Call for Session Proposals at the 2020 National Conference

Presenter speaking at her session.

The CFP site is now closed.  Thank you to all who submitted. 

The American Camp Association is accepting proposals from high-quality presenters for innovative, timely, and dynamic educational sessions to be presented at the ACA National Conference, February 11-14, 2020 in San Diego, CA.  The 2020 conference theme is Connection. All sessions will take place at the Town & Country San Diego.

Review of previous conference evaluations and informal feedback gathered from attendees, indicate that camp and youth professionals seek high-level knowledge in these areas:

  • Youth Development and Behavior — Presentations should demonstrate how camp professionals can effectively use the camp experience to help prepare young people (including campers and/or counselors) for healthy and successful lives. Topics may include: participant development and behavior, health and wellness, creating a community of respect, program design to achieve youth development outcomes, and program evaluation.
  • Staff Training and Leadership — In addition to critical areas in human resources like skillfully recruiting, selecting, managing, training, and motivating staff and volunteers, we’re seeking programs that address goal-setting, leadership, outcomes attainment, youth involvement in decision making, and developing life skills on the job. Sessions that address staff behavior, and staff health and wellness are also appropriate. Please note: an overwhelming majority of submissions are received in this track, making selections challenging for the Program Review team.
  • Business and Operations — Specific topics for camps, conference centers, and out-of-school time programs are welcomed addressing areas of operation like marketing, budgeting, risk management, crisis communications, site and facility, environmental issues, health services, food service, transportation, technology, board development, fundraising, and public policy.
  • Emerging Issues, Tools, and Technology — Cutting edge topics which provide new challenges and/or opportunities for camps and conference centers. May include public policy, health care, social issues, and innovative tools and resources.
  • Innovative Programs and Activities — We’re seeking the 400-level series of program and activities that showcase the best the camp experience has to offer presented by seasoned camp professionals and industry experts.  Keep in mind the audience will include camp owners, directors, and mid-level managers who are seeking innovation, fresh ideas, programs than enhance what they currently offer, and activities that can take the camp experience to the next level.  
  • Medical Camping — We are seeking proposals that address the challenges and opportunities of providing meaningful camp experiences for campers and their families living with chronic and serious illness. Camp and medical professionals working with these programs serve as the primary audience, however; all attendees are welcome. Topics may include unique staff and volunteer training issues, working effectively with the host site and personnel, medical risk management and quality assurance, serving children with higher medical acuity, adaptive programming, and helping healthcare professionals and volunteers relate and work well in a camp environment, among others. 
  • Camp Includes Me — The goal of Camp Includes Me is to create a space where we can increase our competence around issues of Inclusion, Fusion and Cross-Cultural Agility. Join the conversation as we move beyond “representational diversity” and integrate true “Inclusion” and excellence by bringing together various world views, research, experiences and subject matter experts. “Fusion” takes place, as we exchange our ideas, adding and contributing to one another.
  • Camp-School Partnerships, Including Camps on Campus and K-12 Independent Schools — Presentations may address opportunities and challenges for camps and other out-of-school time programs that provide outdoor and environmental programs in partnership with schools. Additionally, colleges, universities, and K-12 independent schools providing camps on their campuses are encouraged to submit. Suggested topics include staff training, youth protection, and risk management practices across departments and their programs.
  • Executive Leadership Forum — Consider topics targeted for seasoned professionals who have executive leadership responsibilities within their organizations including achieving missions and visions, cutting-edge leadership concepts, board development, strategic planning, finance, fund-raising, and other sessions which will help camping organizations thrive.
  • Commerce Sessions — Exhibiting business affiliates may submit targeted, tactical education session proposals essential to camp operation. We value this education and welcome these submissions. Presentations must not have a commercial message for a particular organization or business, or be perceived as a "sales pitch."  Commerce sessions are 45 minutes in length (as opposed to a 75 minute educational breakout session), and are offered on Thursday.  Commerce session presenters must exhibit at the 2020 National Conference to be considered.

We seek high-quality speakers and facilitators who can challenge us to think about the world in new ways and help us sharpen the skills essential to provide dynamic camp experiences for campers and counselors.

Target Audience
The national conference draws camp and youth development professionals from across the country and around the world, working in camp and other out-of-school-time settings. Presentations should apply to directors, owners, executives, mid-level managers and year-round program staff as well as other youth development professionals and educators. Although we draw some professionals relatively new to camp, keep in mind that the balance of the national conference audience is comprised of experienced professionals committed to life-long learning. They seek high-level educational opportunities, and we are committed to providing them.

Educational Breakout Sessions
Educational breakout sessions are seventy-five minutes in length. Presenters are encouraged to leave ten minutes or more for questions and answers with participants. Lectures, hands-on workshops, and panel presentations are welcome. Commerce sessions are forty-five minutes in length and scheduled to be presented on Thursday. In the past, 40-50% of session submissions were accepted for presentation.  

Submitting Session Proposals
Proposals are accepted beginning in late May, through noon Eastern on Monday, September 16, 2019. Submitters will receive notification by late October as to the disposition of session submissions.

Presentations must not have a commercial message for a particular organization or business, or be perceived as a "sales pitch." The American Camp Association reserves the right to reject any proposal.

Selection Process
Sessions are reviewed and ultimately selected by the volunteer Program Review Team, which is chaired by Jane Sanborn. On occasion, submitters will be asked for further clarification. All submitters will receive email notification of the program team's decision regarding their proposal in late October 2019. 



Process and logistical questions may be addressed to Melany Irvin, Professional Development Specialist, at the ACA National Administrative Office,

Questions specifically related to the program content may be directed to the national conference program team chair, Jane Sanborn, at

Interested in submitting an abstract for the research forum?

ACA reserves the right to make any and all adjustments to the program.