Conference Experience as a Scholarship Recipient

by Karen Watkins-Watts, GPC

First, my sincere gratitude to the Grant Professionals Foundation (GPF) for the scholarship enabling me to attend the 18th Annual GPA National Conference in Atlanta in 2016! Defraying the cost of conference registration (and other travel expenses) made the 2016 conference possible for me.

I had the privilege of attending several past conferences, however, with a district-wide budget deficit and year-end reduction-in-force in 2016, my organization set a policy prohibiting district funding for out-of-state travel. Notwithstanding, district leadership understood the tremendous benefit of this important professional development opportunity for me as Grants Manager. With the GPF award, they provided me the professional development days and some travel expense reimbursement.

The annual GPA conference has been and continues to be greatly valued by my organization’s (Brockton Public Schools in Brockton, MA) leadership and myself as a key grants professional development opportunity. Attending the national conferences has been pivotal to my growth as a grants professional! The workshops and dialogue with grant professionals from across the country have increased my knowledge and skills of best practices in the profession, has produced better quality proposals, and increased public and private grant resources for our large, urban district. Serving a diverse population of nearly 18,000 students, many of whom face poverty and myriad of socio-economic barriers, this work is especially critical, compounded by an increasingly challenging funding environment in the public education sector.

I also credit the GPA conference for elevating my professional status in the profession as GPC in 2009. I learned about the GPC credential at a prior conference, then subsequently studied with a cohort of fellow members from across the country and took the exam at the annual conference in Long Beach, CA.

Since joining GPA and the GPA Massachusetts Chapter in 2007, I have served in a leadership capacity including responsibilities as Secretary, Vice President, and President. Then Immediate Past President, it was important that I attend the 2016 conference (and the Chapter Leadership session), to represent our chapter and to gain and share ideas from other chapters and chapter leaders. We had successfully convened our first New England Regional Conference in June of 2015 and had begun discussion on our next conference. We were eager to build on our success and learn from other chapters. The regional event is vital to the growth of our chapter and its presence throughout New England (Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine, and Connecticut).

I am extremely grateful for the work of the GPF to advance our profession and privileged to be an awardee of the 2016 GPF scholarship!