Recap of the 2017 SXSWedu Conference & Festival in Austin

Guest Post from Renata, Executive Assistant for The Art of Applying 

TAOA Executive Assistant, Renata

Hi, I’m Renata. I’m Kaneisha’s Executive Assistant, and this is my second guest post for The Art of Applying blog. Today’s post is about me and Kaneisha’s experience at the SXSWedu Conference & Festival in Austin.

Last week, Kaneisha and I spent part of our work week in downtown Austin to take part in SXSWedu. The Art of Applying is always aiming to become a better admissions consulting firm to its clients. There’s no better way to do that than to stay current about the new information, developments, and systems that impact potential and current students everyday.

According to, “SXSWedu held its inaugural event in March 2011— with the goal of celebrating innovations in learning. In 2016, SXSWedu saw continued growth by welcoming more than 7,500 stakeholders and expanding their Policy Forum and mentor programming. This year has marked the debut of the Industry Hub and Industry Talks, bringing a focus to conversations related to the business of education. They have developed from a regional event into an international platform,” [1] and we certainly wanted to be in attendance this year to continue to support our desire and the community’s desire to connect, collaborate and positively impact the future of education.

What is SXSWedu?:

SXSWedu is stated to be “a conference and festival that fosters innovation in learning by hosting a diverse and energetic community of stakeholders across a variety of backgrounds in education.”

Let’s begin our week!


Bridging the Skills Gap from School to Work

Laurie Burruss, – Education Innovation Advisor

The proposition of our first talk of the day was to learn how and LinkedIn were working “to connect people to opportunities that closed the competency skill gap. They are tackling this problem between what our education systems produce and what employers demand through big data analysis and the creation of vetted, curated high quality video content.” [2]

According to speaker, Laurie Burruss, “learning is transitioning from a 20th century approach reliant on rote learning, to a 21st century curriculum focused on collaboration, critical reasoning and creative problem solving.” [2] Her presentation was full of resources that LinkedIn and have put together to provide today’s learners with the skills they need to obtain the jobs that will exist in the future versus the jobs their previous skill sets prepared them for in the past.

Making the Transition: 1st Gen to Graduate School

(from left to right) Desmond Delk, Langston Univ – Assistant Professor; Eric Dieter, Univ of Texas at Austin – Exec Director Pre-College Academic Readiness Programs; Darrell Balderama, Univ of Texas at San Antonio – Dir Retention Programs; Theodorea Berry, Univ of Texas at San Antonio – Assoc Dean of Academic Affairs & Dir

Our second panel discussion featured “a variety of higher education professionals who specialize in the creation of programs that support pipelines guiding undergraduate students to graduate and professional school.” [3] It made sense for us to be a participant in this discussion given The Art of Applying’s aim of helping students get into the world’s top graduate schools.

What made this panel unique is we heard perspectives from a variety of institutions such as: PWI’s (Predominantly White Institutions), HSI’s (Hispanic-Serving Institutions) and HBCU’s (Historically Black Colleges & Universities). They addressed a number of topics, including “how diverse institutions collaborate to increase the matriculation of underrepresented populations to graduate and professional school.” [3] What they also shared that made their outreach exciting is they were starting the conversation about college very early on with kids in elementary school, as well as with the families of the kids they were trying to reach. They aimed to be a resource and conversation starter to entire families so there could be more support and clarity about graduate school, what a graduate degree could mean for their communities, and what it could mean for their families.

Being Open to Creating Writing & Art that Matters

Treva McKissic (standing), McKissic Education Consulting – Writer/Poet/Teacher Trainer & Teacher

This session was the last one of the day and was more of a time to relax and let loose following all the information we had received earlier. Ms. McKissic was a great instructor that used our time together to pull out our “inner creative writers through meaningful experiences she designed to deepen our thinking. Together we created an environment of value for our creativity to emerge and bring our words to life. Us and all of the other participants were exposed to a cacophony of art, music, writing, artists, writers and peer discussions, all designed to promote the flow of creative ‘writer moments.’ We left the session with valuable ideas, individual writings, poetry and materials to help create writing experiences” [4] for ourselves moving forward in our lives and in our careers. At times, I felt a little silly, but it was okay because it called to us to be more open to “crazy” ideas that could change our lives and even our careers in a way we were now able to imagine. Below is some of our work if you were curious about what we came up with!

Kaneisha thinks it’s important that we keep our creative juices flowing, so that we can better draw upon that creativity when helping our clients tell their best stories.

Kaneisha’s Collage: “Cat Lady Contemplates Her Future”

Renata’s Collage: “What will I do with my hair today?”

Kaneisha and her collage, “Cat Lady Contemplates Her Future”


How to Make Awesome Educational Videos

(from left to right) Alex Rosenthal, TED – Editorial Producer; Joe Hanson, PBS Digital Studios – Producer/Writer; Vanessa Hill, BrainCraft/PBS Digital Studios – Producer; Anna Rothschild, NOVA/Gross Science – Digital Producer/Host

Our first stop on Wendesday was to a bright blue standing only room to learn how to reach our audience of prospective graduate students via short educational videos on YouTube and other platforms. The panel, “featuring producers of the popular YouTube series It’s Okay To Be Smart, BrainCraft, Gross Science and TED-Ed, dissected examples of excellent short form educational videos to explain what made them successful. They also explored tips for writing clear, informative and engaging scripts, and discussed how to get our target audience to watch your content.” [5]

We learned that our content should meet prospective graduate students where they may be in their lives and make them more comfortable with the grad school process. We found out it’s better to have an idea, make a story, and put out that story as soon as possible because the failure that comes with the imperfection is what will help you grow the most. Lastly, we were informed it is best to keep a script for a Youtube video as simple and straightforward as possible because you only have a few seconds to grab a viewer’s attention and too much information can make for a confused and uninterested audience member.

We received lots of inspiration from this panel so look for us soon with some Youtube videos!

Scaling the Boot Camp Model for Middle Class Jobs

(from left to right) Bridgette Gray, Per Scholas – Exec VP/Natl Program; Rachel Romer Carlson, Guild Education – CEO & Co-Founder; Byron Auguste, Opportunity at Work – President & Co-Founder; Matt Sigelman, Burning Glass Technologies – CEO

This panel used their “expertise and real-time job data to show what is actually happening in the labor market and how that will impact the training world. We were intrigued to hear the boot camp model of rapid, targeted training has stormed onto the scene as a more effective and efficient alternative to traditional academic programs” [6] and how this could impact the need for a college education. According to, “to date, most boot camps have taken root as a post-baccalaureate path to tech jobs, but the tech sector isn’t the only one facing skill gaps. The world of middle-skill jobs faces similar talent shortages across a much bigger market so our curiosity was in whether or not the boot camp concept offered a route to close the skills gap, without expecting everyone to go to college.” [6]

We found that a greater discussion needed to be had with employers seeking specific talent to help them better know what it is they’re looking for, considering a general degree is not filling those gaps as well as we would’ve expected. It was a great dialogue and much to think about regarding the ongoing discussion surrounding higher education and its costs.

Why was this conference necessary?

Renata & Kaneisha at SXSWedu 2017

As mentioned above, The Art of Applying is always aiming to become a better admissions consulting firm to its clients. There’s no better way to do that than to stay current about the new information, developments, and systems that impact potential and current college students everyday.

As a result of our great experience there, we want to make a plug for any of you working in or interested in education to make a trip to Austin to attend SXSWedu, (not to mention the SXSW Interactive, Music & Film Festival if you’re looking for more fun). Check out SXSWedu at to learn more about how you can be a greater part of the conversation surrounding all levels of education. Their next conference is March 2018.

As always, we here at The Art of Applying are happy to help any of you apply to your dream school as well. Please share your comments and questions about our services below!









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