“Adapt & Thrive –CSWEA 94th Annual Meeting”
By Amanda Streicher
Adapt: verb, make (something) suitable for new use or purpose; become adjusted to new conditions
Thrive: verb, grow or develop well or vigorously; prosper; flourish.
Wow, that’s a powerful theme! We all can relate that theme in every part of our lives, especially this past year.
Over the winter months, the IL section has been working on putting together the 94th Annual Meeting with the theme “Adapt & Thrive”. The first adaptation our group made was the switch to a virtual Annual Meeting, while this was done for the 93rd Annual Meeting, we are looking at making changes to adapt to the challenges that were presented. This decision was made early on in planning to allow time to form the best approach to a virtual conference with an audience that is, frankly, Zoomed-out. While the agenda is still only in draft form as I write this letter – our group has worked hard to find a work-conference-life balance during this Annual Meeting. A big difference from the past Annual Meeting’s that can be a 3-day Go!-Go!-Go! event. However, as the times have changed, our group has adapted!
The Technical Program saw a significant reduction in abstract submittals from the past year. While there is still plenty of quality content to create a valuable conference, I wonder if all of this adaptation to our new way of doing things has changed the way we thrive. In the past technical conferences have been a chance to sit in on informational presentations, as well as carry on the conversation with enthusiasts after the talk has ended. With a virtual format, these ad-lib conversations can be a bit more challenging and the ability to exchange ideas does not come as freely as an in-person conference. As I mentioned in one of my past articles, I believe our industry has increased communication and is no longer focused on having in-depth discussions mainly at conferences. I think this presents a great opportunity for our virtual conference, as there is potential for the presentations to expand on conversations had over the past year and incorporate some of those questions into the presentation. I am looking forward to the final selections of abstracts for the conference and am excited to listen to how our industry is thriving through this time of extreme change.
Each Annual Meeting typically consists of an outing to a local water resource recovery facility. This outing has always been a great event where professionals could learn about a new plant, identify new ways of operating similar technologies, and find similarities among various facilities to increase the bond within the industry. In recent years, stormwater tours have been added to the conference agenda to learn about unique and innovative ways of managing stormwater. This year, these tours are taking on a different shape – yep, virtual! Both the facility and stormwater tours are going to be a pre-recorded video covering the unique aspects of the facilities and stormwater design. The video through the Northern Moraine WRD is going to be a drone flight through the plant. I would say our industry has adapted well to the use of new technology! Although these plant tours are so beneficial to have in person, I am amazed how well our industry has adapted to new technologies and is thriving on the information they can present.
The 5k is one of my favorite events of the conference. It is a chance to run off some of the maybe not-so-smart, potentially alcohol related decisions from the social events the night before. After starting off, what could-be a rough morning, with a nice, refreshing run, I am ready to tackle the conference and the packed day that lay ahead. This year there will be no 5k; however, that does not mean CSWEA is not going to do anything. This year instead of a 5k run, it will be a much broader, virtual race. For those who wish to participate, a pledge will be made by each individual at the registration of the conference. This pledge is to identify how many minutes of activity (any activity – yoga, walking, lifting weights, swimming, etc) they plan to do each day of the conference. Activity minutes will be reported for each day of the conference, and the total will be calculated at the end of the conference where a winner will be announced. This is a great way to get our bodies in motion after sitting at a computer all day. Our bodies and minds will thrive after this conference!
Another one of my favorite events that is adapting to the change is the Meet & Greet Social. As I have said before, the IL Section, and CSWEA as a whole is a very sociable group. We seem to like each other’s company. The social events are always a great time where everyone can see others they maybe haven’t seen since the last conference and catch up. With the IL Section hosting the Annual Meeting this year, of course we are going to have a social event! I am really looking forward to the Trivia event and having a fun time in our breakout groups with others I have not seen in over a year! It will be a great time to test our brains and share a few laughs. To the group I end up in for Trivia – just because I love the game, does not mean I am any good – but hey, at least we will have fun! We will adapt and thrive and come out with laughs and maybe learn a few new fun facts.
I think we can all wish things were back to “normal” and that everything we talk, write, and plan for doesn’t have to involve pandemic considerations. However, I think as a group and as an industry we are doing our best to adapt and thrive through these unprecedented times. I am writing this letter and by the time you are reading it, I am sure there have been new hurdles to conquer and bigger lessons learned. Again, just another sign that we have all gotten good at adapting, and thriving in this rapidly world. I am looking forward to this Annual Meeting and seeing what our industry experts have to share on their experiences and what new adventures they have gone on in the past year.