School of Dentistry community makes mark at ADEA Centennial Session

Image of three students at ADEA on a branded background

School of Dentistry faculty, staff and students participated in the American Dental Education Association’s Annual Session and Exhibition in March.

Held in Portland, OR, the session centered on the theme of “Believe I’m Possible” and celebrated 100 years of the association’s existence. The School of Dentistry’s presence included seven presentations by faculty and staff. Three DDS learners participated in the “I Have an ADEA” competition, providing an opportunity for students to explore school curricula and tackle issues related to dental education with innovative solutions.

Three students pose in front of "I have an ADEA Curriculum Event" digital sign
From L-R: Askar, Tadé, and Aghi

Students joined groups of six to ten learners from dental schools across the country to create a curriculum around a topic such as provider burnout, interprofessional education, technology and more.

“It was a great opportunity to brainstorm and design creative dental curricula frameworks from student perspectives,” said Ishita Aghi, DDS ’23, who participated in the competition. “Attending ADEA’s Annual Session in its centennial year gave me the chance to network with students, faculty and staff from various dental institutions and learn about advancements in dental education.”

Abdirahim Askar, DDS ’25, joined a group focused on integrating Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging into the curriculum. “This was an incredible opportunity for me to interact with students from various dental institutions from across the nation,” he said. “I really enjoyed learning from other students and gaining their insights.”

Isaac Tadé, DDS ’25, joined the competition without even realizing he would be competing. “I saw that one of the topics was burnout, and I wanted to learn more about it,” he explained. “It wasn’t until I got to the competition that I realized I’d be creating solutions to the problem, too.”

A group of 8 students and 6 faculty pose with awards
Tadé and his teammates

Though he didn’t know he would be posing solutions, Tadé proved successful in achieving that goal—his team won the competition.

After gathering data on the conference floor and learning about the contributing factors to burnout, Tadé and his team developed a robust policy to combat it. Solutions included stress management, mental health resources, budgetary changes and calls for advocacy from ADEA.

Tadé was thrilled to find out that his team had won, and honored to be selected from among great groups of learners. “I think burnout is a topic everyone can relate to, and I hope we can use the momentum from winning the competition to help influence positive change in our respective schools,” he said.

Tadé also enjoyed the overall experience of attending his first dental conference. “I got to reconnect with mentors and make new friends. I was inspired by the informational sessions, speakers and the students I met from all over the country,” he reflected. “After the conference, I feel empowered to envision how my impact in the profession can go beyond just treating patients in the dental chair.”

In addition to the student competition and faculty presentations, the centennial celebration featured special awards—including the ADEA President’s Centennial Award for Allied Dental Faculty, presented to Michelle Arnett, RDH, MS, associate professor of dental hygiene. Dean Keith Mays, DDS, MS, PhD, was recognized for his tenure on the ADEA Board, completing his role of Immediate Past Chair of the Board of Directors. Heather Conrad, DMD, MS, FACP, FRCD(C), associate professor of prosthodontics and Interim Chair of the Department of Restorative Sciences, was similarly honored as she concluded her term as Board Director for Advanced Education Programs. Susan Wold, MS, assistant director of the Office of Admissions and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, became Chair of the Section on Admissions, while Shannon Gilligan Wehr, senior student support associate, became Chair-Elect of the Section on Financial Aid and Student Affairs.

Students, faculty and staff returned from the meeting feeling energized and looking forward to the ways they can impact the dental community, in dental school and beyond.

Students interested in learning more about ADEA can become a national member at, and contact [email protected] or their class representative for more information.

Faculty presenters reflect on their experiences at ADEA 

“Being in the presence of like-minded educators that are so attentive to cultivating the next generation of dental professionals was inspiring. As an early-career dental educator, I left the session feeling invigorated and excited to apply what I learned to my teaching methodology and future research endeavors.”

Keeley Flavin, clinical assistant professor of dental hygiene

“Presenting at ADEA was a valuable experience. Not only was I exposed to new ideas at the national and international level, but I also met like-minded people who share my passion for the field, and made friends who have opened up new possibilities for me.”

Arpit Nirkiwale, DBS, MS, CAGS, FICOI, clinical assistant professor of prosthodontics

“It was an honor to be invited to present at ADEA and represent dental therapy educators from the University of Minnesota. Now that dental therapy has a legislative presence in many states, it was a great opportunity to educate members on the impact dental therapy is making in Minnesota.”

Danae Seyffer, MDT, clinical assistant professor of dental therapy

“The ADEA Annual Conference is a unique opportunity to not only recruit prospective dental students from across the country (and globe!) to the UMN SOD, but also connect with my admissions colleagues from a wide variety of dental schools. Engaging in the collegial sharing of recruitment and admissions best practices enables me to continuously improve our processes and procedures.” 

Susan Wold, MS, assistant director, Office of Admissions, Diversity and Equity

“The experience of presenting at ADEA is mutually beneficial. As a presenter, I learn as much from the educators in the audience as they do from my presentation. It’s a great platform to share successes and challenges in a collegial space, where we all share the same goals of finding best practices to educate future dental professionals.”

Cyndee Stull, DHSc, MDH, RDH, assistant professor and director of the Division of Dental Hygiene