launch Workshops

ACCU will be taking the Principles on the road for regional in-person workshops across the United States. 

During these half-day workshops, attendees will take a deeper dive into the newest edition and develop an action plan for implementing on their campuses within their respective work. Many thanks to our ACCU member institutions for hosting these regional meetings!

Date Location ACCU Member Institution Time
Monday, November 7 Philadelphia, PA

Villanova University-
The Inn at Villanova Hotel & Conference Center

Noon to 4:30 p.m. (ET)
Friday, November 18 Indianapolis, IN Marian University 1:00 to 4:30 p.m. (ET)
Monday, November 28 Austin, TX St. Edward's University 1:00 to 4:30 p.m. (CST)
Tuesday, November 29 Los Angeles, CA Mount Saint Mary's University, Los Angeles 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (PST)
Registration is now open!

Registration is only $65 per person and includes a complimentary copy of the new Principles publications and additional resources.

Register Today! 


Questions? Please contact ACCU

Banner photo courtesy of Ave Maria University

More Resources for Student Affairs Officers

Support for Catholic Mission and Identity

Read about the programs and events that ACCU offers to support Catholic campus identity

Programs for Senior Leaders

Explore other programs for senior administrators at ACCU member colleges

Publications for Student Affairs Officers

Find publications to enhance the work of senior student affairs officers