ActivatEE

"Experience is not what happens to you; it's what you do with what happens to you." - Aldous Huxley

activatee logo

And all it takes is you - whoever you are. You don't need to have had one million experiences, but rather made meaning of one that you are ready to share with us around the proverbial campfire.

ActivatEE is sharing platform designed by the Association for Experiential Education for its members and conference attendees during the International Conference

ActivatEE is a developmental process, both for the speaker and the audience, where we share ideas, test assumptions, and are asked to view a perspective through a different lens.

ActivatEE is designed to facilitate the process of creating one’s story, inspiring the use of one’s voice, and launching an idea - all on stage during a conference keynote. Each year at our International Conference, a small handful of individuals take the stage and share their stories. ActivatEE has quickly become one of the most highly anticipated and attended traditions at AEE Conferences.

Listen to dozens of stories told in the past on our AEE YouTube Channel!

WATCH NOW

Meet The 2023 ActivatEE Speakers!

ActivatEE 2023 took place live at the AEE International Conference in Madison, WI on Thursday, November 2 from 11:00am-12:30pm. 

Kathy Chau Rohn HeadshotKathy Chau Rohn

she/her/hers

Kathy Chau Rohn is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut. She received her Ph.D in Higher Education from Boston College and her Ed.M. in Higher Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She utilizes innovative qualitative approaches to explore her research interests which include postsecondary access and success for marginalized student populations, college student experience, and outdoor education. She currently serves as a Symposium on Experiential Education Research (SEER) Co-Coordinator. When not conducting research, you can find her hiking, backpacking, skiing, or practicing yoga.

Jay Zarr HeadshotJay Zarr

he/him/his

Jay offers a unique perspective from his 45+ years in the field about the value of self-knowledge, the collaborative nature of leadership, and a leader's role as a servant. His experiences range from working in Higher Education, WEA, USFS, At-risk youth, and Aging to "Saging" Instructor, a business co-owner, and regional, local, and international board governance positions. His first AEE International Conference was in Estes Park. His work now spans generations; At Promise Youth, leading adventures for community neighbors who are 50+ Years Active and facilitating Aging to Saging Circle conversations. In the last three years, he has opened 10 Outdoor Exploration Programs for kids from k-12th grade. Jay and Cleo Zarr are the CO-Owner of Story Tellers Travels and Imagine IF.
In his "free" time, Jay plays in nature with Cleo and their Great Grandson Silas, writing, reading, running, and keeping the flame of curiosity alive.

JennieV SorrellsJennieV. Sorrells

she/her/hers

JennieV. Sorrells is an experiential educator who focuses on adventure-based learning and strengths-based coaching, with a particular emphasis on the power of experience in nature. She seeks to find deep meaning in her work and aims to help others make their lives better and improve their well-being. She primarily works with first-generation college bound students from limited income backgrounds, to help them find their path and support them on their journey of self-discovery. She strives to validate and affirm the knowledge, experiences, and voices of others. She is the Director of Project Discovery, the Talent Search program at Western Carolina University.

Taylor Edington HeadshotTaylor Edington

she/her/hers

Taylor was born and raised in Western New York; however, her studies and passions have brought her to the Southwest, where she is completing her internship in Tucson, Arizona. She is in her final year at Prescott College, earning her Master's in Mental Health Counseling and Ed.S. in Experiential Counseling with a focus on adventure-based therapy. Taylor gained her love for the outdoors and nature from her family, who went camping every summer from 3 to 16 and encouraged play no matter her age. This led her to hike the Appalachian Trail 1 and ½ times, completing 3,400 miles. Upon graduation, she would like to work with adults and use her toolbelt of experiential approaches to help individuals heal through their connection with the outside world, whether big or small. Outside of school and work, Taylor enjoys hiking with her pup and friends, kickboxing, diamond paintings, and traveling.

Heidi Schreiber-pan HeadshotHeidi Schreiber-Pan

she/her/hers

Heidi Schreiber-Pan, Ph.D. is the clinical director at Chesapeake Mental Health, Maryland, and founder of the newly launched Center for Nature Informed Therapy. Dr. Schreiber-Pan is a licensed professional counselor and board-approved supervisor. Her clinical specialization in the treatment of anxiety disorders, PTSD, OCD, stress reduction, and occupational burnout has made her a sought-after international speaker. As an affiliate and former Loyola University, Maryland faculty member, her past research has focused on resiliency, psychological well-being, and nature-informed therapy. Dr. Schreiber-Pan has worked with various organizations, schools, and corporations to reduce stress on a communal level and increase organizational well-being through training in positive psychology and integrating nature into mental health. She is the author of the successful self-help book: Taming the Anxious Mind. Her new book The Outside Within: Stories of Nature’s Role in Psychological Well-being was published in April of 2023.

Margaret Kelso HeadshotMargaret Kelso

she/her/hers

Margaret is the Risk Management Director at Blue Ridge Therapeutic Wilderness and serves on the AEE Accreditation Council. She has primarily worked in wilderness therapy including programs in Alaska, Colorado, and currently North Georgia/Western North Carolina and has worked with commercial rafting, canoeing, and kayaking companies. She began her journey with experiential education at the School of Environmental Studies, a high school on the Minnesota Zoo Campus. She has been a Wilderness EMT since 2013.


Drafting your ActivatEE Talk:

  • This platform invites you, the speaker, to share a story or idea through the use of voice, during a 7-9 minute mini-keynote to the global audience of the International Conference.
  • Think of an instance in time where you had an experience that became a profound teaching moment for you, which truly influenced or altered your way of thinking or being. Are you able and willing to share that message with others?
  • Now visualize how you would want to share that story in terms of keynote address. What did you hear, see, notice, and experience at that moment that had an immediate impact or had influence years down the road? Is there a method in your delivery that helps convey your message?

Answer these three questions:

  • Whatwhat is your story? what happened?
  • So what? Why is it important or developmental to you? What meaning did you take from it?
  • Now what? How have you moved forward or how do you plan to use this going forward? What is the transformation? How are you changed?

Considerations: 

Your initial submission will likely not be your exact final presentation. This is just the first step in a number of iterations that you and your presentation will go through before delivering the final presentation. 

Please note that these stories are to be an experience relevant to your perspective. You can certainly use bits of research to support your message, but this is not to be a research paper or a business promotion. We will really push all presenters to constantly evaluate their message, knowing we want to channel a lesson learned to activate the minds of those in the audience.   

The Process:

  • Complete and submit your ActivatEE application by the deadline. The application creates space for you to share your experience and story, as well as submit additional documents like presentation drafts, story maps, and more.
  • A team will review the submissions and send out acceptance notices.
  • This process asks that you meet on a regular basis with your coaches to support the development of your story and presentation.  These sessions are designed to provide an environment to explore your story, hone in on your answers to What? So what? and Now What?, and give and receive feedback and suggestions regarding the delivery of the presentations. A virtual dress rehearsal will take place leading up to the Conference and in-person dress rehearsal will also take place the night before the ActivatEE presentation. As an ActivatEE speaker, we want you to feel supported and connected to the other  ActivatEE speakers and coaches. For this reason, you will be asked to attend an initial welcome session on Zoom for all ActivatEE speakers and coaches, followed by at least 2-3 coaching sessions with your assigned coach(es) on Zoom in September and October to refine and prepare your ActivatEE talk. The purpose of these coaching sessions is to provide feedback and suggestions regarding the content and delivery of your talk. 

Financial Support and Scholarships for the conference Registration will be available for ActivatEE speakers. We do not want the cost of the conference to prevent anyone from being part of ActivatEE. 


Meet The ActivatEE 2023 Coaches!

The very first ActivatEE was held in Denver, Colorado in 2013.  The original group of ActivatEE speakers were coached by professional leadership communication consultant and coach, Hilary Blair, who also gave the keynote that year. Four of the original speakers—Eric Boggs, Hutch Hutchison, Christine Norton, and John Regentin--came back the following year as coaches and have continued in that role ever since. During that time, they recruited and trained new coaches and worked with over 40 speakers. These original coaches, who have given 10 years of service to the ActivatEE storytelling event, will be transitioning out of their roles as coaches and will help recruit and train new coaches and speakers, provide storytelling workshops, and consult with the ActivatEE team. Carrying on the ActivatEE coaching team are Deidra Goodwin, Rachel Hunsell, and Michelle Pagano, who will be joined by new ActivatEE coaches Brian Croft, Chris Ortiz, and Will Marble, all former ActivatEE speakers themselves. We would also like to thank other ActivatEE coaches who have helped with the event in the past, including Chey Davis, Anthony Deringer, and Aaron Leonard.  Please join us in thanking our former coaches and welcoming our new coaching team! We look forward to hearing YOUR stories!

Rachel Hunsell HeadshotRachel Hunsell

she/her/hers
What do you do outside of your AEE volunteer role?
The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) serves military families grieving the death of a loved one who served in our nation’s Armed Forces, and as the Program Manager for Outdoor Engagement I develop, implement, and support programming across the TAPS network, fostering the connection of our grief journeys to the therapeutic power of nature and the wilderness. I am currently pursuing a Master of Science in Education with a degree in Recreation Therapy at Southern Illinois University - Carbondale.
What's your history with AEE/ActivatEE? 
I've been a member of AEE since 2017, and became an ActivatEE speaker in 2019, alongside fellow coaches Deidra and Michelle. We've been on the coaching team ever since!
If you had to give one piece of advice for storytelling, what would it be?
Don't try to sell me something, invite me into your experience and let me walk alongside you. Your story is one worth telling. 
A moment, memory, or lesson learned at a previous ActivatEE that has stuck with you. 
This process can be a teacher for all if we are willing to learn.  ActivatEE invites speaker, coach and audience to courageously step into vulnerability with a willingness to learn about ourselves and our world. 
When you aren't working or volunteering, we can probably find you...
Loving on my sweet daughter and first child, born in January of 2023, tinkering with my houseplants and in my garden, binging interesting podcasts, and enjoying the country taking road trips with my partner, Joe!  

Eric Boggs HeadshotEric Boggs

he/him/his
What do you do outside of your AEE volunteer role?
  • Senior Management Faculty at the Lundquist College of Business teaching classes on leadership and communication
  • NOLS, Senior Expedition Faculty/Wilderness Medicine Instructure
  • Principal at experience design Consultancy Otter, Oak & Oar
  • M.S. Geography/M.A. Teaching
What's your history with AEE/ActivatEE? 
I've been a member of AEE since 2012 when I spoke at the inaugural ActivatEE, I have been speaker twice and a guiding member of the coaching team.
If you had to give one piece of advice for storytelling, what would it be?
Stories are our mental maps, how does yours guide you?
A moment, memory, or lesson learned at a previous ActivatEE that has stuck with you. 
ActivatEE has had a tremendous influence on me, my teaching, consulting work and on the AEE community. I am struck by how it has created a sense of belonging through the comradery of speaking together, the process of coaching and the connection within the audience.
When you aren't working or volunteering, we can probably find you...
On a coastal kayaking expedition

Deidra Goodwin HeadshotDeidra Goodwin

any
What do you do outside of your AEE volunteer role?
Sierra Club Military Outdoors Campaign Representative supporting the SCMO goal to improve the lives of military members, veterans and their families through connections with the outdoors and inspire members of this community to become outspoken champions for environmental conservation and justice. Graduating with an MS in Experiential and Outdoor Education from Western Carolina University in May 2023
What's your history with AEE/ActivatEE? 
In 2019 I was selected to be an ActivatEE speaker and have gone on to present at regional and international conferences and continue to coach in this amazing program. I am also on the Regional Council for the AEE Southeast Region.
If you had to give one piece of advice for storytelling, what would it be?
There's no one right way to tell your story-the way it's told the day of is the way it needed to be told. The ActivatEE process is here to help put the words to what people already know and invite people in, not for speakers to perfect anything.
A moment, memory, or lesson learned at a previous ActivatEE that has stuck with you. 
The process is always different. From being coached to coaching others-everyone does this how they need to, and being part of all of the ways is a reminder that in life too, there are many ways to get somewhere and all of them are just amazing as the rest.
When you aren't working or volunteering, we can probably find you...
With my dogs: hiking, training, swimming, lounging, and hopefully soon competing in some dog sports with my Papillon Fizzgig.

Christine Norton HeadshotChristine Norton

she/her/hers
What do you do outside of your AEE volunteer role?
Professor, Texas State University School of Social Work
What's your history with AEE/ActivatEE? 
I've been involved with AEE since I was a graduate student in 1995. I have served in a variety of volunteer roles during that time—too many to name!  In 2013, I was one of the original ActivatEE speakers, coached by Hilary Blair, who gave the keynote. I was so transformed by the experience and grew so close with my fellow speakers, that I stayed on to volunteer as an ActivatEE coach, which I've been doing for 10 years.  
If you had to give one piece of advice for storytelling, what would it be?
Storytelling requires courage. It requires the belief that your story is worth telling. All of it. Even the hard parts. Storytelling is also about resilience. You know how your story helped you grow and transform, and that is the gift you get to share with our community. 
A moment, memory, or lesson learned at a previous ActivatEE that has stuck with you. 
My best ActivatEE memories involve late night sessions with my fellow coaches, trying to decide on the order of speakers, or writing our introductions or closings to the event, and then—on the day of the event—watching it all come together. It's magic. 
When you aren't working or volunteering, we can probably find you...
Working. Playing (often outside). Spending time with the people I love. Trying to making the world a better place.   

Michelle Pagano

Information coming soon!

brian croft headshotBrian Croft

he/him/his
What do you do outside of your AEE volunteer role?
Director of Touch of Nature Outdoor Education Center at SIU Carbondale.  I have also started  speaking and consulting on the side in the fields of organizational leadership, experiential education, and higher education. 
What's your history with AEE/ActivatEE? 
I’ve been involved with AEE for over 15 years at the regional and international level.   I’ve had the pleasure of convening the Student Summit, Heartland Regional Conference, and the AEE International Conference.  I was lucky enough to be on the AEE board of directors and gave my ActivatEE talk in 2013 (hard to believe that was 10 years ago!)  
If you had to give one piece of advice for storytelling, what would it be?
Be YOU!  Don’t try to be someone else on stage, be true to who you are!
A moment, memory, or lesson learned at a previous ActivatEE that has stuck with you. 
Everyone has a story and there’s someone out there that needs to hear yours.  Often times I’ll tell people “You should do ActivatEE” and the response is always, “What do I have to talk about?”  You have your story…. And it’s important!
When you aren't working or volunteering, we can probably find you...
In years passed, I would have said climbing mountains or mountain biking.  Although that’s still kind of true, the best adventure I have is being a Dad!  So hopefully, you’ll find me with my incredible wife and two awesome kids playing outside!

Will Marble HeadshotWill Marble

he/him/his
What do you do outside of your AEE volunteer role?
Attendance and Conduct Manager at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, a public school where students in grades 7 through 12 audition to be accepted in one of 6 specialties. (Dance, Math/Science, Creative Writing, Visual Art, Theatre, or Music) Co-owner of Family Dive Club with my wife Dina. We run scuba camps for kids during the summer and take families on dive trips. We also have 3 daughters who will be 16, 12, and 11 by the time ActivatEE rolls around in Fall of 2023!
What's your history with AEE/ActivatEE? 
My first AEE conference was in 1984 and it has been my professional home since. I served on the board of directors, convened a regional conference, am an accreditation reviewer, was an ActivatEE speaker, and have been a part of impromptu lobby entertainment at conferences for almost 40 years.   
If you had to give one piece of advice for storytelling, what would it be?
As you tell your story, feel your story. Your story is sacred. You are inviting the audience into that sacred space. Be the story.
A moment, memory, or lesson learned at a previous ActivatEE that has stuck with you. 
Authentic storytelling runs rampant at AEE conferences. I have shared myself authentically and sat while others have “gone there” in sharing who they are, not only at ActivatEE, but the time between workshops as well. Those connections feed my soul, both personally, and professionally.
When you aren't working or volunteering, we can probably find you...
Trying to spend quality time with my wife while we raise 3 daughters and while they raise us. That and scuba diving on the reefs of Honduras.

Chris Ortiz

Information coming soon!

John Regentin

Information coming soon!

Hutch Hutchinson

Information coming soon!

Resources for Speakers

In this videoActivatEE Coaches and previous speakers share what you can expect as a 2023 Speaker. You'll learn about the origins of this tradition, get an overview of the storytelling process, learn about some of the logistics involved in being a speaker, hear what you might experience in your speaker growth process, and get a glimpse into what speakers can expect from the coaching process. Plus: hear what the experience was like for one of our first-ever virtual ActivatEE Speakers in 2020!