Communications Built to Inspire Change

The Future Sessions:
Building Strategy, Leadership, and Direction

Upcoming Session: January 5-8 in Florida
More details to follow.

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This special bootcamp serves leaders and emerging leaders desiring to focus intensively on strategic communications, leadership, and goal-setting in the higher education and nonprofit sectors. Because of the personalized nature of this program, enrollment is limited to eight. The first two sessions in summer of 2018 and 2019 included leaders from private liberal arts colleges, public and private universities, and independent schools from California to New Jersey.


This action-oriented program is built to serve you whether you are seeking to become more strategic in your work, facing difficult communications issues at your campus or nonprofit, or desiring a chance to get renewed among devoted communications peers. Through a guided process by which everyone drafts a custom-built communications plan for their own specific needs—whether for an institution, a department, or an upcoming challenge—we explore together a range of critical issues related to strategic success. You will have time to think, even as you work with focus on your strategy.


Our profession has changed dramatically over the last decade, for many reasons, from public pressures to technology. Communications has grown, and is often looked to as a source of solutions. In a context of such demands, strategy is easy to put aside in favor of tactic after tactic. “We'll get to it another day,” can often prevail. If, however, the tremendous energy, ideas, and passions of a creative team are to be spent no matter whatand they will behow much better to have them sharing a common aim. Communications strategy done right moves step by step toward a shared institutional identity, a desired organizational reputation, and the kind of common mission that inspires the hearts and minds of those involved—and those the communications reach.

Pete Mackey, Ph.D.

Pete Mackey, Ph.D.


Pete Mackey, Ph.D., has developed his expertise in institutional planning, communications strategies, campaign communications, team-building, and the tools of campus communications across 30 years in leadership roles at private and public institutions in the U.S. and Europe. As the top communications executive at Amherst College, Bucknell University, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, Science Foundation Ireland, and the University of South Carolina, he built transformative communications operations and, through comprehensive communications strategies, defined and re-shaped how these institutions connect with their audiences.


  • How do we connect our professional priorities with our own passions?

  • How can we engage the many talented people who are critical to our team’s success?

  • What are the fundamental questions that we have to answer to keep our work on track?

  • What listening approaches will help win over doubters?

  • How do we keep our motivation and inspiration through the obstacles that arise in sticking to strategic goals?

At the same time, the immersive nature of this program helps participants:

  • Build a new professional network of special depth with fellow attendees.

  • Have fun and take a calming breath outside of daily demands, including through select outdoor experiences connected to the goals of the program.


Day 1: Strategic Thinking

  • Arrive by Dinner

  • Team Dinner

  • What and Why Introductions Exercise

  • Connecting Strategy and Identity

  • Forward from Here

Day 2: Idea to Action

  • Outdoor Activity

  • Landscape and Horizons Exercises

  • Deep Dive into Direction

  • The Strategy Begins

  • Dinner with Daring Dialogue

Day 3: Action to Implementation

  • Leadership Activity

  • Drawing Out Resistance Exercises

  • Managing Difficult Conversations

  • The Strategy Takes Shape

  • Bonfire

Day 4: Testing through Teamwork

  • Presentations of Draft Strategy to Group

  • Team Feedback

  • Setting Your Goal

  • Depart after Lunch


“The Future Sessions was the single best professional development experience I’ve had in my career. It was a joy to embrace the journey with inspirational colleagues from other institutions, whose own professional goals and challenges were immediately familiar. Working with Pete Mackey is like training with Yoda. His program not only helps you master the tools; it restores your faith in your own potential and renews your enthusiasm for the work. I can’t remember when I last felt this excited to wake up and get to the office.”
— Ben Jones, Vice President for Communications, Oberlin College
“I would highly recommend the Future Sessions for any communications professional tasked with leading change and making tough strategic decisions. Pete is a master at presenting theoretical concepts and demonstrating how they can be applied to our daily work in practical and effective ways. As someone who’s been in the trenches, Pete also can speak with authority about the challenges we face in an increasingly competitive higher education environment and how to overcome them. I left this conference feeling more inspired about my work and confident that I can make an even greater contribution to my university’s success.”
— Jeff Stensland, Director of Public Relations, University of South Carolina
I came away with the tools I would need the very day I returned to campus. Also with insights into my own strengths and areas for development.”
— Maureen Leming, Director of Communications & Marketing, The Hun School of Princeton
“I found it very helpful to take the often nebulus idea of ‘strategy’ and be guided through a process of making it concrete and actionable.”
— Chaney Kourouniotis, Assistant Director for Communications, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University
“It was hugely impactful in a variety of areas. It was also very full. We made great use of the time we had.”
— Molly O’Brien Foelsch, Chief Communications Officer, Lebanon Valley College
“Future Sessions exceeded my expectations. It was unlike any other conference I had been to before and allowed for intimate discussions with like-minded colleagues at other institutions. I was surprised how much the content intertwined both personal and professional growth. Pete is the ideal person to lead this retreat, his wealth of knowledge, passion, and range of experience is evident throughout the entire program.”
— Amy Bouman, Web & New Media Director, Indiana State University
“At its core, The Future Sessions delivered a daily dose of hope, discovery, joy and peace—intangibles that often get lost in the daily grind of doing our jobs. The conference allowed participants to get beyond the ‘what’ of the many hats we wear and tasks we juggle to reconnect with the most important part of our professional selves: why we do what we do on behalf of our institutions and the students we serve.”
— Gail Towns, Executive Director of Marketing & Communications, Georgian Court University
“I’m so glad I decided to attend The Future Sessions. It’s the antidote for bloated higher ed conferences that end up feeling like a waste of time. At this one, every moment mattered. The learning went beyond changing what I do to impacting how I approach my work and how I feel about my role. I’ve been in this field for a long time, but I now feel armed with a new toolkit that will help me to address any challenge and leverage every opportunity. I also gained a great network of smart colleagues from institutions across the country. Pete doesn’t just know his stuff or put it on like a suit—it’s part of his DNA. His knowledge is broad and deep, and his generosity of spirit creates an atmosphere of good cheer.”
— Barbara Stambaugh, Vice President for Communications, Franklin & Marshall College
“As one of my bootcamp colleagues put it, it gave us structured time to think about why we do what we do, rather than jumping to tactics like most conferences. Each session — from Sunday’s What versus Why, to each morning’s labyrinth walk — prepared you for the next and brought the group closer together.”
— Christine Velazquez, Assistant Vice President of University Communications, Furman University