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In the Spotlight: MPACE Perspectives
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MPACE Member Spotlight – January 2016




 Featuring Jerry Houser, Willamette University


At each year’s annual conference, MPACE recognizes one member with the Outstanding Service Award.  Recipients are those who have a record of leadership or professional contributions in the field of such magnitude and quality as to merit recognition and acclaim. As part of this month’s “MPACE Perspectives” theme we interviewed the recipient of this year’s award, Jerry Houser, to hear his perspective as a seasoned professional and learn from his many years of experience.


MPACE: Please tell us about your professional background and/or professional goals

Jerry: I worked in Career Services at USC for 19 years, Caltech 9 years, and Willamette 7 years.  I’ve taught about 200 courses as an adjunct professor for 30 years in bachelors and masters Leadership studies, student affairs, and career development in over 20 countries and 5 continents.  I earned a BA, MA, MBA, PhD (I got them free while working at the universities), and I flunked out of seminary right after college. 

My overarching goal (mission statement) is “catalyze personal growth, development, and a life of meaning for student and adult learners enrolled in higher education through classroom and experiential learning programs usually related to career development.”  Even though I want to soar with eagles but am stuck tending turkeys, this goal helps keep me focused.


MPACE: How many MPACE Conferences have you attended over the years, and what keeps you coming back?

Jerry:  I’ve attended every MPACE conference since 1981 except for two while I was a short-lived full-time professor (that’s 35 conferences).   I always take away at least 3 ideas I can implement back home.  I always meet 3 new people who are a lot smarter and better looking than me so I get inspired by the friendships I develop.  It’s healing to talk with others who empathize with my daily life in the office.  It lets me laugh at myself and keep perspective rather than losing sleep over the little things that can drive me crazy.


MPACE: Jerry, you have contributed to MPACE in many ways throughout your career.  What role, project or initiative are you proudest of?

Jerry: My peak experiences have been when I served on the MPACE board, and as a conference co-chair in Palm Springs 1995.   The conference chair was a lot of fun and I developed great life-long professional friendships.  I hold the distinction of being the only conference chair in MPACE history that didn’t turn a profit, but boy did we have fun going in debt! (It’s a long story).  Board membership and projects are great.  They keep me sharp and current.  I’m very pleased to have won the MPACE 3i innovation award which later won a NACE technology award for the Roadmap, and then the NACE Chevron award for our Passport program.   Although awards are nice, I love leaving two legacy programs that others are making even better at their own universities.  Many people have been positively impacted, and that’s very satisfying.

MPACE: What did you feel was the most impactful or beneficial aspect of the MPACE 2015 Conference in Anaheim?

Jerry: It was nice to receive the Outstanding Service award this year, but the most impactful part of any conference was being a workshop presenter.  I try to avoid looking like a total idiot in front of my MPACE friends and colleagues so I am forced to think, research, and read.  It’s humbling because inevitably, after all the preparation, I discover that someone else has a better idea I hadn’t even thought of.  It happened again at this conference. That’s when the deep learning occurs – sharing innovative ideas with smart professionals on issues that I’ve studied and care about.  Presenting creates dissonance which is at the heart of all learning.


MPACE: As a seasoned professional, what advice would you like to share with your younger colleagues?

Jerry:  My main regret was during those 10 years at Caltech I wasn’t very active in MPACE programs.  I should have been on the board again.  I got real active in MPACE early in my career for 10 years, then I took a break, then jumped back in over the past 10 years.  I had my excuses – a tough job, young kids to raise, more grad degrees to earn, a second job teaching, but I could have been more involved.  I doubt that any MPACE board member has ever said “I wish I had spent LESS time in MPACE.”  It’s like having another kid or a second puppy – you can’t imagine dealing with one more commitment, but soon you learn that you couldn’t imagine life without it.


Jerry Houser is Director of Career Services at Willamette University. He can be reached at jhouser@willamette.edu.  You can also find him at https://www.linkedin.com/in/jerryhouser
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