This was my first year attending the GPA Conference in person, and wow, what an experience! I’m immensely grateful for the scholarship opportunities that the Grant Professional Foundation works to provide to bring grant professionals to this space. Also, a heartfelt thank you to all of the donors who make these scholarships possible!
This year, I have been preparing to take the GPC exam to establish myself as a knowledgeable and credible grant professional. I knew that the conference would be an excellent setting to reinforce areas where I felt less secure in preparation for the exam. I tried to prioritize sessions that would either complement areas I wanted to study or cement my understanding in areas related to federal regulations and guidelines. I found sessions that were a great balance of these two priorities, so I believe my attendance was a success in terms of my personal goals.
One of the key sessions I attended was titled Subrecipient Determination and Monitoring since I so often find myself working with teams to determine if a partner should be a subcontractor or a subawardee. It was reassuring to hear that I’m not alone in struggling with this determination, and it was very helpful to hear the perspectives of the presenters and others in the room. I also attended a session titled Pursuing Federal Grants: What to Know About the Budget and I wish I could take a semester-long class on this topic. Hearing the presenters talk about the timeline for the federal budget and how appropriations work made a lot of things click for me in terms of federal forecasting and why opportunities post when they do. Another session that I found to be very valuable was titled Writing Good Evaluation Questions—this was definitely the session that I took the most notes from and I immediately put these notes to use in grant proposals I worked on in the following weeks. I liked that the presenter discussed the types of change that can occur (in knowledge, attitudes, skills, opinions, conditions, or status) and how you should connect both your project plan and the evaluation plan to the types of changes you are aiming for. It was helpful to hear the presenter talk about how the evaluation plan should be situated within the overall aims of the proposal.
In-person attendance allowed me to connect with other grant professionals in my region, which gave me the push I needed to explore participating in a regional chapter. While I was vaguely aware of the support GPA offers in terms of networking, regional connections, and education, the conference really illuminated how eager other grant professionals are to connect with you and support your professional pathway. Everyone that I chatted with during meals or in between sessions was very kind—some of the best notes I took from this conference were just from conversations with my peers.
A significant highlight for me from the conference was discovering that many other grant professionals share similar emotions (nervousness, uncertainty, and curiosity) regarding the potential impacts of artificial intelligence on our industry. It was very reassuring to see that I am not alone in these anxieties and encouraging to know that GPA is actively working to keep grant professionals up to speed in potential industry changes. In the coming weeks, I intend to watch the recordings of the sessions focused on artificial intelligence and tech tools that can be used to increase productivity. That’s also one of the main highlights for me about this conference—it’s great that you can continue to benefit from these sessions for months afterwards!
I’d like to reiterate my gratitude to the Grant Professional Foundation for managing scholarship opportunities for grant professionals. This type of professional development is invaluable to me as a young grant professional. My self-assigned post-conference goal is to learn how to be more involved with this organization, given its significant contributions to the industry.