2012 Conference Wrap-Up
For the past several months you have been hearing all about the Secular Student Alliance’s 2012 Annual Conference. Despite a several-day long power outage in the entire city of Columbus and a hospitalization of our lead conference organizer (don't worry, she's okay!), it finally happened!
Our 2002 conference attendees
The SSA has grown so much over the past 10 years. Shown above is a group photo from the 2002 conference, which had about 50 attendees from 19 schools.
Almost 300 attendees! We're gonna need a bigger staircase next year!
Fast forward ten years to last weekend, when over 260 attendees from more than 100 schools gathered for the largest ever secular student conference in the nation!
Speakers like Matt Dillahunty sit among the students
Members from all parts of student communities, including advisors, alumni, and the students themselves, gathered in Columbus, Ohio to share information and network on how to better organize and lead their groups and the movement.
Networking! Talking! Fun times!
We had more than 50 speakers, including Greta Christina, Dave Silverman, and Hemant Mehta. All of our speakers were accessible to all the attendees, allowing for unprecedented levels of interaction with the leaders of the movement. We also had a catered lunch with over 30 tables, each with a different topic for student leaders to discuss and share ideas.
Greta Christina, having lunch with student leaders
Additionally, more than half of the speakers at the conference were current students, proving that not only are secular students the future of the movement, but also the present.
SSA at UNLV, Collegiate Affiliate of the Year
We gave Best Awards to 10 groups and activists, including the Secular Student Alliance at the University of Las Vegas, who carpooled and brought 17 members to the conference, all the way to Ohio!
Annie Laurie Gaylor of FFRF
We also presented Annie Laurie Gaylor of the Freedom From Religion Foundation the Freethought Backbone Award for her lifetime of service to the secular community.
Evan Clark, Chair of the Board of Directors, talking about SSA Week
This year we had SSA Jeopardy, a game where students (and speakers!) answered trivia questions about the SSA, with Oreos (the Official Snack of the SSA*) as a prize! There were also three concurrent tracks happening, so students had the opportunity to choose from three different talk topics. Groups that brought more than one member could have each member see entirely different talks and learn new things! Missed some talks? That's okay! We're uploading all of them to our YouTube page!
Students meeting local heroes (Brutus, the Ohio State Mascot)
On Saturday evening, rather than having just one keynote speaker, we had five!
David Fitzgerald, dressed as Dr. Horrible
We were lucky enough to have well established speakers, like Greta Christina and Hemant Mehta, along with rising stars like David Fitzgerald and Adam Lee (who blogged about his experience at the conference here!).
Adam Lee, explaining how to move mountains
Of course, nothing rounds out a solid day of activism like some good atheist comedy from Keith Lowell Jensen.
You kind of had to be there.Or you could just watch the video!
None of this would be possible without your continued support of the Secular Student Alliance. Next year we are expecting our conference to be even bigger and better to serve our rapidly expanding network of student activists. You can help us continue the charge against dogma and bigotry by making a gift today. Supporters Jeff Hawkins and Janet Strauss are still matching every donation dollar-for-dollar, so your impact will be doubled.
It's only been a week since the conference, but already we've heard from some of our speakers.
"Thank you for inviting me to speak at the best conference that atheist world has ever seen. It is an honor to be part of the juggernaut of secular student awesomness in some small way. The conference itself was amazing, the smoothest I've ever seen. Keep up the great work." -Andrew Seidel, FFRF
"I was honored to be included at SSA2012 and I was serious when I said that this conference is the one that really matters. From the point-of-view of an attendee, it was easily one of my favorite events. From the point-of-view of a speaker, it was my favorite event.
I don't need to tell you how important your efforts are. Everyone who interacts with you can immediately see your passion. For those of us interested in changing the world, you're setting the standard. Your efforts, and the efforts of the student groups you support, instill me with great hope.
Hope isn't just wishing for fantasies, hope is justified optimism. Hope is the elation we derive from seeing a positive trend and imagining the world that this trend points to. Hope is the realization of past efforts and the expectation of the rewards for current and future efforts.
You've all done amazing work and I'm sure that work will continue. The world is more hopeful, because of you. I'm more hopeful, because of you." -Matt Dillahunty
This conference was the SSA’s best one yet! You can see how far we have come the past ten years, and with your help we can keep leading this movement forward.
*Oreo has not endorsed us. But we'd love it if they did! Seriously, look at how similar our logo is to an Oreo!