A guest post from our member, Hilaria Swisher, Program & Engagement Coordinator at Philanthropy West Virginia.
Being new to not only my role as Program & Engagement Coordinator with Philanthropy West Virginia but also to the philanthropic sector I came to the conference unsure of what awaited me. I had been to many conferences in my old field and never really enjoyed myself, networked or walked away excited to get back to work and implement what I had learned.
Imagine my surprise when during my first session - Emerging Practitioners Conversation - that I not only wanted to participate in the conversation but was also able to connect with the first of what would turn into many peers during the conference. I walked out of the Emerging Practitioner session energized by the realization that leadership can and does come in many different forms. Turning to the opening Luncheon and Keynote, my previous experience has taught me that keynotes are a time to catch-up on emails or text messages. But not this time! Titus Kaphar was an amazing speaker and has had me thinking about American Art in a completely different manner. I couldn’t contain my excitement about Titus and had to share his art and message with my fellow Philanthropy WV team members who were not able to attend. Going into the peer community session was incredible. Here, in the same room were people who have the same struggles, the same questions and the same celebrations that I have! By this time I knew this conference was going to be different.
I spent that first evening not hiding in a corner during the reception (or even worse, hiding out in my room), but instead with my peers, making those much needed network connections. I joined a small group of my peers for dinner, was able to get to know them on a more personal level and walked away knowing that I had met some truly great people who had welcomed me into their world.
My next two days were spent learning as much as I could from the sessions and the dynamic keynote speakers as well as doing some much needed internal reflections. I came home with an excitement to get back to work, to share what I had learned and who I had learned it from, and with renewed confidence in my decision to change my career path. I know that I am finally among others with the same passions. I cannot wait until next year in Cleveland, OH to not only meet up with peers I have already met but to also meet so many more.