Work/Life: What Parts of Association Work Are You Thankful For?

Read responses to a Thanksgiving themed Work/Life question!

By Jen Swanson, MNA, CAE


When you work in mission-driven organizations, there’s always something to be grateful for. We are all lucky to work with amazing members, passionate leaders, and dedicated staff. We asked our members what aspects of association work they are most thankful for this year:

“Associations are the gateway for every meaningful product and service that fulfills our communities. They lobby for safe practices and production, they are the world’s largest classroom, and they connect people from both like and disparate cultures to improve the human condition. They are a critical resource.”

D. Bradley Kent, Sr. Senior Vice President and Chief Sales & Services Officer, Visit Dallas

“I’m deeply grateful for the mentors who’ve guided my journey in association work, shaping both my professional leadership and personal growth. Sometimes unexpected, they’ve entrusted a precious part of their legacy to me, and for that, I am eternally thankful.”

Jennifer M. Velázquez, MBA, DES Manager, eLearning and Instructional Design Manager, Society of Critical Care Medicine

“I’m thankful for the opportunity to work with dedicated volunteers who give their time to making the organization better. In today’s world where there are significant demands on people’s (especially physicians’) time, their willingness to devote themselves to impacting their field on behalf of their colleagues is something I truly admire and appreciate as a staff member.”

Bruce Hammond Senior Account Executive/Executive Director Association Management Center
Director, Association Forum Board of Directors

“I am most thankful for the collegiality among my peers. I enjoy being able to connect with many of them to share ideas and learn how they may have tackled similar issues we all face from time to time. And then, of course applying some of these ideas to try something new or tweak what you normally do to fit a particular situation. Then (re)sharing again the next time around…”

Chris Welber, MBA, CAE CEO, American College of Prosthodontists

“I’m most thankful for the comradery that association work brings. The association world is so big but yet so small. You can build a network just from attending one association meeting. Those networking relationships turn into an association family, and you’re able to bounce ideas off one another at any time. Each meeting I attend, I’m able to grow my association family and networking community.”

Jennifer Varhalla, MBA
Director of Meetings and Special Events
American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology

“I learned early in my career the importance of practicing gratitude daily – with myself and others. I discovered others I worked with in the healthcare and non-profit sector have been doing this for years – long before ‘self-care’ was embraced in a business or clinical settings.   Someone close to me recently gave me small book, entitled, ‘One Line a Day: A Five-Year Memory Book,’ that sits on my desk. I record a quick reflection or thought a few times a week – it takes only a few minutes. In future years, I will be able to reflect on what was recorded during previous years which should be interesting.   Often my entries relate to things I am thankful for in my work with association colleagues and volunteer leaders. For example, I just flipped open my book, and here’s what I saw, written earlier this month:   Today I connected with someone I knew but did not really know. He has experienced challenges I’ve been recently navigating. He shared his wisdom, insights, and reassurances. I have a page of notes and ideas which I needed and should be helpful.   I have been fortunate to meet some incredible people over the past 30 years because of my work with associations. They have helped me learn, grow, and achieve things I never expected. Steve Smith, CAE Chief Executive Officer Association Management Center

About the Author

Jen is associate director of segment marketing for The Joint Commission. She is also a member of Association Forum's Content Working Group.

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