My story: Robert Rodda

My story: Robert Rodda2003-11-0139Association Newsfalse

My first ACUI annual conference was in 1975 at the Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, Fla. Several memories of that first conference remain as vivid as those from any other conference I have attended. I was finishing my second year in the profession working as a one-person staff at Carleton College and went to the conference in part to explore the job market. I had initiated Carleton's ACUI membership, but the only ACUI event I had attended was a regional workshop on pub management. What follows are a few of my key memories from that first annual conference.

As a newcomer, the whole ACUIRES (employment registry) process was a bit overwhelming. It seemed like there were so few job openings and so many candidates. I remember calling home on the first day in tears because nobody had offered me a job yet. But I also recall the thrill of a second interview with a school in its hotel suite, even though I ended up eating dinner alone in the hotel bar after the interview. Perhaps best of all I recall getting the offer of a job interview over a lunch meeting with a different school. We even arranged for the interview to be on my way home from the conference. I didn't get the job.

I worried about the expenses and wanted a roommate to share hotel costs. I didn't know very many people in the Association, so I called Ed Sigglekow, one of my graduate school professors at the University of Minnesota, to ask if he knew anyone needing a roommate. (It is amazing to me that I still seem to seek a roommate every year. Some things never change.) Ultimately Ed said that I could room with him. At the time I did not fully understand the service and involvement that Ed had with ACUI. At the closing banquet, he was awarded the Association's highest honor, the Butts-Whiting Award.

I recall the afternoon breaks in the schedule so delegates could go to the beach. I was awed that ACUI practiced what it preached about including recreation in its focus. I was impressed that the Association was serious about blending recreation and education.

I was not sure how to react after the first session where the ACUI president presided. In contrast to my serious mode, the president seemed to be a clown or jester. I recall that he shot off a fake gun, did a few card tricks, and told some jokes. I wondered what I had gotten myself into. This didn't seem to be the "high-falutin' " organization that I thought it was. Eventually, however, I learned about and came to treasure the magic of the legendary C. Shaw Smith, who was the first president of ACUI I experienced.

As I mentioned above, I came from a one-person staff, had not attended a regional conference, and knew very few people. Among the few people I knew was the staff from my undergraduate institution—Kansas State University. I remember connecting with the union director Dick Blackburn (future Butts-Whiting Award winner and ACUI executive director) and program director Jim Reynolds (now the long-time union director at Texas A&M University).

Old-timers like me will recognize how uniquely blessed I was to interact with some of the giants in our field at my first annual conference. As a nervous, out-of-place rookie, I know that I did not understand at the moment how special my experience was. But as I look back on it now, I recognize it as a marvelous introduction and orientation to our field and ACUI. I hope all of the current giants in ACUI seek out this year's nervous, out-of-place rookies and say "hello and welcome" to them, and I hope that all of the nervous, out-of-place rookies seek out the giants and say "hi and help me learn my way around ACUI." If everyone does that, C. Shaw will know that his spirit and magic continues to live on in ACUI.

Updated Nov. 9, 2012