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Scholarship Winners Reflect on CAI Conference

5/23/2011  -  Falls Church, VA

CAI homeowner members who received scholarships to attend the CAI Annual Conference and Exposition earlier this month in Boca Raton, Fla., have a lot to say about the experience.


Robert Bolan (Jacksonville Metropolitan chapter), John Connors (Austin), Earl Pruess (Greater Los Angeles) and Nina Stanton (New Jersey) each received a Jerry Fien Memorial Scholarship, which covers the cost of conference registration and up to $500 in travel and lodging expenses. The event drew almost 1,400 participants.


The Annual Conference offers a rich opportunity for scholarship winners to take in educational courses, network with peers and industry professionals and get a greater understanding of what it takes to make community associations function. Although this year’s scholarship winners are seasoned community association volunteers, all of them agree that they took away valuable resources from the conference. 


For Bolan, president-elect of the CAI Jacksonville Metropolitan chapter, the conference helped him brush up on important association topics as well as connect with other chapter leaders. As the only scholarship winner who hadn’t attended previous CAI annual conferences, getting the chance to participate was a memorable experience.


“The networking options, pacing, conference program, venue and member courtesies were all excellent,” says Bolan. “The Annual Conference is the place to be for those of us who want to serve broadly to improve the lives of people in their communities.”


Acquiring a more intricate view of association ins and outs was another aspect the scholarship winners found beneficial. Connors, president of his Austin, Texas, community association, found that the conference helped prepare him to better serve his own community.


“[I took away] a deeper understanding of the compositional workings of boards and how to work with them,” says Connors. “Also, I got a better understanding of working with vendors as well as a better view of what’s out there and available.”


The scholarship winners also were happy to discover that the conference offered an interesting array of education session topics, including some that haven’t been heavily discussed in previous conferences. One presentation on conflicts among condominiums and renters was of particular interest to the scholarship winners. While Pruess, state chair of the California Legislative Action Committee, wasn’t expecting to take away much from the conference initially, he wound up pleasantly surprised.


“I’ve been around CAI now for most of 20 years, maybe even longer, and there’s been a lot of education sessions I’ve gone to,” says Pruess. “Normally, while there’s always something new you learn, there’s not always much in the way of new topics and new information. But this conference was really good and interesting and should have some long-range benefits.


Of course, one of the scholarship winners’ favorite activities was making new acquaintances with fellow CAI members. Stanton, vice-president of the New Jersey chapter, says he appreciated relationships that were fostered as well as getting a first-hand account of how other communities live.


“[The best part for me] was getting to meet other people from throughout the country and speaking with different managers to learn about some of the problems they face,” says Stanton, who was inspired by the universal conundrums all HOAs encounter. “Maybe one day I’ll write a book of funny things people living in community life go through—I think that could be a best-seller!”


For the scholarship winners, attending the Annual Conference was a valuable experience, and they recommend others interested in community association living to do what they can to make it to future conferences.


“I would say it’s very well worth the experience,” says Connors. “It’s not a cheap thing to do, but the amount of contacts and learning that you get make it very worthwhile.”


Awarded by CAI’s sister organization, the Foundation for Community Association Research, the scholarship was created to honor NBC-CAM secretary/treasurer and former Community Association Research board member Jerry Fien and continue his mission to promote the importance of homeowner involvement in the community association industry. Recipients are selected based on their board leadership efforts, chapter involvement and level of financial need.


In addition to the member discount, homeowner members get $200 off the registration fee for the Annual Conference and Exposition. The 2012 conference will be held May 2-5 at Caesars Palace Las Vegas.


CAI is a 30,000-member association dedicated to building better communities. Working in partnership with 60 U.S. and international chapters, CAI provides information, education and resources to associations and the professionals who support them. Our mission is to inspire professionalism, effective leadership and responsible citizenship, ideals reflected in communities that are preferred places to call home. Visit or call (888) 224-4321.


For members and general inquiries, contact the CAI Member Service Center:
Phone: 703-970-9220
Fax: 703-970-9558

Phone: 703-970-9239
Fax: 703-970-9558