Greetings and welcome to the 2015 VAEOPP Fall Conference!

Our conference chair, Kristy Casstevens, Immediate Past President and the conference planning committee –  April Quesenberry, President-Elect, Carol Conner, Sandra Capps, and Holly Hall – have organized an outstanding conference and pre-conference. So I’d like to first thank them for the time, attention to detail, and professionalism that they have demonstrated in planning what I know will prove to be an enriching experience for each of our members. I am confident that this year’s discussions, workshops, and plenary sessions will provide you with excellent professional development and networking opportunities.

This year’s conference theme is “Spark the Light – Ignite the Dream.” Among other things, break-out sessions have been planned to help you improve your customer service, leadership, and advocacy skills, as well as to deploy effective social media campaigns, to streamline your processes, and to better serve our disabled student population. We hope that our time together will encourage you to redouble your efforts to serve and to advocate for low-income and first generation students throughout the Commonwealth.

This past year, VAEOPP took steps to ensure that we maintain the healthy financial gains that our association has achieved through the active participation of our member programs. As a result, we currently award eight scholarships. Many of you took advantage of exceptional grant writing sessions at last year’s pre-conference and conference. Our advocacy efforts with Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott ensured that the Department of Education revamped the competitive preference priorities for the Student Support Services competition, preserving the benefit of our prior experience points. Our collaboration and mutual support enabled universities in Virginia to register a net gain in programs funded during the recent Student Support Services competition. Finally, our Fair Share contributions and collective effort during Walk-the-Hill has positioned TRIO to receive an increase in funding.   

None of these achievements would be possible without your continued willingness to sacrifice for your program participants. Thank you for your efforts. I am humbled to serve with each of you.

As you participate in this year’s Fall Conference, remember that WE NEED YOUR ACTIVE participation not just at this conference, but when you return to your respective programs as well. I want to particularly thank our Emerging Leaders Institute participants whose contributions to our programs we appreciate and whose future service to our organization we encourage.

Thank you to every program that donated baskets to support our scholarship fundraising efforts. In the past, gift cards have been big hits, but remember that items with your college or university name and logo are not such big hits ☺. But theme baskets do very well. This year’s community service project will benefit Wave City Care, a 501c(3) non-profit organization in Virginia Beach that distributes food, provides tutoring and mentoring services, as well as donates clothing and makes shelter referrals to meet the needs of low-income families in Southwest Hampton Roads. At this time, I’d like to thank everyone who donated composition notebooks, individually packaged granola bars, trail mix, nuts, pretzels, or other snacks, and skill-building games for 8 to 13 year old males and females to support the mentorship component of this great organization.

Finally, thank those of you who registered to participate in our LIP SYNC BATTLE and our FUN RUN through City Center. Your efforts made our Fall Conference a memorable one!

Yours in TRIO,

Mikael