Our own treasurer, Ellen O’Brien, was recently awarded the Distinguished Chapter Service Award (DCSA) at CONDUIT. This is the highest level of recognition that an STC member can receive within the geographic community, and it’s considered a lifetime achievement award for chapter service.
O’Brien has been a member of STC and the Philadelphia Metro Chapter for 30 years, and she has been volunteering for around eight to 10 years. “My first stint was as a competition judge, which I really enjoyed,” she said. “If you do that long enough, they ask you to be a lead judge and then a co-chair for judging. I’ve helped out at the CONDUIT conference in recent years, but always in a secondary role. Then in 2015, when I was out of work and had a little time on my hands, I was asked to run for chapter treasurer. So I’ve been doing that for the last three years.”
O’Brien said that she was asked to volunteer for each of her roles through the years. “In each case, someone reached out to me, saying, ‘I think you’d be a good judge,’ or ‘We need help with such and such,’” she explained. “That personal connection made all the difference—it helped me get over my initial reluctance, and once I started volunteering, I met some really interesting, very committed people. That made it easier to continue and try the next thing.”
In her role as a competition judge, O’Brien said that she “provided constructive feedback and opportunities for growth to the various authors. I know I learned a lot by reviewing a variety of entries, including some types of projects that I haven’t had an opportunity to work on in my own career.” As treasurer, O’Brien remarked that she was “the voice of reason” in her efforts to “be a good steward” of members’ money and keep an eye on “the long-term financial health of the chapter.” O’Brien added, “We’re still here and we still have money, so I guess I did my job!”
However, O’Brien feels that her greatest accomplishment has been her own personal growth. “Being a chapter volunteer forced me to get up off the couch and try things that were new to me,” she explained. “STC has always been there for me as a resource throughout my career, even before I was active in the chapter. The publications, the workshops and conferences, the job bank, and, most importantly, the people, have all had a significant impact on my career.”
O’Brien said that she was “completely surprised” to learn that she had won the DCSA. “There are so many others who have done so much more for the chapter over time,” she said, “but if my contributions over a few years helped move the chapter forward, I’m happy.”
O’Brien said that she has no plans to run for elected office in the future, but she would like to keep helping the organization in other ways. “I do want to see our mentoring and academic outreach efforts remain strong,” she said, “so I could probably be convinced to help out in a supporting role.”