UPAA Blog 2020-21 #1- 9/9/21, (photo by Ken Bennett) Members of the UPAA Board, clockwise from lower left: Jeff Gage, Susan McSpadden, Amanda Pitts, Mark Carriveau, Nick Romanenko and Glenn Carpenter meet at Grand Valley State University in September 2018 to prepare for the 2019 Symposium. 

Board Announcements: New members, changes to the MIC

By Susan McSpadden, Johnson County Community College

Summers are so often a time to take a break, travel and have some fun.

And while the UPAA Board of Directors enjoyed various summer pursuits, we did not take a break from UPAA business! Members continued to meet via Zoom every other week when they could. Communication was consistent with corporate partners and with the University of Georgia crew to prepare for next summer’s in-person symposium. Our newest board members Jason Halley and Lyndsie Schlink started attending meetings and learning about possible roles they could take on once they become official. In addition to using Zoom, the board explored the Slack platform for communication. After learning how it works and after reviewing data and comments in the Social Media Survey, we are not going to use Slack as a communication tool for the organization at this time. We will however use Slack at the symposium in June for communication and information dissemination.

The two biggest decisions made over the summer for the organization involve the Monthly Image Competition. They voted to change the MIC from 5 entries per month to 4. Members let us know that the time it takes to vote each month was an obstacle to participation. Fewer entries also encourages members to edit their selections more carefully which will raise the overall quality of submissions.

The other change to the MIC involves the introduction of the Think Tank Points Program. Every month the Best in Show winner will be credited with enough points for $100 to spend on the Think Tank website. The program is a win for several reasons: The points can accumulate, points can be used to offset the cost of larger bags or accessories, both Think Tank and UPAA save money on shipping and best of all, members get to choose the item they need.

However you spent your summer, we hope you are recharged and ready for whatever this new academic year brings!

Board Changes: Honoring Ken Bennett and Jeff Gage

By Nick Romanenko, Rutgers University

Amongst the numerous honors and awards presented at the 2021 Virtual Symposium were two FUPAAs, the highest recognition UPAA can bestow to its members for service to the organization. The members honored were Ken Bennett from Wake Forest and Jeff Gage from University of Florida – Natural Museum, as they both ended their terms on the UPAA board of directors.

Ken, who has been the university photographer at Wake Forest since 1997,  is stepping down as the UPAA Vice President after serving the better part of two terms. Ken was instrumental in working closely with UPAA President Glenn Carpenter to manage the development and management of the current website upaa.org. Much of that skill set would come in handy when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. As Ken explains, “I think the thing I am most proud of is how the board came together during COVID. We started meeting on Zoom every week to figure out how to chart the right course for UPAA. Early on, we made the difficult decision to cancel the in-person symposium in 2020, but the virtual version was a huge success, with the largest number of attendees ever. UVU and BYU stepped up to show how a virtual conference should be done. Later that year we decided to extend membership by 6 months, to give everyone a financial break given all the uncertainties surrounding our jobs. We decided in early 2021 to go virtual for this year’s symposium, which let us have more time to plan and execute (and speaking from experience (Ken and Wake Forest hosted the 2018 UPAA Symposium), a virtual symposium takes almost as much work as an in-person event, just without hotels and catering.”

(left: photo by Autumn Driscoll) Ken Bennett thanks presenter Sam Abell after his presentation at the 2018 Symposium, hosted by Ken and Wake Forest. (right: photo by Glenn Carpenter) Ken's trademark Fuji cameras.

UPPA President Glenn Carpenter offers his thoughts: “Ken was appointed to the board in 2014 with the goal of shepherding the organization through a major website renovation, a role he has in which he has more than excelled. For many years prior to 2014 the board had spoken to Ken about seeking election, but he always would always comment, “I will not run against an incumbent.” He has served the organization well: Symposium host, VP, webmaster, and presenter.”

Glenn adds, “Ken’s intensity is what makes him a great photographer and leader, you see that drive to be excellent permeates everything he does.”

Looking back Ken says “ We accomplished a lot as a board in the last seven years. The annual symposiums have gotten both larger and better, with more camera company sponsors, more and better prizes, a great lineup of national speakers, and excellent presentations from our own members. Moving the Annual Photo Competition online was a longtime project, and one that caused a lot of vigorous discussion at board meetings, but we managed to do so just in time for COVID so we were able to have annual competitions during our two virtual symposiums.”

(photo by Autumn Driscoll)

As Ken sees it, “The two main challenges for UPAA in the coming years are first maintaining and expanding our membership. COVID is likely to have a budget impact for the next few years, and I worry about how that will affect membership and symposium attendance. Who should be a member? Do we incorporate university staff video photographers? We are a very lean operation financially, and like a lot of universities all of our expenses are covered by dues revenue. We need many happy members. The second challenge is related, and that is the future of the upaa.org web site. What does the site do? Which members does it serve? How do we handle the competitions that have become so important? Our first site was built by a member using Drupal (an open source platform similar to Wordpress), and the 2015 replacement was built by a development company for a very affordable price. But our version of Drupal will no longer be supported next year, and new sites have gotten prohibitively expensive. So there are a lot of questions to answer as we move forward. I am going to miss being on the board. It’s an amazing group of people and I have enjoyed working with them.

But it’s time for me to move on.”

(photo by Robert Hubner) Jeff Gage photographs the Palouse during the 2017 Symposium.

Jeff Gage started working as a photographer while still a student at the University of Florida and then came on full time when they expanded their museum in 1999. He has only served on the UPAA board for four years but has made a huge impact as the Membership Chair.

Jeff remarks, “First, I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the UPAA board and while no one specific accomplishment stands out, I feel we handled the improvements and members suggestions with the proper research and conversations before any decision was made. That said, the biggest changes/accomplishments I’m proud of happened behind the scenes with the website and the membership module which couldn’t have been done without the help and support from Glenn and Ken and it is now a much ‘smoother running used car’ than the one I inherited.  Finally, I am proud that each year (prior to the pandemic) we added over 100 new members each year.”

Continuing, Jeff said, “I feel the board is starting to reflect the diverse makeup of our membership. Second, we handled the pandemic and the impact on the following symposiums the best we could, but I never want another Zoom symposium in place of seeing each other face-to-face. I feel going digital on the Annual Photo Competition and allowing all members (not just those present at the Symposium) to vote (in board elections) were good changes that really benefitted all the members. Finally, the purging of the UPAA Facebook group to only current members has made that run a bit tighter and is truly a value for the membership dues. The biggest challenges I see are: can UPAA integrate video shooters into the group, create an upgraded website that meets the needs of the members, continue to add and retain members, all while being the best bargain of an organization a photographer can join.“

Glenn mentions, “The first time I met Jeff he volunteered to collect the images for the symposium slide show and produce it. That spirit of helpfulness defines Jeff and his service to UPAA. Furthermore, if I had a dime every time Jeff said, “Sure thing boss.” I could have retired. Jeff also brought wisdom to so many board decisions. His calm thoughtful manner and ability to unite differing opinions proved to be just what we needed. If all this wasn’t enough, his photography is amazing and is always improving.

(photo by Jesse Jones) Jeff Gage, left, and Jeff Fitlow of Rice University at the 2018 Symposium.

Jeff mentions he is stepping down from the board due to some family issues that require more of his time and a reality many of us will probably be facing in the next few years. “While the museum has been tremendously supportive of my appointment to the UPAA board, it took quite the financial hit and lots of cuts were made (personnel and $$’s) and priorities were changed so I was unsure of the future financial support they could provide along with the fact that my next term would finish about the same time I would be able to retire, so better to step back early than having to step down mid-term.  It was a great ride with great people, and in the perfect world it would have continued…but we all know that’s not the case.”

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"I hate seeing directors make the same movie. It gets boring. I guess I'm...bored of directors!" Thanks for reading the UPAA blog. Want to make it better? Submit an article! Email editor Matt Cashore, mcashore@nd.edu. Follow UPAA on Instagram, too!