Call for Session Proposals at the 2016 National Conference

The deadline to submit proposals was Tuesday, September 15th.  The site is now closed.  Thank you to all who submitted!  

All submitters will receive email notification in late October 2015. 

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 9-12, 2016 in Atlanta, GA. The theme of the 2016 ACA National Conference is Envision.  All sessions will take place at the Hilton Atlanta.

Review of previous conference evaluations, informal feedback gathered from attendees, and the most recent Emerging Issues Survey 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 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. Topic area covers both campers and counselors.
  • 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.
  • Business and Operations — Specific topics for camps, conference centers, and out of school time programs can be covered such as marketing, budgeting, risk management, site and facility,  environmental issues, food service, transportation, technology, and public policy.
  • Emerging Issues, Tools, and Technology — Think of emerging issues, and in some cases urgent issues, and how camps and conference centers can rapidly and appropriately address these challenges. Best practices in like-minded organizations, examples from your own programs, and programs you’ve adapted may be suitable. Innovative tools and resources that improve efficiencies are also sought including advances in technology.
  • 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. (Because many of the attendees at the National Conference are directors or mid-level managers, our intent is to also provide advanced level classes which will provide new information and ideas for people who have significant experience in camping. “400 level courses” in the program and activity area are sessions on programs that your camp specializes in so that the presenter has a depth of knowledge and experience that exceeds what most other camps are doing in that program area.  Or sessions on a unique program activity not commonly offered in most camps but which you have developed successfully and which would have value in other camps.)
  • Camp-School Partnerships — Presentations should be relevant for camps and other out-of- school- time programs currently providing outdoor education/environmental education experiences in partnership with traditional schools, as well as to all interested in exploring these opportunities. Topics may include: Program Design; Curriculum Development; Creating a relationship with Schools; Staff training; Youth-development goals and outcomes; Innovative teaching techniques; Business and operations; and Research.
  • Executive Leadership Forum — Programs targeted for seasoned professionals who have executive leadership responsibilities within their organizations.  Topics may include:  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 — Our exhibiting business affiliates can offer targeted, tactical education 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 75 minutes. These sessions are presented on Thursday, a day devoted to exhibits and commerce-related education. Commerce session presenters must be a 2016 ACA National Conference Exhibitor.

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, administrative staff, and 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 will be accepted beginning May 26 through September 15, 2015. 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 by late October 2015. 


Process and logistical questions may be addressed to Melany Irvin, Education Associate, at the ACA National Administrative Office,

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

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