A Big Act to Follow With its ‘Big Picture’ and flash sessions, star power and empowerment activities, the 2017 ASHA Convention was as invigorating as L.A. itself. From the President
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From the President  |   February 01, 2018
A Big Act to Follow
Author Notes
  • Elise Davis-McFarland, PhD, CCC-SLP, is former vice president for student affairs at Trident College and developer of the interdisciplinary graduate Communication Sciences and Disorders Program at the Medical University of South Carolina. She is also past chair of ASHA’s Committee on Honors and past coordinator of ASHA Special Interest Group 14, Cultural and Linguistic Diversity, among other ASHA posts. elisedavismcfarland@gmail.com
    Elise Davis-McFarland, PhD, CCC-SLP, is former vice president for student affairs at Trident College and developer of the interdisciplinary graduate Communication Sciences and Disorders Program at the Medical University of South Carolina. She is also past chair of ASHA’s Committee on Honors and past coordinator of ASHA Special Interest Group 14, Cultural and Linguistic Diversity, among other ASHA posts. elisedavismcfarland@gmail.com×
Article Information
ASHA News & Member Stories / From the President
From the President   |   February 01, 2018
A Big Act to Follow
The ASHA Leader, February 2018, Vol. 23, 8-9. doi:10.1044/leader.FTP.23022018.8
The ASHA Leader, February 2018, Vol. 23, 8-9. doi:10.1044/leader.FTP.23022018.8
I’ve been to many ASHA Conventions, but the 2017 convention in Los Angeles, with its theme of “Focus on the Big Picture,” was different. It was my first convention as ASHA’s president-elect. I usually go to sessions, meet and renew acquaintances with friends and colleagues, and enjoy the convention city.
But this time I was keenly aware that the 2018 ASHA Convention would be during my year as ASHA president, so I sought to experience the convention in a new way. I wanted to know what people enjoyed most about the L.A. convention, and what they might want to see replicated at the 2018 convention.
One of my first experiences in the convention center was the Concierge Learning Center: a new “one-stop shop” for anyone not sure what they wanted to experience at the convention or where to find it. For example, if you were interested in sessions on stuttering or aural rehabilitation or any number of other topics, the Concierge Learning Center staff would help you target relevant seminars, poster sessions and other related events. They would then give you a printed-out “menu” of these sessions.
The Concierge Learning Center struck me as a great idea for first-timers who need help getting started at convention, or for anyone who wants to explore an unfamiliar area of practice. I’m keeping the couple of menus I picked up as mementos of a great idea.
I also committed to spending four hours over two days in the ASHA Empowerment Zone. Here conventioneers could find a wealth of information about developing “soft” skills beyond specific professional knowledge—in areas such as leadership, advocacy, technology, storytelling, personal branding, media relations and data use. For example, ASHA volunteers and staff introduced attendees to ASHA’s Leadership Development Program and the newly launched online Leadership Academy.
I was especially curious about what it means to develop your own “personal brand.” I learned that it’s a way of marketing yourself and your career to others—of quickly communicating to others who you are and what you stand for. I was fascinated. It made me think about how best to manage my own brand.

The Concierge Learning Center struck me as a great idea for first-timers who need help getting started at convention, or for anyone who wants to explore an unfamiliar area of practice.

International flavor
One of my convention highlights was the luncheon President Gail Richard hosted for presidents (or their designee) from 16 international hearing and speech associations attending the 2017 convention. My interest in international service, initiatives and projects had me looking forward to meeting new international leaders and renewing relationships with others. There were representatives from Asian, Canadian, European, Middle Eastern, South American and South Asian hearing and speech associations. Each of them introduced themselves and told us about the issues their associations are working on. Not surprisingly, many of them face some of the same challenges ASHA and our professions face, such as recognition of our full scope of practice, and access to and payment for services.
Along with ASHA President Gail Richard and Past President Jaynee Handelsman, I also met with the Minority Student Leadership Program (MSLP) students—39 graduate students representing 32 universities. We spent an hour with them answering their questions about leadership and sharing our professional experiences and paths—and our ideas about ASHA’s future and our personal passions. Their questions were thoughtful and insightful, and I’m delighted they represent so much of the future of our professions. I was excited to be able to recognize the MSLP students when I saw them during the convention.
It was well worth waking up early for the ASHFoundation breakfast, held at 6:30 a.m. Friday. I always enjoy seeing the grant and award recipients get the hard-earned recognition and research support they so richly deserve. The breakfast was held in the ballroom of the Millennium Biltmore Hotel, where the first Academy Awards were presented in 1929. How is that for being a part of history?

I was impressed with the diversity of oral seminars, posters, flash sessions and short-course topics at the LA convention.

Awards
Friday night was another major convention highlight. As part of the awards ceremony, the Annie Glenn Award was presented to the cast and crew of the TV show “Speechless,” about a family whose teenage son, JJ, has cerebral palsy and uses an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device. The real-life JJ is Micah Fowler. He has cerebral palsy, but he is certainly not speechless.
At the awards ceremony, Micah gave a riveting acceptance speech and had the audience in the palm of his hand. It was gratifying to experience his courage and confidence as he helped us get to know him. Micah and his mother spent the entire day at the convention visiting the exhibits and meeting ASHA members.
I was impressed with the diversity of oral seminars, posters, flash sessions and short-course topics at the L.A. convention. The convention co-chairs, Mary Casper and Anita Vereb, conceptualized a series of “Big Picture Premier Sessions” that provided new perspectives on professional collaboration: educational audiologists helping speech-language pathologists treat students with hearing loss; SLPs helping audiologists modify hearing testing for people with language or cognitive difficulties; and clinician-researcher collaborations to propel evidence-based practice. What a great idea!
The 2017 convention lived up to its theme, “Focus on the Big Picture,” and it is certainly going to be a big act to follow in 2018. But I have every confidence that we will.
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February 2018
Volume 23, Issue 2