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After I hung up the phone with our Endowment Trustees late on the evening of Sept. 6, I scurried across town to The University of Montana in hopes of welcoming our newest Student Chapter to OWAA. I missed the group by just minutes. As I flung the door open, I was greeted by three smiling faces: OWAA board member Paul Queneau, spring intern Hannah Ryan and 2011-12 McDowell Scholarship applicant Sam Lundren. While I just missed meeting the students as they made time to join one another during a hectic first week of school, I was delighted to hear about plans laid in place for future meetings and to find out that ten interested individuals joined Paul, Hannah and Sam for the first gathering. The University of Montana joins the University of Missouri as the second OWAA Student Chapter.
These students are finding out what you, our members, have known all along: It pays, literally and figuratively, to belong to a group who shares your interests and passions and can help you out along the way toward a rewarding career.
Autumn not only brings students back to school, but also brings our members back to OWAA. It’s that time of year when we share the past year’s accomplishments, let you know what we have in store for the next year, and ask you to renew your dues and remain a part of the nation’s premier outdoor writers organization. Continue your affiliation with a group that shares your passion for the outdoors.
A year ago, OWAA staff traveled to Salt Lake City to meet up with Mark Taylor, Brett Prettyman, Tom Wharton, Brian Brinkerhoff and an expansive group of representatives from around Utah to begin planning our 2011 conference. Were you there in July? Conference is the single most beneficial way to make the most of your annual membership. Craft improvement seminars, newsmakers sessions, networking and pre- and post-conference trips all help you bring home the bacon. If you weren’t able to attend, visit the OWAA store at www.owaa.org/store to purchase videos of select sessions on a variety of topics. Never been to conference? Let us know — we’ll apply 50 percent of your 2012 dues toward your conference registration. We’ll meet Sept. 4-6, 2012, at Chena Hot Springs Resort, near Fairbanks, Alaska.
Since the beginning of the year, it was apparent that not all our members were pleased with the changes to the Excellence in Craft contest. More revisions were made and the 2012 competition more closely resembles the contests of old with more subject-based ways to enter your work, and of course, more ways to win! The 2012 rules are available in the fall 2011 hardcopy issue of OU and at www.owaa.org/eic — take a look and figure out what you want to enter this year. OWAA and EIC sponsors awarded $15,000, plus plaques and conference registrations, to 2011 winners. Why don’t you plan to be among those winners in 2012? The contests opened Oct. 1.
Not so sure about that online submission process? OU Editor Ashley Schroeder put ogether a video showing you how to prepare your entries for the 2012 contests, including instructions for creating PDFs of your submissions and blocking out your byline on a PDF. Watch this video at www.owaa.org/eic.
Next time you login to OWAA’s website, take the time to look around. In addition to the EIC contest site, video downloads and conference registration information, you’ll find resources like the Outdoor Market, where you can find jobs and editorial needs with your favorite publications, outdoor companies and conservation groups. In the coming months we’ll be expanding the simple list of member websites available in the members-only section to a searchable database. Supporting Groups can now upload press releases for members to read on OU Online; this news feed will be updated daily to help you keep abreast of the latest happenings in the outdoor industry.
In November, the Strategic Planning Committee, a group of OWAA Board members, will gather in Missoula to hash out a new strategic plan for the future of the organization. The last strategic plan expired in 2008. Building on a draft proposed by Matt Miller and Jason Jenkins, the committee will develop actionable steps to help grow membership numbers and to expand benefits.
Your membership dollars have worked to contribute so much to the future of the organization. In the past year we’ve expanded our membership to include bloggers, started student chapters that are beginning to pop up at leading universities around the country, invited youngsters (6th-12th graders) to learn about the field of outdoor communications as a career through their own Becoming an Outdoors Communicator youth workshop, held the first ever Goldenrod Writing Workshop in Missoula, improved the OWAA website to be more interactive, and so much more. We can’t do this without you. 2012 marks the 85th year of OWAA. Over the years the organization has grown and contracted and honed itself to become the leading organization for all outdoor communicators, regardless of medium or market. Please return your dues by the end of the year, and help build OWAA for the next 85 years. ♦
—OWAA Executive Director Robin Giner, rginer@owaa.org

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