RISE Awards 2023

Congratulations to the 2024 RISE Award Recipients!

The RISE Awards recognize community members from across the globe, celebrating the spirit of leadership, impact, and innovation. Award candidates are reviewed by the RISE Awards Judging Panel, an MPI international volunteer committee. Selected recipients are ratified by the MPI Board of Directors and recognized at that year’s WEC.


Jenny Dao

Member of The Year

Jenny’s journey as an MPI member has been marked by a resolute commitment to fostering inclusivity, innovation, and leaving a legacy rooted in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Through various leadership roles and initiatives, the work she has accomplished specific to her chapter and region has helped to create an environment where everyone feels valued and respected. Jenny serves both MPI and the MPI Foundation in her volunteer roles. In 2022 and 2023, she was an education event designer and speaker at Canada’s regional conference, the EVENT, where her involvement as an event designer allowed her to emphasize diverse perspectives, promote discussions on critical issues, and foster inclusivity at a regional level in the MPI community. Since 2022, she has served MPI Ottawa Chapter as chair and co-chair of its annual MPI Prix Prestige Awards event. In this event, she integrated indigenous protocols and helped to celebrate diverse voices within the awards framework. Her support of MPI extends to MPI Foundation, where she has served for the last 5 years as an MPI Foundation Canada Council Member. This role provided a platform to implement strategies and advocacy that have directly influenced MPI Ottawa’s approach to fundraising and community engagement. Through her work at Discover Saskatoon, Jenny has been instrumental in embedding indigenous protocols and recognition into event design, paving the way for truth and reconciliation in her regional community and throughout related industry engagements. She cites specific benefits for her chapter through these efforts as well as participant feedback expressing appreciation for the cultural depth and inclusivity.

Steven Foster, CMP

Meeting Industry Leadership

An award-winning speaker, author and consultant, Steven is a 33-year member, who first volunteered at MPI in 1994. By 1999, he served as Dallas-Fort Worth’s Chapter President. He then continued his volunteer leadership service at the Global level in a variety of committee roles, including on the Chapter Advisory, Content Advisory, Marketplace Advisory, International Awards Committee, Foundation Campaign, and Facilitator and Chapter Training (FACT) Committees. In his time growing as a chapter leader, Steven’s contributions were substantial.

He helped to establish a $7,000 endowment with Dallas County Community College Foundation to inaugurate the Travel, Exhibition and Meeting Management Program at Richland College (now Dallas College), one of the first in the nation. Long before Global Meetings Industry Day, he was also the Chair of the Texas Meetings Industry Legislative Action Day (MILAD) and continued as a member of the MPI’s Advocacy Committee for the next five years. After serving as MPI DFW President, Steven became a member of the inaugural facilitator training class. He is now the longest-serving MPI Chapter Facilitator, having held this role for 20 years.

In this role, he has impacted hundreds of volunteer leaders in many of the U.S., Canadian and Latin America chapters to provide transferrable processes, including the development of campaigns to generate operating funds, activate members, and build a strong and sustainable volunteer leadership pipeline.

Most recently, he helped develop a cash analysis tool during the pandemic which many U.S. chapters still use now to better understand fiscal management and strategize use of financial reserves, as well as strengthen community engagement with meaningful volunteer development opportunities, and assisted in creating cross-chapter partnerships through sharing of best practices.

From 2020 to present day, Steven’s company Foster+Fathom and its long-time partners at Grit Productions & Expositions have been the Signature Sponsor & Event Production Host for MPI’s Global Meetings Industry Day, partnering with the MPI Academy to produce the 12-hour global broadcast from the Foster+Fathom studio. Since 2021, his company has also partnered with MPI's Chapter Operations team to produce and broadcast the two-day Chapter Business Summit (now Chapter Leadership Summit).

He also is the co-founder of "2 Guys Doing Good," a purposeful, nationwide initiative facilitating signature “Team-Giving Activations” that help businesses connect with local non-profit charitable organizations to impact communities through meaningful acts of service. Steven has received several notable industry awards, including being inducted into the MPI Community of Honorees and named one of MPI’s 50 Most Influential Members. In 2000, Steven and Wendy Foster became the first husband/wife business team to earn the Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) designation. Today, Steven is the Chair of MPI’s Southwest Regional Council, and he continues to serve MPI as a Chapter Facilitator.

Evan Nielson, CMP

Young Professional Achievement

Evan joined MPI as a student after a chance encounter in 2016 led to attending a GMID event that year. He immediately became a member of multiple committees and by the fall of 2018, Evan was invited to serve on the Nominations and Governance Committee. Evan assumed his first chapter leadership role in the 2019-20 term. Shortly after obtaining his CMP in 2019, Evan volunteered as a facilitator for the chapter’s CMP prep courses, having become an expert in multiple domains. His first role on the Board was Director of Certifications & Career Development, where his team created new course concepts that are still useful today. The following year, he assumed the role of Director of Member Engagement and Community Outreach, spearheading the launch of new events and programs. Notably, his efforts resulted in a significant $1,000 donation to the MPI Foundation. Evan’s hard work over the years has culminated in being named Chapter Leader of the Year by MPI Potomac in 2023. Today, Evan serves as VP of Finance and was recently named MPI Potomac Chapter’s first Regional Council representative. He will assume the role of Chapter President in 2025. Outside of MPI, Evan works on the AARP Event Services Team. He’s most passionate about strategically using event technology to deliver exceptional, inclusive experiences. He holds two degrees from the George Washington University in Washington, D.C: a Master of Tourism Administration with a concentration in Event and Meeting Management and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Communication.


Wisconsin Chapter

Marketplace Excellence

MPI Wisconsin Chapter is continuing to evolve a long-standing Strategic Partner Program. Over the course of 11 years, MPI Wisconsin Chapter has developed its program to be so successful that its benefits have extended beyond local planners and suppliers, to other chapters in the MPI community. MPI Wisconsin Chapter’s Strategic Partner Program allows suppliers to secure several benefits in a single transaction, inclusive of magazine advertisements in MPI Wisconsin’s popular magazine, special recognition at each chapter event both from the lectern and a banner, email blasts featuring news about the Partners, free attendance at events, and more.

A tier structure of benefits and pricing makes the Strategic Partner Program affordable to large and small supplier members and encourages their involvement by removing a registration barrier for chapter programs. In return, MPI Wisconsin’s finance and event teams no longer need to seek funding for educational events every month.

Finance volunteers are free to build long-term relationships and demonstrate value to suppliers. Plus, excellent proceeds from this plan allow the chapter to have a robust budget for speakers and educational programs that cater to the diverse interests of the planners and suppliers at each meeting.

The program has been so successful that that the Chapter has been able to build a reserve fund. Based on its financial stability through this program, MPI Wisconsin Chapter has been able to help other chapters in times of need with over $10,000 in financial support given to Florida Chapters, MPI Gulf States Chapter and New York MPI Chapters. With an established Partner Program in place, MPI Wisconsin leadership made the decision to add $20,000 to their education budget and offer free planner registration to their full-day education conference. When they started in 2013, the chapter raised $2,500 dollars and gained the interest of many of its supplier members.

Now, the chapter raises over 25 times that amount, and believes that this program should be adopted by other chapters to achieve similar successes.

Tennessee Chapter

Innovative Educational Programming

MPI Tennessee Chapter hosted its annual Connect Educational Conference and Tradeshow on February 15, 2023 with a goal to “educate through entertainment.” The chapter chose to develop a “TV network” with a lineup of shows modeled after popular series to take the place of education sessions, tradeshows, and even the day’s luncheon under the network name “Connect TV.” The chapter pursued overall goals of an inclusive planning process, excellent education inclusive in nature, and giving back to the MPI Foundation. Recognizing the importance of diversity, the chapter also initiated the project early with a diverse planning group representing all sectors of the events industry. The planning group offered varied perspectives and experiences to ensure that Connect TV would appeal to a broad audience. The entire program was also captured on video for anyone wanting to revisit specific speakers and programs.

The chapter actively sought a broad spectrum of speakers beyond the MPI Tennessee region, inviting industry experts from different geographical locations to share insights on a variety of topics. This decision aimed to provide attendees with a global perspective to help understand our changing world. Mike Keith, the voice of the Tennessee Titans, was the Connect TV Network host.

Attendees were not passive participants; they were part of a live television studio audience. A variety of program formats appealed to MPI Tennessee’s diverse membership. Acknowledging the importance of supporting the industry, especially in the wake of the challenges posed by COVID-19, the chapter dedicated a portion of Connect TV to fundraising for the MPI Foundation. Hosted at the exquisite LEED-certified 1 Hotel in Nashville, TN, Connect TV unfolded in a venue recognized for its commitment to sustainability.

The chapter achieved commendable results, receiving its highest attendance numbers ever recorded by the chapter, bringing new members and volunteers to the chapter, and gaining unprecedented social media traction. The chapter wholeheartedly believes its success can be replicated by other chapters and looks forward to implementing a second edition of the program in 2024.

Indiana Chapter

Industry Advocate

As a chapter, MPI Indiana set 3 goals in concert with GMID: increase social media engagement, partner with other hospitality-related organizations or associations to create a larger and more inclusive network throughout Indiana and utilize Global Meetings Industry Day to raise awareness for the industry.

For its first goal, MPI Indiana Chapter created a 4-week social media campaign, entitled “March Meeting Mania” to engage MPI members. Members had the opportunity to earn points by self-reporting their engagement in March Meeting Mania; the points could then be used in a raffle or other prize event held in conjunction with GMID. Members earned points by re-sharing posts, tagging organizers, and inviting others to the GMID Celebration Event to increase overall social media engagement and event involvement.

To break boundaries and collaborate inclusively, the chapter also partnered with the Indianapolis chapters of the International Live Events Association (ILEA), as well as Minorities in Hospitality (MIH) throughout the planning, marketing and execution of the event. Together, these organizations all shared costs and revenues regardless of the number of members from each group who attended in order to create an equitable experience.

The program was a success, with the in-person program garnering a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars.



Pittsburgh Chapter

Membership Achievement

The MPI Pittsburgh Chapter implemented a series of targeted initiatives aimed at fostering substantial growth and retention within its membership base, with a particular focus on engaging both students and general members.

To bolster student involvement, the chapter established a dedicated position on its Board of Directors titled 'Director of Student Engagement,' ensuring focused attention on the unique needs of student members. Additionally, the chapter introduced reduced event registration rates to make professional development opportunities more accessible to students. Collaborative efforts with local universities facilitated targeted outreach, while involving students in the planning stages of significant events provided valuable hands-on experience. The introduction of a 'Sponsor a Student' fund further encouraged professional members to financially support student engagement by covering MPI-related fees.

For its general membership, MPI Pittsburgh implemented personalized outreach strategies. Monthly updates featuring new members were shared with the Board of Directors, who then reached out to these members on LinkedIn to extend a warm welcome and foster connections within the MPI network. Board members also prioritized early arrival at events to engage in personal networking and ensure that members felt valued and connected within the community.

Throughout the year, MPI Pittsburgh emphasized the importance of member connection through initiatives such as featuring new and renewing members in monthly newsletters and spotlighting individual members in a 'Get to Know You' section. Additionally, the chapter dedicated a month to membership appreciation, during which nominations for chapter awards were opened.

These initiatives yielded impressive results. At the beginning of the 2022 term on July 1st, MPI Pittsburgh had a membership of 75. By the end of the term on July 1st, 2023, the chapter experienced significant growth, welcoming 18 new members and achieving a notable 28.57% year-over-year increase. Currently, the chapter boasts a thriving membership of 116 individuals, showcasing a commendable and continuous growth trajectory.


Recipient Yearbook