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

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. ActivatEE has quickly become one of the most highly anticipated and attended traditions at AEE Conferences.

Drafting your ActivatEE Talk:

**2024 Submissions Closed on June 16

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


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:

  • The process of developing your story is facilitated by a coach who will walk your journey with you, enabling you to craft your story, and help you prepare to share at the Conference. Each story is typically 7-9 minutes (don’t worry-we’ll help you get there!).
    • 2024 Coaches: Deidra Goodwin, Brian Croft, Will Marble, Chris Ortiz, Michelle Pagano, Rachel Hunsell
    • Questions? Contact Deidra at 
  • 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 by June 28.
  • If accepted, you will be paired with a coach/coaches. 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. 

Please note: ActivatEE speakers will need to register for the conference as attendees. Financial Support and Scholarships for the conference Registration are available. We do not want the cost of the conference to prevent anyone from being part of ActivatEE. 

Resources for Speakers

In this videoActivatEE Coaches and previous speakers share what you can expect as a 2024 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!

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


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


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


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


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


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


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.