I often wonder, “When did I become the oldest person in the room? How is it possible that people look at me for the historical perspective of an issue?” It is s cliché, but it does seem just like yesterday when I attended my first PennACE conference three decades ago when the event was two associations getting together for a combined conference: one association representing career service professionals and the other representing internship and cooperative education professionals. The history of PennACE on the website provides the details of the two organizations that merged to form PennACE in 2002.
Although I already had six years of experience as a teacher, two years as a college career counselor, and one year as a high school guidance counselor when I started at SRU in 1988, I was very much the new career professional attending local, state, and national meetings for the first time. While I don’t remember the specifics of my first PennACE conference, I do recall the friendliness, the energy, and the positive vibe of the participants. Back then, others were the grizzled veterans telling stories of the way things used to be and relating how far the profession had come.
My colleague and fellow retiree, Dennis Gilbert of St. Vincent College, surely remembers who those people were. Dennis has an amazing memory for names and events. My memory has more voids in it, sort of like black holes in space. But the purpose of this piece isn’t to recall the “Glory Days” as Bruce Springsteen would say and sing (The Boss is my wife’s number one musician), but to say “Thanks” and to confirm how important PennACE is as an association and a conference.
One constant in my time at The Rock and for my colleagues at other institutions is a decreasing budget forcing us to carefully choose what associations to join and what conferences to attend. I have never experienced senior administrators saying, “We are going to give you more money this year.” Wouldn’t that be a pleasant surprise?
So why choose PennACE as a conference to attend especially when EACE and NACE along with MAACA, NCDA, NASPA, and numerous other associations offer viable alternatives?
For me the answer has been what was attractive to me in the first place: friendliness, energy, and fun. PennACE is a great way to celebrate the conclusion of another academic year and to look forward to the next year. The conference provides a way to learn from our colleagues in an intimate setting, and this intimacy doesn’t allow for pretentiousness or arrogance.
Our office has long practiced the simple FISH! Philosophy: Choose Your Attitude; Be Present; Make Their Day; and Have Fun. I know it is tough, if not impossible, to sell a senior administrator who may control the budget that you want to attend a conference to have fun. I can hear such a person saying sarcastically, “Fun? What does that have to do with work?”
But fun is exactly the best word to describe why I have enjoyed the PennACE conference so much over the years. Fun leads to friendship, to support, to laughter, to hope, and to positive energy needed to do our jobs well and to keep us balanced and healthy. Yes, I have learned useful things that I have brought back to the office after attending PennACE conferences, but what has helped me the most as a professional at PennACE is having fun with friends and colleagues.
Thanks for the fun and may it continue at the PennACE conferences in the future!