Paul Gagnon: Past, Present and Future at the EACE Conference
EACE contribution by Paul Gagnon, Career Consultant in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources at the University of Connecticut.
I so thoroughly enjoyed and learned so much at last year’s (Annapolis) conference, which was my first as a career development professional, that I almost couldn’t imagine not attending again this year in Pittsburgh. However, with travel expense cutbacks initiated throughout our university, we had to limit the number of EACE Annual Conference attendees for this year’s program. For me though, last year’s program was probably the single most useful conference I have attended in my 30-plus year career, and believe me when I say I have attended many, many conferences. Simply put, the value of the networking opportunities made available to conference attendees was unrivaled in my experience, while the speed learning sessions were extremely helpful. Beyond the individual value and benefit derived from attending the conference, I also had the opportunity to build better relationships with some of my UConn colleagues in an outside-the-office environment. This was beneficial to me (and hopefully to my colleagues) as it gave us a chance to learn new ideas and reflect on that material in a clutter-free setting, when we had time to talk with one another over breakfast, lunch or dinner; all times that we generally do not get to share with each other. As such, in early May 2015 when the opportunity arose I jumped at the chance to apply for an EACE professional development grant designed to help send EACE members to the conference in Pittsburgh, and ultimately my perseverance was rewarded with a grant that covered the full cost of attendance. Despite some outbound travel complications that caused me to miss the first day’s program, I was delighted with the opportunity to attend the rest of the program and, like last year in Annapolis, left Pittsburgh with a profound sense of appreciation of how much the people in our profession are willing to share with each other without prejudice or expectations of something in return.
Beyond wanting to continue building my professional network – and contributing to the networks of fellow attendees – attending the Pittsburgh conference enabled me to learn best practice ideas from five impressive concurrent session presentations I had the chance to sit in on (as I have some job-related responsibility in these areas). Those sessions were: 1) Strengthening Relationships between Universities and Communities: A Case Study of a Collaborative Project to Develop Soft Skills in College Students; 2) The Advancement Advantage: Partnerships that Produce Outcomes; 3) Twitter and LinkedIn: The Tom & Dick Smothers of Social Media; 4) Achieving a High Destination Knowledge Rate; and 5) Advancement – Your Partner in Recruiting. Each program taught me something new that I have already been able to put into practice such as how we at the UConn College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources use new tactics and resources to develop more in-depth first destination data, and the new methods we’ll try for collaborating with our alumni foundation to better serve UConn alumni.
The other part of the conference that I found helpful last year at Annapolis and again this year in Pittsburgh were the Friday morning speed sessions. This year, the presenters I was able to visit with were all very capable and informative which included the discussions on the University of Pittsburgh’s Career Fair Week and Boston College’s approach to teaching negotiating compensation. In both cases I learned a helpful strategy or tactic that I carried back to my own career counseling practice here at UConn.
Then there were the moments to socialize which I took the opportunity to do on Thursday evening when one of the firms that is a heavy recruiter of UConn students held a reception for some of its target schools. I thoroughly enjoyed that respite after the day of presentations especially my conversation with conference attendees from the University of Virginia and the University of Hartford.
I hope I have the opportunity to attend, maybe even present at, next year’s conference in Philadelphia. Until then, I want to thank the EACE Professional Development Committee for extending to me the chance to attend the Conference in Pittsburgh and I wish all EACE members the very best in the year ahead.
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