ASPE Plenary: Celebrating Our Past, Imagining Our Future: 3 Presidents Reflect

By Daniel C. Brown, Emory University

Monday morning in New Orleans, the first full day of ASPE’s 2022 conference included a plenary address from three prior ASPE Presidents: Tamara Owens, Grace Gephardt, and Rob MacAulay. The trio regaled the audience with stories from ASPE’s history, reminded the crowd of recent and current accomplishments, shared a vision for the future, and issued calls to action for ASPE members.

Owens began by acknowledging ASPE’s founders in creating our careers. She told the story of how she was recruited into the field, then told of ASPE’s humble beginnings, for example holding the precursor to the conference at girl scout camps. Her calls to action included recording ASPE’s history on the website, increasing revenue streams, getting ASPE’s name in the literature more, and encouraging members to advance in the ranks of academia; getting advanced degrees and becoming deans and provosts.

Gephardt told several fun stories from past conferences, including costuming herself in a cardboard race car in Indianapolis, not voting for herself for president, and issuing a mea culpa for the confetti cannons that startled a room full of ASPE members in Alexandria. She called on members to use our influence to support abortion rights, grow relationships with technology providers, and overall to stay curious and keep learning.

MacAulay told of his “meandering” into the human simulation profession, and finding his tribe. He broke news about the forthcoming ASPE Virtual Library and asked members to consider contributing to the case bank. He respectfully disagreed with Owens’ call to get advanced degrees, pushing back against the idea that a degree is required to show expertise. He imparted that we are all each other’s mentors, and that curiosity keeps us young and vital.

MacAulay ended by acknowledging a sensed heaviness in the room, which a few other speakers mentioned at various points during the conference. Roe v. Wade had just been overturned, many ASPE members were unable to attend, but most of all, we had all been through the collective trauma of a pandemic that still wasn’t over. And somehow, in acknowledging that heaviness, it was in some small way released.

Communications and Connections Committee Mission: “To bring high quality reporting of current research, trends, techniques and information regarding SP methodology and other relevant industry articles to the attention of the membership through the web-based ASPE eNews blog.”

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