MPI RISE Awards: Innovation, Diversity & Inclusion and Volunteerism

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MPI RISE Awards: Innovation, Diversity & Inclusion and Volunteerism

By Rich Luna | Jun 25, 2020

Innovation. Diversity and inclusion. Volunteerism. Leadership.

These were just some of the themes that resonated as Meeting Professionals International announced its 2020 MPI RISE Awards recipients.

The three individual recipients and four chapters were honored for exceptional achievements in the meeting and event industry, the association announced Thursday at the 2020 Chapter Business Summit, which is a virtual event this year.

“We are so proud to congratulate this year’s 2020 RISE Awards recipients,” said Paul Van Deventer, president and CEO of MPI. “The commitment by MPI members to make an impact in their communities, as well as the industry, is inspiring and their accomplishments are remarkable.”

Seven RISE Awards were presented: three for individual achievement and four in community achievement. Candidates are reviewed by the RISE Awards Judging Panel, an MPI international volunteer committee chaired this year by Erin Lucia (MPI Dallas-Fort Worth Chapter). Decisions are ratified by the MPI International Board of Directors.

Here are the 2020 MPI RISE Award recipients.

Bryan-Quinan Sherry-DeLaGarza Cassie-Poss

Bryan Quinan, CMP
Member of the Year
MPI Southern California Chapter

Sherry DeLaGarza, CMP, CMM
Meeting Industry Leadership
MPI Dallas-Fort Worth Chapter

Cassie Poss, CMP
Young Professional Achievement
MPI Dallas-Fort Worth Chapter

Member of the Year: Bryan Quinan, CMP

This award is given to an exceptional MPI member who through volunteer efforts has made outstanding grassroots contributions and demonstrated unparalleled commitment to the advancement of a chapter, club, community or region.

Bryan Quinan’s path in life of late has not been easy. During his year as president-elect, he was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer.

Rather than give up, he reassessed his commitments to family and work, as well as his role with MPI, and was determined to find the right balance.

“I was just doing what I loved.”

“I’m much more patient, deliberate and take more time to give thanks to people in my life,” says Quinan, senior director for events at the Milken Institute. “As a board volunteer, sometimes you have to do most of the work required to get a project done. Being a volunteer, a cancer patient and a chapter president at the same time forced me to learn how to ask for help, and ultimately how to accept needing to be helped.”

While he has battled for his health, he has also continued to advocate for fellow members and his chapter. The MPI Southern California Chapter (MPISCC) received back-to-back RISE Awards and committed to the spirit of collaboration with other hospitality associations twice annually, including on Global Meetings Industry Day.

“I’ve been volunteering with our chapter for 10 years and I’ve always believed what you do today will allow someone to pick up where you left off and make it better,” Quinan says. “It’s incredible to receive this award because I would never put myself in that category of exceptional recognition. I was just doing what I loved.”

Meeting Industry Leadership: Sherry DeLaGarza, CMP, CMM

This award honors those rare individuals who by visionary hard work and creative insight have positively changed the global meeting and event industry. It recognizes sustained commitment and substantial contributions to the meeting and event community.

This once-shy person has found her niche through work and volunteering efforts. Over the past 20 years, Sherry DeLaGarza has chaired 16 educational programs, six of which either won or were a finalist for her chapter’s Program of the Year Award. Currently, she serves as the MPI Dallas-Fort Worth Chapter’s (MPIDFW) Global Meetings Industry Day co-chair and World Education Congress 2020 co-chair.

“Our chapter’s leaders have created a legacy of leadership by service to the members.”

DeLaGarza’s chapter recognitions include Planner of the Year, the Spirit of MPI Award and Mentor of the Year Award. Through all of that, she also found time to serve on her local high school’s drill team and football booster clubs.

DeLaGarza also takes pride in representing her chapter, which was awarded the 2017 RISE Award for Educational Programming for its Mentor Café, an experience that is now part of the MPI RISE Up program and available for all chapters to implement.

“Our chapter’s leaders have created a legacy of leadership by service to the members,” she says.

Young Professional Achievement: Cassie Poss, CMP

This award recognizes an individual 40 years of age or younger with five or less years of professional experience in the meeting and event industry who has made outstanding contributions to MPI and/or the meeting and event industry.

Cassie Poss’ childhood dreams of a career as a lawyer and becoming a district court judge would eventually give way, replaced by her passion for music, including playing saxophone at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL).

In the summers, she participated in a hospitality operation that welcomed summer camps and conferences to the university. The experience would eventually lead her to Dallas-Fort Worth, where she has made the most of her short time in the meeting industry. She joined MPI in 2015 and participated in MPIDFW’s eight-week CMP Study Course the next year. She passed the exam and decided to join several committees as a way to give back.

“[MPI] has allowed me to grow and change as a professional, leader and person.”

She was asked to co-chair the planning of MPIDFW’s 40th Anniversary Celebration and Awards of Excellence and later selected to serve on the board as director of education and events, and is currently vice president.

“MPI has provided me with the educational opportunities that I was looking for, but also has provided me with a community I didn’t know I needed and relationships that will truly last a lifetime,” Poss says. “It has allowed me to grow and change as a professional, leader and person while finding people who help drive, inspire and support me. So, the value is limitless.”

Membership Achievement: MPI Caribe Mexicano Chapter

This award recognizes an MPI chapter, club or student club for achievement in membership growth, engagement and retention demonstrated by overall membership numbers or effective campaigns, programming and involvement in activities.

A little more than a year ago, five former presidents of the MPI Mexico Chapter gathered and shared a vision: form a new chapter to address a growing need in the most popular state for tourism in Mexico—Quintana Roo on the northeast coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, home of Cancún and the Riviera Maya.

The ex-presidents—Andy Ortiz, Vicente Madrigal, Danielle van der Kwartell, Alejandro Watson and Michel Wohlmuth—wanted to create stronger business opportunities, professional development and networking.

Within three months, the initiative went from 17 MPI members in the area to 50, the minimum needed to form a board. Six months later, with 70 members, the MPI Caribe Mexicano Chapter was launched.

“There has also been a great response from sponsors supporting the chapter and helping us to continue growing.”

Valeria Serrano, chapter president and managing director of CTA Cancún & Riviera Maya DMC, says the key to the chapter’s success has been the strength of teamwork, education and professionalization.

“We have seen more volunteers joining different committees,” she says. “They’re very motivated to be part of the efforts of the chapter and support its development. There has also been a great response from sponsors supporting the chapter and helping us to continue growing.

“Seeing the efforts of both the board members and the membership recognized gives us a great sense of belonging to MPI and a great pride in being part of this exciting industry.”

Industry Advocate: MPI Potomac Chapter

This award recognizes an MPI chapter, club or student club for achievements in advancing the meeting and event industry by promoting an understanding of its impact, participation in Global Meetings Industry Day or strategic use and implementation of tools and resources provided by the Meetings Mean Business (MMB) Coalition.

High-level engagement on two keys initiatives—industry advocacy and diversity and inclusion—became the mantra for the MPI Potomac Chapter in 2019.

“Member engagement should be the top priority and focus for any board of directors.”

“Member engagement should be the top priority and focus for any board of directors, no matter the size of your chapter,” says Anthony Molino, chapter president and director of hotel sales for Choose Chicago. “Metrics aside, we do what we do for one reason, and that is to provide a community of education and networking to members in the hospitality industry. This is similar to how we approached our D&I initiative—it is important for all members to be able to see themselves in the content, direction and mission of the chapter.”

Seventy-five participants from the MPI Potomac Chapter and the PCMA Capital Chapter attended a training class to cover bills proposed to the U.S. Congress on Congressional Visits Day (Hill Day), with about 50 industry professionals going on to attend Congressional meetings.

The other key initiative for the chapter was diversity and inclusion and how it is represented within the chapter’s leadership and membership.

Marketplace Excellence: MPI Mexico Chapter

This award recognizes an MPI chapter or club for providing exceptional business exchange for members that demonstrates innovation and creativity in its development, planning and delivery.

The MPI Mexico Chapter has 20 years of history, but two years ago leaders made a commitment to do things differently.

“We formed a team with people really committed to change the way things are done,” says Liliana Cabrera, chapter president. “We decided to be disruptive, even with the way the education format was presented. We stopped being afraid and worked on technology, innovation, sustainability and even uncomfortable issues that would attract the attention of an industry. Little by little, we attracted new generations, as well as leaders.

“We decided to be disruptive, even with the way the education format was presented.”

“Today the result has meant recognition as the best MICE industry association in Mexico, but especially getting the recognition and interest of our new partners.”

Some of the projects the chapter initiated included creation of the first MPI Mexico Chapter app and signing a licensing agreement with MPI Global to deliver education in Spanish, including the Basics Boot Camp: Meeting Fundamentals course to 45 attendees.

Innovative Educational Programming: MPI Netherlands Chapter

This award recognizes an MPI chapter, club or student club that has created innovative programming which advances the education and professional development of its members.

Add another accolade for the MPI Netherlands Chapter and its innovative event design at MPI’s signature European education event, the European Meetings and Events Conference (EMEC) 2019 in The Hague.

The chapter, which set out to “change the game” with a unique education approach, has already been awarded the “Best Conference Award” by Best Events Award (BEA) World for EMEC. Now, the chapter has an MPI RISE Award, too.

“We wanted to change the game in the way attendees meet, experience and learn.”

“For many years we have been talking about redesigning events,” says Babs Nijdam, the chapter’s vice president of knowledge and commercial director at Amerpodia. “We wanted to change the game in the way attendees meet, experience and learn—probably the most important aspects in events. We pushed ourselves out of our comfort zone and took a risk in completely redesigning the conference. As a conference for meeting and event professionals, we believed it was the perfect place to showcase a new conference that would inspire attendees to change their own game.”

The innovative conference focused on changing the way meeting professionals meet, experience and learn by having attendees interact with one another throughout the entire conference. For instance, attendees had multiple opportunities for networking and took deep dives into one of seven interactive learning journeys, along with sessions and keynotes that helped different parts of the industry learn from one another.

The RISE Award recipients will be recognized during the World Education Congress (WEC), Nov. 3-6 in Grapevine, Texas, and will join the MPI Community of Honorees, a group composed of past MPI award winners and distinguished leaders.



Rich Luna

Rich Luna is Director of Publishing for MPI and Editor-in-chief of The Meeting Professional.