2017 ACE Professional Award
Robert's acceptance remarks:
Thank you, Steve. I would also like to express my appreciation to those involved in my selection. Reviewing the list of previous awardees, I am reminded of the contributions many others have made to this organization which enabled it to thrive for over a century. It is an honor to be included with them.
Having recently retired, I have had an opportunity to recall the high points of my career, and in particular the role that ACE has played.
For the first 9 or so years that I worked in agricultural communications I did not receive support to attend ACE conferences due to my job classification. When I attended my first conference in Miami, I was expecting to meet a very tight-knit group of professionals. Instead I discovered a group of peers who understood what I did, appreciated the challenges I faced and were eager to share their solutions.
Coming from a state that has been referred to as not “blessed” because we lack significant financial clout in D.C., our funding has always been dwarfed by states in many other regions, and as a result our staffing was significantly leaner. Yet in ACE I have never felt marginalized. Because of the professional development opportunities provided by ACE, I was always able to bring home a new perspective that challenged administrators there to think bigger.
I also discovered early on that anyone willing to step up and contribute to the health of the organization would be welcomed as an equal. As a consequence, I benefitted from leadership opportunities I would never have had on campus. Hosting a regional meeting in Tucson in 1996 in particular was a transformative experience for me.
Looking back I can honestly say that the relationships I have made through ACE far outweigh any made in my college activities. I believe this is because we are people who speak the same language. In contrast with the scientists and administrators I regularly interacted with, we are a group of creative types. We often spend so much effort emphasizing the accuracy and objectivity of our work that we underestimate the value of the creative spirit that sets us apart. This is something that was brought home to me recently when a colleague on campus shared a quote by NPR personality Ira Glass that you might be familiar with:
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me.
All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good.
It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.
A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this.
And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.
And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take a while. It’s normal to take a while. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
To me ACE is an “equal opportunity motivator.”
ACE gives you an opportunity to reach an audience that recognizes the value you bring to a project.