West Federation

West Federation: A Community of Learners

Sometimes leaders take charge, other times they emerge from groups as needs arise. For me as the incoming President of West Federation I am first humbled by the fine example of some stellar faculty that have had the vision and initiative to build a fellowship of faculty peers in the West Federation. For me, I feel like I fell backwards into a pool of great leaders, most recently our Past President, Michelle Millar. If I have one goal in the coming year it would be to sustain the high level of excellence that came before me and encourage peers to remain involved in shaping a strong West Federation.

It is important to recall that our organization was a fledgling group of independent chapters until Dr. Chad Gruhl from Metro State in Denver stepped forward and offered to gather us to share and learn from one another’s research and best practice. Some special magic occurred that year when we shared our research and pedagogy with one another. Yes, the classrooms were demure, cinder blocked walled, and dim fluorescently lit with no windows. But the attendees didn’t mind much as they were enamored with the opportunity to connect locally with others of common interest. We learned that our peer faculty have a great need for quality feedback on their research and that they have as great a need to learn…as share what they have learned. Who would know that the highlight of a conference could be a beer tasting with Blue Moon Brewery Founder, Keith Villa? We had fun that first year and haven’t stopped since then with great conferences at UNLV, University of San Francisco, Johnson and Wales, Denver, and this coming February 10-11, 2017 hosted by San Diego State University. Our conference chair, Carl Winston and Director of Networking, Patrick Lee are planning yet another amazing conference that balances great research, industry speakers, best practice and just plain fun.

From our humble beginnings as a Federation, a community of learners has developed, starting small, forming and rarely storming their way to where we are today as a vibrant and energetic group of educators that both challenge and entertain one another with their research and innovative pedagogy. It is hard to describe the magic that occurs in the West and perhaps the best way to see how quality scholarship can be balanced with collegiality, best practice and fun is to invite ICHRIE members to attend a regional conference. Each of the Federations are planning amazing conferences in the coming year.

What works for us in the West is to provide a conference that is inclusive to all members, encourages peer to peer engagement on shared scholarship, relevant industry speakers, and educational opportunities surrounding our meal and reception times. We have a strong tradition of practical scholarship relevant to one another’s field of study and have realized that faculty love to learn…particularly regarding current industry trends and food and beverage. One can never underestimate the power of an end of day wine and food pairing event to rally the troops and brighten spirits. We have had sunset trips over the Golden Gate bridge to sample libations at a private waterfront club, and a Bordeaux paired dinner event in Las Vegas at UNLV. This coming year, rumor has it that there may be a twilight boat trip to Coronado island for an imbibing evening reception. Dare we plan future conferences at a Winery or on a Cruise Ship? Quite Possibly!

Today the cinder block walls are gone, we now stay in great regional boutique hotels, engage local and regional leaders as speakers and connect with local dining and beverage seen with excursion events. We had a similar experience occur at ICHRIE this year where attendees got to experience a Grapevine TX winery tour and dinner organized by the ICHRIE conference committee. Those that attended were alive with excitement regarding learning and sampling local cuisine and beverages. This is precisely the balance of fun and scholarship that makes the West Federation an exciting place to be. We are committed to continue to create a valued conference in the coming year to promote scholarship and learning with peers.

One of the most astounding results of successful conferences is having a positive cash flow from our conferences that can now be tapped to promote and encourage professional development of our peers. For our upcoming conference in February 2017 look for a call for papers to be announced soon with $250 cash awards for best paper in two tracks of scholarship… Applied Research and Education/Teaching Pedagogy. We are also pleased to offer six scholarships to attend the conference that will pay for two nights of hotel accommodation and conference registration for two faculty members, two graduate students, and two undergraduate students that are presenting their scholarly works to peers.

We are also pleased to announce that Education Director, Yun Ying, is working on an additional scholarship to fund four faculty to attend a regional CHE course and certification program at a West Federation host institution.

Please stay tuned in the coming months to announcements that herald individual achievements and encourage scholarship amongst our peers.

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Michael Wray
is President of the West Federation. Email Michael.