Dictionary


Whether you've never attended ASPA's conference, or you are a seasoned veteran, some of our terminology can get confusing! Below, find a dictionary of terms to help address your questions as you navigate this website, plan your attendance and think through your at-conference needs.

Chapters
These are special groups within ASPA’s membership that are geographically based. ASPA members are assigned to Chapters in their area when they join based on where they live or work.

Chapter events at the conference are somewhat rare but if you see one on the schedule, you’re welcome to attend it. Note that often a Chapter’s activities will be different from ASPA’s national-level work and geared more toward local based needs of Chapter members.

Any attendee can attend any Chapter meeting, with or without membership, and learn more about that Chapter’s activities.

Concurrent Panels (or Panels)
Panels form the bulk of the educational events happening at the conference—usually around 160 or more throughout all five days. They are all concurrent events (happening at the same time as other panels), with topics spread across the conference tracks.

Your event registration includes your panel attendance; you may attend as few or as many as you’d like; no invitation is required and all participation is valued.

Dress Code
Dressing for the conference (or any other event) can sometimes be the hardest part of attending. Here are some more details about what short-hand dress codes will mean at ASPA:
Business Casual: casual slacks, khakis, casual skirts, button-down shirts, sweaters—suits, coat-and-tie not needed in a business casual setting
Formal: black suits (or preferably a tuxedo), evening gowns
Family-Friendly: denim, khaki, polo shirts or similar

Founders’ Fellows Panels
These are student panels (see above, “Concurrent Panels,”) built for our Founders’ Fellows class for the year. These panels give the Fellows special opportunities to present their research (for which they were brought into the program) and receive individualized feedback to help them along their career path.

Beyond the special nature of the panelists, these panels operate as all other panels do and all conference attendees are encourage to attend these panels to show their support for these rising stars in the field.

Receptions
Usually held on Sunday and Monday evenings, these are networking events anyone may attend. All receptions will be listed in the conference program and materials. Most include food though very few of them would count as "dinner," per se.

Plenary(ies)
Sessions throughout the conference (usually five or six) that are focused on high-level topic of importance to anyone and everyone in public administration.

We typically do not host any other events during these sessions to encourage everyone to attend them. You do not need an invitation; all are welcome to take part in these conversations.

Presidential Panel
Sessions throughout the conference (somewhere around a dozen at the 2020 conference) during which special panelists are invited to talk about a topic that is important to the discipline, at a somewhat detailed level. Topics may be important enough to be discussed during a plenary, but the level of discussion is much more functional for both administrators and researchers.

Some of these will be held at times when nothing else is scheduled (known as exclusive panels), but invitations are never needed; all are welcome to take part in these conversations.

Sections
These are special groups within ASPA’s membership that are subject-matter specific. ASPA members may join as many Sections as they wish, as long as they pay the fee related to each group.

Most of our Sections hold events at the conference; all attendees are welcome to attend and learn more about the Section—no membership fee required. Events are not by-invitation-only unless designated as such on the schedule.

Some Section events, such as the SWPA National Awards Breakfast, have fees associated; you will have the opportunity to register and pay for them when you register for the rest of the conference.

Symposia
These are multi-session programs focused on a specific topic. They are half- or full-day events and usually are sponsored by ASPA Sections, typically taking place either the Friday or Saturday of the conference.

Registration is sometimes required and fees are sometimes associated; you will sign up and pay for those events that require it when you register for the rest of the conference. That said, these are not by-invitation-only; all are welcome to register for and join these events.

Symposia almost always take place concurrently with other panels (at the same time), so manage your time wisely between these rooms and other events that may be happening at the conference.

Workshops
These are professional development sessions that are most relevant to practitioners; we usually have around a dozen per conference. Presentations are focused on best practices and functional takeaways for attendees.

Workshops take place concurrently with other panels (at the same time). They are always labeled as workshops in our conference materials and come with your event registration. No invitation is required to attend a workshop; all are welcome to participate.