New Mexico BPA Goes VirtualBy Valeria QuezadaBusiness Professionals of America (BPA) is the leading Career Technical Student Organization (CTSO) for students pursuing careers in business, management, office administration, etc. Each year, many students across New Mexico compete at the regional level, then proceed to the state level for the chance to advance to the National Conference. These National Conferences are typically held in big cities, such as Anaheim, California; Dallas, Texas; Orlando, Florida; etc. BPA students across the nation have thechance to compete in various events focused on the business industry. It is also an opportunity for students to meet students from other states and make new friends. The New Mexico State Conference is an in-person three day event every year in Albuquerque, NM at the Marriot Pyramid. This leadership conference consists of competitive events, leadership workshops, sessions, and social events for all the registered members to attend.Of course, this year’s New Mexico State Leadership Conference looked very different for members. For starters, members did not have to travel very far, except to their laptops! The 2021 New Mexico State Leadership Conference was held 100% online. The opportunity for BPA members to attend their State Conference was made possible by Christine Phipps (State Advisor), Leslie Ferris (State Officer Coordinator), Kandle Kitchens (State President), the state officers, and the rest of the BPA State team. Going into the 2020-2021 BPA year, Christine and Leslie’s team began preparing for a virtual conference. “Planning for the year began back in June 2020 with the State Executive Council (Officers). During our summer officer training program, the Council worked on planning for both an in person and virtual setting,” explains Leslie. Their team began planning for both a virtual conference and an in-person conference.
The Career Technical Leadership Project (CTLP), that manages four of New Mexico’s CTSOs also made plans for the event to be held in either setting. The New Mexico State BPA program made sure to be prepared for any situation, making certain that a conference would be held no matter the logistics. The CTLP helped many National Leadership Conferences go virtual last spring due to COVID-19, so plans were made early for planning future conferences. The NM BPA program made a pros and cons list of what procedures were implemented in the conferences last spring to plan this year’s State Leadership Conference. Many meetings were held virtually to work with others states and national offices to prepare for a virtual event. Christine includes, “This year, NM BPA’s conference is the first Virtual conference for our NM CTSOs, so the other CTSOs are able to also learn from our virtual setting to tweak their plans as they continue finalizing their logistics.”Switching to an online conference for hundreds of members was a big adjustment for the team planning the conferenceas well asthe members attending or competing. There’s no doubt that this year’s State Leadership Conference entailed a lot of work. An in-person conference includes many steps and details, a virtual conference only adds to that list. Especially with modifications. The main adjustments were made for the competition portion of the conference. Ever judged event had to be scored in time for the official awards session. Typically this process is held over a three day period at the in-person conference, but this year the events were judged over the course of a month. Another big adjustment was for theState Executive Council and National Officer Applicants election process. “We had to find a way to let the members get to know each of the candidates since the in person Campaign Rally was not an option with a virtual setting,” Leslie explains.
The most challenging part of hosting a virtual conference was the task of keeping members entertained and interacting with the conferences. After long days of being on Zoom and Google meetings for school, it can be challenging for members to want to sit through more of these after school! They explain –“...we wanted to try to create an atmosphere that didn’t make them feel like they were just attending another class. We wanted to have meaningful and interactive workshops while keeping the sessions/Zoom meetings down timewise.” They kept member engagement through guest speakers, games, activities, and being able to communicate with other students in small sessions that were spread out through the course of a few days.Although there were many challenges, a virtual conference posed positive impact on theBPA members, advisors, and different chapters. It allowed everyone to think outside of the box and learn to be more creative with methods of communication and connection. Leslie adds –“It has been amazing to see the members and advisors still connecting through Social Media throughout the year. We have learned a few things and have found that there are things that we can continue doing virtually in the future to help with the overall logistics of an in person conference!”Membership is a huge part of a student led organization, such as Business Professionals of America. This year, despite being virtual and online, statewide memberships numbers almost doubled due to the support for schools through a membership scholarship program. Although participation andregistration were down 100+ members, which is not bad considering the circumstances. The BPA State team is hopeful registration will go back up next year, despite their concerns. NM BPA weathered a pretty big storm, due to the pandemic, weather changes, and power outages during the conference. Despite that, a virtual conference was held for New Mexico State BPA members and it was a success. Leslie concludes –“ It’s only a success because we have amazing advisors and members that are willing to help make things happen
along the way and are always very supportive of any last many adjustments that need to be made. This is a student-led organization and we are beyond blessed to have amazing members that help make NMBPA a success no matter what the chaos is around us!”Total registered for 2021 State Leadership Conference -260Total Events -76Volunteers –79