By Wendy Renneke
I was “that member” for three years; the one vicariously experiencing AHRA through digital media, online articles, shared Facebook posts, Twitter feeds, and the increasingly veiled memory of an administrator encouraging my peer group to explore all that AHRA had to offer.
I spent three years wondering, “What do I have to offer the AHRA? Where do I fit in to these well written accounts of professionalism and shared experiences?” For three years I resigned myself to wait for “one day.” One day, I would have more to offer. One day, my accomplishments would hold merit enough to join this league of distinguished professionals. One day I would join in.
Then, one rainy Saturday morning in Western Washington, I read about the Osborn Scholarship. My resignation to sit at water’s edge morphed into determination. Perhaps I had misaligned my perceptions all along, believing I had to somehow measure up? Now I was reading of an opportunity to be mentored up through participation and education! I put down my tablet and moved to the computer, believing the Osborn Scholarship could be my “one day.” After all, the fine folks smiling in AHRA photos looked so welcoming! It’s as if they were saying to me, “The water is fine, jump in! Don’t just dip your toe, JUMP!” Enticed by words of encouragement and welcoming smiles, I took a deep breath and jumped… Osborn Scholarship application submitted!
Then came the call from Lori Burns, graciously offering me an Osborn Scholarship to the 2017 Annual Meeting – my three years of waiting for “one day” were over! I was on my way to Anaheim to see what AHRA was all about!
From that point on, I dove in head first reading and reviewing Annual Meeting materials. I outlined my strategy for attending every session I could. (An Osborn Scholar is required to earn 15 credits, but in the end, I had so much fun learning I managed to earn 23 credits!). I digested volumes of information on the AHRA website. I chose to volunteer at the Annual Meeting. I dedicated myself to completing the Basic Management Track program offered by the AHRA Leadership Institute. I downloaded the annual meeting app to my phone to help navigate the days and sessions ahead of me. I became a Cornerstone Donor by giving to the Education Foundation. I educated myself about the CRA exam and armed myself with questions to ask any individual who would be kind enough to answer. I communicated with past Osborn Scholars, receiving valuable advice, support, and encouragement (thank you, Daniel Neal!). I was a little nervous, but I was ready.
When I arrived in Anaheim, I found myself in a shared a shuttle with none other than Bette Drescher (my soon to be Annual Meeting Fairy Godmother) and Carolyn Smith, another first time attendee who quickly became my Exhibit Hall buddy. We quickly established a starting point for the week ahead and I comfortably began to meld into all this experience had to offer.
I enthusiastically attended each session and reception, welcoming every opportunity to listen and learn from many insightful experiences and perspectives. If I was a bit shy at any time, there was Bette, swooping in and encouraging me deeper into the AHRA water once again. Suddenly I was engaging with members both experienced and new, sharing those same smiles that welcomed me into the AHRA website to begin with! That’s when I realized that AHRA truly believes in fostering your development. There I was, becoming part of a professional family invested in one another’s success. Attending the 2017 AHRA Annual Meeting gave me new direction and knowledge to return home inspired, ready to share and grow with my team.
They say mermaids sing a siren song, luring sailors into the sea…let’s just say, AHRA certainly has its own siren song (thankfully void of the dark lore of the mermaid’s song!). I now realize the sound luring me deeper into the water was that of a distant conch shell, heralding the beginning of something grand, and encouraging and calling us all to action. Heed the call: stop wondering if you measure up, invest in yourself, follow the sound, and jump in. The water is fabulous!
Wendy Renneke is the imaging supervisor at UW Eastside Specialty Center in Bellevue, WA. She can be reached at Varoom@u.washington.edu.