First Timer

by Tesha Vera

Sipping a fresh brew from the very first Starbucks, watching the fishmongers throw their daily catch, taking in the beauty of the expansive Puget Sound—these quintessential Seattle stops were just a fraction of the memories I created while attending my very first Alliance.

In the days leading up to the conference, I tried to envision what Alliance might be like. Little did I know the magic that awaited me in the heart of the Emerald City. It all began with our Welcome Reception, hosted by SpearMC. Attendees were wearing apparel from their institutions, which made it fun to connect with people from my alma mater (Go Sun Devils!).

While mingling over tacos and a locally crafted beer, I could hear a band in the distance; Cheri, our fearless Conference Chair, marched into the Solution Center followed by a high energy brass band. I quickly realized, the HEUG knows how to get the party started! Cheri and the band paraded their way to the HEUG Booth to kick off the Hall of Fame Induction. For 2022, the HEUG honored Tom Johnson and Buddy Combs, two incredible members who have given so much to our organization. It was in this moment, I was able to see just how valuable and unmatched the HEUG community is.

Over the next few days, I was struck by the meaningful connections that were made all over the convention center. I could see the joy from attendees when they had an “ah ha!” moment, finally discovering a solution to a challenge. Hallway conversations that spilled over from a well engaged session. Peers who have collaborated in groups in the HEUG community were finally able to meet and interact in person. And possibly my most favorite connections were found at Ginger’s Pet Rescue—right in the heart of the Solution Center, where attendees could stop in for some puppy snuggles on the way to their next session.

In what felt like a blink of an eye, it was time for Closing Night, hosted by Huron. When I stepped inside, I was swept to the Land of Oz, for a little trip down the yellow brick road. I must give a shout out to our Executive Board for committing to the theme with their amazing Wizard of Oz costumes. They were pure magic! I played games, munched on Beecher’s Famous Mac and Cheese and hit the dance floor to end the conference with a bang.

I got on the plane with tired feet, but a full heart. Alliance 2022 was one for the books! Next stop, St. Louis!