Meet the 2022 RISE Award recipients

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Meet the 2022 RISE Award recipients

By Michael Pinchera | Jun 22, 2022


Pawntra Shadab
Pawntra Shadab, CTA, CIS, CITP

How did you succeed on your career jour­ney?

Pursuing education and certifications has offered me tools and resources to expand my mind and I contin­ue to look for opportu­nities to grow and be better. Working on high-profile events, the bar and expectations my clients set are very high. With that it has given me the chance to really el­evate the products and services I provide. MPI has played a role in helping me become a stron­ger leader while surrounding myself with some of the best in the industry. And through it all, my friends and family have been and continue to be an incredible support system.

What’s the best advice you’ve received?

I have received such great advice over the years. One piece that stands out is, “There is a creative solution to every problem.” This resonates in so many ways, but most recently with the pan­demic. Seeing the resiliency and creativity of our industry was and continues to be truly in­spiring. There are many ways to approach a sit­uation—if we use our creativity, patience and maybe even a little bit of persistence, amazing things can happen!


Shannon Jones, CMP

What’s the best ad­vice you’ve received?

Life starts just outside of your comfort zone. There have been many times where I’ve been uncomfortable. I’ve al­most left networking events, cancelled my registrations, pulled out of speaking engagements and more be­cause I was uncomfortable and not confident in what was to come. However, I’ve always re­minded myself of this advice and pushed ahead. Those have been some of the most memorable and life-impacting situations I’ve experienced. If I hadn’t leaned into being uncomfortable, I would never have had those experiences or made those connections.

Tell us about an “ah-ha” moment you’ve had.

When Steven Foster said at the Chapter Busi­ness Summit that MPI is a “Heart thing, not a head thing,” that was an ah-ha moment for me. It finally made sense why I loved this organi­zation and my involvement so much. It was all emotional and I’d changed for the positive because of my involvement. Since then, I’ve spread this message that MPI has to be a heart thing to be able to connect with it and make it work for you, whatever that might mean.


Valeria Serrano
Valeria Serrano, PCS

Tell us about an “ah-ha” moment you’ve had.

The one I cherish the most and was a turn­ing point when I found my true professional calling was when I got selected to coordinate the graduation cere­mony of my class. It was a job that I accepted with fear and uncertainty due to the lack of ex­perience, but once I got hands on and got com­pletely involved, I realized it was natural for me, and almost by instinct I knew how, when and what I had to do. It was the graduation day when I saw all the planning work reflect­ed on the event with success when I had that ah-ha moment—I knew I wanted to do this for the rest of my professional life, and that night I decided to dedicate my career to the meeting industry, although back then in Mexico it wasn’t known as such.

What would you be if you weren’t a meeting professional?

I would be a life coach. As part of my personal growth, I have studied different philosophies and methods on emotional well-being. Al­though the study was for my personal well-be­ing, my calling for service has led me to use my knowledge to help others find emotional stabil­ity that gives them coherence in life.


MPI Caribe Mexicano Chapter

What’s the “secret sauce” that helps a chapter succeed?

Rocío González Jonguitud: Culture and lead­ership, plus a diverse membership with experts in their fields but also younger professionals that contribute with their drive, new innovative approaches and new ways to communicate.

How do you sustain success knowing good leaders will leave following their terms?

González Jonguitud: Continuity is key in this regard. We not only keep all past presidents in­volved but also past board members that will carry the goals and the vision of the chapter seamlessly through the next term, allowing im­provement and new approaches. It’s important to ensure the chapter is recruiting and involv­ing young, committed and passionate leaders who understand the goals and objectives of the chapter. Having a diversity of member expertise in areas such as marketing, membership, com­munications and planning is also important.

What tips would you give to other MPI chap­ters?

González Jonguitud: Be as multigeneration­al as possible, engage the past board with new members, present the unique selling points of being an MPI member. It is very difficult to gen­eralize all chapters, especially if they are in dif­ferent countries and have different cultures, but the common goals should be education, growth, community involvement and continuity.


MPI Oregon Chapter

What’s the secret sauce that helps a chapter succeed?

It’s a sauce, it’s a combination of all three. If you’re only focusing in one area, another is  likely being forgotten. Our chapter’s focus this year was on members specifically, but we created a Members Matter campaign that involved monthly calls and emails with the goal of connecting leadership and fostering a positive culture. We are proud of the way our sauce turned out.

How do you sustain success knowing good leaders will leave following their terms?

Fresh off the heels of our annual retreat, so much of a successful legacy is about incorpo­rating the organization of previous leaders, while capturing new energy and ideas of in­coming leaders. As with any organization, evolution is necessary, and attracting new members that want to be involved is import­ant. In addition, our impressive leaders are actively engaged in past president meetups so we can continue to share and collaborate.

What tips would you give other chapters?

Little things make a big difference. We’ve found the smallest connections grow to some of the largest successes. Our chapter has utilized consistent calls, emails and event programs to foster connections with our MPI community. One strand of silk isn’t very strong, but an en­tire web can support a lot of weight.


MPI Italia Chapter

What’s the secret sauce that helps a chapter succeed?

Luca Vernengo: That’s a great question for us Italians, as we pride ourselves as being great cooks. In the kitchen we believe that the quali­ty of the ingredients is fundamental to make a great dish or sauce. So, culture and members are the most import­ant of the ingredients for our chapter’s suc­cess and leadership is needed to blend them in a tasteful manner. The contribution of everyone is essential to succeed.

Luisa Bianco: And continuing with the metaphor of cooking, we believe that curiosity and experimentation are also of great help to move forward and achieve great successes, so sometimes you must dare and mix the ingre­dients to innovate.

What tips would you give other chapters?

Giuseppina Cardinale: There is no real magic recipe but maybe some magic keywords, such as “share,” “engage,” “learn,” “innovate” and “play.” So back to the culinary metaphor, you need to mix all these ingredients.

Bianco: Share ideas, proposals and sugges­tions with your members and engage them in active participation to enhance their sense of belonging to the community and push them to be good ambassadors of MPI.


MPI Kansas City Chapter

How do you sustain success knowing good leaders will leave following their terms?

John Kirby: A huge part of creating and sus­taining any level of success in any chapter re­ally consists of two chief components: culture and you need to inspire leadership in those around you.

What tips would you give other chapters?

Kirby: I would give three points of encourage­ment. The first is to focus on accomplishing a few things you can do REALLY well, instead of a lot of things you can just do OK. The sec­ond is to always remind your volunteers and membership how important they are and how much you appreciate them. The third, and maybe the most important that has helped us as a “smaller” chapter, is to tell your story! I am sure there are a million stories out there of great things that have been accomplished by chapters that never saw the light of day, sim­ply because the work of celebrating the work and telling the story has seemed too much like work all its own. As much as your work is meant to serve your membership, it also can inspire lots of other chapters around you. If you don’t tell your story, who will? So, tell it and be proud of it!

Learn more about the 2022 RISE Awards recip­ients in the July/August issue of The Meeting Professional.



Michael Pinchera

Michael Pinchera, MPI's managing editor, is an award-winning writer and editor as well as a speaker, technologist and contributor to business, academic and pop culture publications since 1997.