Members Embrace New Convention Format and Focus
The lure of New Orleans drew Patty Otto, outgoing president of the AAUW Ludington (MI) Branch, to her first AAUW National Convention, but she happily spent the entire day within the walls of the Sheraton New Orleans hotel networking with more than 700 new friends and picking up programming tips to bring back to her branch. In particular, she was looking for membership recruitment ideas to enhance her new role as branch membership vice president and for some ways to get the Ludington branch involved in more policy issues.
As of Monday, she’d attended a workshop on each topic, but she wasn’t sure how to spend her Tuesday. “The hard thing is you can only pick one workshop at a time,” she said. Patty’s problem is not unique. “So many are tempting,” said Yvonne Condell, when asked which Tuesday workshops she planned to attend. “I haven’t decided yet.”
But whereas Patty is experiencing convention for the first time, Yvonne is an expert. A longtime AAUW donor and a member for more than 50 years, Yvonne says she’s been to about 20 conventions since her first one in Chicago in 1969. She called the emphasis on contemporary issues the highlight of the current convention and said she was pleased to see the gathering’s new focus on fellowship and skill building. “I have actually gained a lot just by standing out here in the hall talking,” she laughed. While past conventions dealt largely with AAUW business, this year’s program emphasizes individual and state and branch development, a change that has been well-received by attendees.
“Love it. Love it. Love it,” said Janet Watkins, AAUW of Michigan president, who is attending her fifth convention. “And everyone I’ve talked to said the same thing. They really do enjoy having all these dynamic workshops, and they’re getting something of value.”
Karen Kirkwood, AAUW St. Paul (MN) Branch member and another experienced convention-goer, agrees. “It’s been well-planned, with lots of exciting, fun, new things going on,” she said. Karen called the presentation of the Carol R. Virostek Campus Opportunities Fund the highlight of her convention experience so far, but, she added with a smile, “I loved the fashion show. It was so unexpected and so fun.”