NSSR 2021 LIVE – November 2nd-5th

The 17th annual National Symposium on Student Retention will be held in a virtual format. 

The symposium begins on Tuesday with our keynote speaker. Tuesday-Friday will also include concurrent sessions, facilitated discussions, and coffee talks, with the exhibitor and poster galleries available all day.

Attendees will have many opportunities to hear presentations based on peer-reviewed papers and to engage with a diverse group of colleagues. 


This is my favorite conference! The variety of institutions involved and the diversity of presentations makes it a great resource for me and my colleagues.

Michael Morsches, Dean
Moraine Valley Community College

Browse program schedule here!

The full interactive conference program will be available in October.

Tentative Schedule

Tuesday, November 2, 2021
  • 10:00 – 11:30 am
    Plenary Session and Keynote Address
  • 12:15 – 5:00 pm
    Concurrent Sessions


Wednesday, November 3, 2021
  • 10:00 – 11:00 am
    Coffee Talks
  • 11:45 am – 5:00 pm
    Concurrent Sessions


Thursday, November 4, 2021
  • 10:00 – 11:00 am
    Coffee Talks
  • 11:45 am – 5:00 pm
    Concurrent Sessions
  • All day
    Poster Presenters Available


Friday, November 5, 2021
  • 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
    Concurrent Sessions


Loved it! Have been working in higher ed in various capacities for the past 15 years and the NSSR has provided the most consistent, valuable learning experiences!

Cara Cima, Student Success and Retention Specialist
Southeastern University

Concurrent Sessions

Tuesday through Friday authors of peer-reviewed papers will present on topics important to higher education professionals. Sessions will also feature tutorials, as well as facilitated discussions, in which we will spend time in small groups discussing issues in-depth with colleagues from a wide variety of institutions and positions on campus. 

Coffee Talks

Coffee talks return to the conference – our one-hour informal sessions which guide conversations toward topics relevant to the current higher education challenges related to the pandemic and economic conditions.

Poster Gallery

Visit the gallery on demand throughout the conference to view the posters and brief pre-recorded video presentations. Thursday will be designated for poster presenters to engage one-on-one with participants.
Visit our Past Symposia page to see past programs, speakers, award winners, and more. 

Keynote Speaker

Tuesday Keynote – Dr. Michael J. Sorrell
Dr. Michael J. Sorrell

Dr. Michael J. Sorrell is the longest-serving President in the 148-year history of Paul Quinn College. During his nearly 14 years of leadership, Paul Quinn has become a nationally regarded institution for its efforts to remake higher education in order to serve the needs of under-resourced students and their communities. Michael received his J.D. and M.A. in Public Policy from Duke University and his Ed.D. from the University of Pennsylvania (where his dissertation defense was awarded “with Distinction”). While in law school, he was one of the founding members of the Journal of Gender Law & Policy and served as the Vice President of the Duke Bar Association. Recently, former President George W. Bush and the George W. Bush Presidential Center awarded Dr. Sorrell the Bush Institute Trailblazer Citation. He has been named one of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders by Fortune Magazine; is the only three-time recipient of the HBCU Male President of the Year Award (2018, 2016 and 2012); won Higher Education’s President of the Year award as named by Education Dive; and Time Magazine listed him as one of the “31 People Changing the South.” Washington Monthly Magazine identified him as one of America’s 10 Most Innovative College Presidents and Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. and PUSH/Excel honored him with its Education Leadership Award. Michael is the recipient of both the Dallas Bar Association’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Justice Award and the City of Dallas’ Father of the Year Award.

Does Any of This Really Matter?: Truth, Retention, and Higher Ed in the COVID Era

We are living through one of the most historically significant periods in American history. Each day we are forced to reckon with not just our own mortality, but with the understanding that life as we once knew it is over. What does this mean for higher education? What does this mean for our students? How do we continue to keep our students engaged when the traditional college experience may never return? Paul Quinn College President Dr. Michael J. Sorrell will grapple with these questions and more during his presentation.