Volunteer Co-Chairs Double-Down on Annual Conference

By Kathy Gurchiek Jun 23, 2015
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​The SHRM 2016 Annual Conference & Exposition volunteer co-chairs are, from left to right, Cynthia Dobek, SHRM-SCP, Grace Gamsky, SHRM-SCP, Patrice Ross, SHRM-SCP, and Bud H. Pierce, SHRM-SCP.

Everything occurs on a grander scale in Las Vegas, and the job of volunteer co-chairs at the SHRM 2015 Annual Conference & Exposition is no different.

Four members—instead of two—of the Southern Nevada Human Resources Association (SNHRA) chapter will serve as volunteer co-chairs. SNHRA president Cynthia Dobek, SHRM-SCP, Bud H. Pierce, SHRM-SCP, Grace Gamsky, SHRM-SCP, and Patrice Ross, SHRM-SCP, will oversee 810 volunteers working 1,622 shifts at the Annual Conference. Volunteers work six- to eight-hour shifts—with some assigned to more than one shift—but shifts are staggered to allow volunteers time to attend presentations during the day.

Using four co-chairs was Dobek’s idea. She drew on her experience as a volunteer co-chair at the 2011 Annual Conference in Las Vegas and as a chapter member stuffing packets in 2007.

“I definitely learned from 2011,” she said. One of the biggest lessons: Annual Conference is too big a job for two people. Having four co-chairs spreads the work out so that two co-chairs can split overseeing morning shift duties and two co-chairs can split overseeing afternoon shift duties, she noted.

Co-chairs are assisted by 24 team leaders from northern and southern Nevada. Five team leaders coordinate session hosts; four are in charge of conference ambassadors; four help run the SHRMStore; and pairs of team leaders supervise packet stuffing, bag and badge registration, the Meet to Eat program, the Tuesday Night Show, and special projects. One team leader oversees the Smart Stage.

Dobek is director of human resources and risk management at Sun City Summerlin Community Association Inc. She is serving her final term as SNHRA president, a role she has fulfilled for four years. During her tenure, the chapter achieved the Platinum EXCEL Award for its 2014 efforts and will officially be transitioned to a 100-percent SHRM Member chapter in June. She was president-elect prior to her two two-year terms as president, and she also has served as chapter treasurer for the 18-member board.

Dobek’s co-chairs are also up to the task.

Pierce is IT human resources coordinator in the Office of Information Technology at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. He served as president of SNHRA from 2008-09 and was a volunteer in packet stuffing for the 2007 Annual Conference. He worked the Volunteer Center during the 2011 Annual Conference.

That volunteer background, he said, “gives me a lot more confidence in what I’m doing” and a realization that, given the size of the event, “you need to be very flexible in your day. ... Things change from moment to moment. It’s very exciting.”

Gamsky, vice president of HR at Opportunity Village, serves on the SNHRA board as its diversity and inclusion chair and was the Chesapeake Human Resource Association board’s professional development chair.

“I always enjoy the energy and connections with HR professionals at these conferences,” said Gamsky, who also has volunteered at state and national SHRM conferences. “I also appreciate the opportunity for professional development and the opportunity to hear motivational speakers for fresh ideas. The [Exposition] is helpful to discover cutting-edge HR technologies, and the book store is helpful for training and other development ideas.”

Ross is vice president of human resources at Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada. She is the Nevada SHRM State Council director and served as president of SNHRA from 2010-11 and as president of the University of Nebraska SHRM student chapter from 2000-01.

Her work in various volunteer capacities at the Annual Conference in 2007 and 2011 helped prepare her to be a co-chair this year.

She’s looking forward to “knowing what I’m doing is making a good experience for the people who can attend. That’s really my focus. I want to do the best I can to make it a great experience for everybody that’s there.”

Kathy Gurchiek is the associate editor at HR News.

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