Ease your student supervision speed bumps.

Student Affairs Speaker #SquadGoals

By Dr. Josie Ahlquist & Dr. Ann Marie Klotz

At the beginning of 2016 we had an idea to pull together and feature speakers within Student Affairs and Higher Education. We also wanted to offer our services to a small group of people who were interested in starting their own speaking journey. This resulted in the project Student Affairs Speaker #SquadGoals to support current and hopeful speakers.

Read below to learn more about our journeys and if you are already speaking please feel free to fill out this link to join our comprehensive list. If you would like to be considered to work with us for the upcoming year, to develop your speakers package, use this link to submit your interest.

Student Affairs Speaker #SquadGoals may include:

  • Up to four phone/skype/facetime calls over the next year.
  • Help with creating initial forms, documents, contracts, etc.
  • Connecting them with other speakers for informational interviews.
  • Limited promotion of materials through our social media channels.

The Secret Society of Speaking & Consulting

Dr. Josie AhlquistIMG_1574ccrt-2750775894-O

If you are just now stumbling upon the idea of becoming a content expert in higher education through blogging, speaking and/or consulting – you are not alone. It is not a path that is widely discussed in our field – possibly even discouraged at some institutions. When I realized just how many professionals in higher education provided consulting services and professional speaking – I was blown away.

I felt it was like a secret society and once you were in the ‘club’ – then you had open to access and understanding on how to do it. All I had to do was tell people I wanted in – and to my surprise – I was supported. I found my speaker squad.

I now speak at about 20 institutions, companies and conferences per year. Uniquely I am represented by a college booking agency well known in student activities called Bass Schuler Entertainment. I have presented to thousands of college students on how to be Digital Leader. Many of my engagements are full or multiple days – working with higher education administrators on how to build campus community online and inspiring faculty to embrace technology tools.

It began with a blog

I have blogged at www.josieahlquist.com for over three yerars. At first, my blog was for personal expression, including posts about family and epic adventures. At the time I wrote enough about higher education in my doctoral program and I didn’t want that to bleed into what I wrote online. I called it a six week experiment – setting a goal to blog everyday for 50 days. It wasn’t easy and honesty tugged at nearly all my insecurities, as one of my posts a few weeks into the experiment was titled, “Am I a Writer?”  

By no means did I expect one of my posts to go viral – but after a while I did feel I was stumbling through random posts about adventures, family and interests. That was until July 22nd 2013. On this day I finally posted a blog about social media in higher education, called Student Engagement Through Social Media: #IsItPossible?

Embracing my niche

It was not just the number of views that blog post received, but the amount of comments, shares and new contacts I made from it. After that post, I embarked on blogging about social media within education nearly every post. I began submitting to present at every conference I planned to attend. I reached out to as many professionals in the field that were blogging, especially about technology in higher education.

Many of those contacts I now consider close friends. These connections were like coaches, directing me to professional speaking. In the back of my mind I giggled, thinking “where have these people been all my life? Why doesn’t education more openly promote professionals to be blogging, speaking and consulting as a side gig?!” I finally declared my intention to be a speaker on my blog in the spring 2014 and am loving the global adventure I now on.

Joining the (not so secret) club of speakers in Higher Ed

I want more people in this awesome-sauce club – that is not so secret or selective at all – hence why Ann Marie are calling this project Student Affairs Speaker #SquadGoals. After two years of speaking I feel called to help others in this squad – just like so many had encouraged me. Special shoutouts to Ed Cabellon, Jason Meriwether, Teri Bump, Zeb Davenport, James Robilotta and Nancy Hunter Denney for being just some of those people.

However, to be successful as a speaker I have found you need the following 5 D’s:

  1. Define your niche
  2. Develop original physical and digital content
  3. Declare your services
  4. Demand your worth
  5. Discover and support other speakers.

To learn more about these D’s, click here to read the full article on my blog.

My First Speaking Gig: The Catholic Church

Dr. Ann Marie Klotz

AMK headshot greenIn 1984, my teacher asked all of the first graders at St. Clare of Montefalco who wanted the opportunity to give the reading at mass on Sunday.  It was tradition at my Catholic school for a first grader to deliver the first reading at the start of the new school year.  Without hesitating, my hand shot into the air.  It was the only one. My friends looked at me like I was crazy.  

Even my grandmother asked me ”aren’t you scared?” before I walked up to the lecturn and had to climb up the step stool they gave me so I could peer over the podium and see the congregation. I distinctly remember shaking my head and saying “No, I want to do it.”

Twenty-five years later I was 30 years old and wanting to build a speaking, training and consulting business for myself.  I didn’t see anyone else who looked like me (female, young(ish), and working in Catholic higher education) doing this kind of work within our field and so I started the process of securing small speaking gigs, publication opportunities, and training sessions with institutions outside of my university.  Just like first grade, I raised my hand and jumped right in.  

I started with three things:

  1. A defined idea of the topics I wanted to speak, write and train on.
  2. A plan to promote my work through social media, blogging and later through my website, www.annmarieklotz.com designed by the exceptionally talented Matt Bloomingdale.
  3. A small group of cheerleaders,advocates, sponsors and promoters who helped to guide me through the first stages of this new venture.

In the last seven years I have built a solid foundation of speaking, consulting and training at over 50 universities, associations and corporations, many of whom are repeat opportunities each year.  I have learned a lot about what it means to come into an unfamiliar culture and teach, share and hopefully inspire others to lead their best lives at work.  You may have read some of the steps to beginning this process in a blog post that Dr. Patrick Love and I created a few months ago (here).

While this blog outlines some practical action steps, both Josie and I know it does indeed take a village, and we want to be a part of that village for aspiring speakers.

In 2016, we are going to work with a small number of aspiring speakers and help guide them through their first steps.  While we don’t proclaim to be the experts on this topic, we are happy to share our experiences, tips on getting started, negotiation strategies and general contract forms with you in the hopes that you can launch your own speaking career.


As I climbed down the step stool on that fall day in 1984, my grandmother met me down by the first pew.  “You did it!” she said proudly.  “Yes,” I said.  And I want to do it again…and do it even better next time.”  So today I am asking, who is ready to raise their hand?

Whatever your goals are, may we all do it “even better” in 2016!       


The Path to Speaking

Now that you have learned more about our journeys, we invite you to join a collective effort to support each other through Student Affairs Speaker #SquadGoals. Please select the link below that connects with where you are today as a current or hopeful higher education speaker.

I want to be a higher ed speaker: (Click here)

I am currently a higher ed speaker (Click here)

Use the hashtag #SAspeaker on Twitter to be connected to other professionals on their speaking journey.

Josie and Ann Marie at the 2015 AIMHO conference as keynote speakers

About the Speakers

Dr. Josie Ahlquist

Speaking Topics: Digital identity and leadership, online community building, teaching and learning with technology and social media strategy.

Twitter: @josieahlquist

Website: www.josieahlquist.com

Dr. Ann Marie Klotz

Speaking Topics: Successful strategies for working with first generation college students, women’s career development, capacity-building, supervision, greek life, personal and departmental branding.  

Twitter: @annmarieklotz

Website: www.annmarieklotz.com

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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Rebekah Tilley

Assistant Vice President, University of Iowa Center for Advancement

Rebekah Tilley is the assistant vice president of communication and marketing for the University of Iowa Center for Advancement (UICA). In that role she supports fundraising and alumni engagement efforts for the university, including its CASE Gold winning Iowa Magazine, and serves UICA in a variety of strategic communication efforts.

Previously she was the director of strategic communication for the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business, and the director of communication for the University of Kentucky College of Law. She is a Kentucky native and a proud alum of the University of Kentucky.

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