Happy New Year!
I hope that you and your families have had a wonderful end-of-the-year holiday.
As I begin my second year as President of UAA’s Board of Trustees, I look forward to another year of promoting collegiate aviation and supporting future young professionals in the industry. Having served on the BOT for the past seven years, I want to express my gratitude to our board members, committee chairs, Memphis-based staff, and active members. Because of your leadership, we continue to grow as an organization, providing invaluable opportunities and resources for our membership and the industry.
Our 76th Annual Conference in St. Petersburg set records for attendance, exhibitors, and gross revenue. We returned the awards ceremony to an evening event, which opened additional speaking time slots for the record number of proposals we received. Thanks to the efforts of the presenters, speakers, committees, sponsors and the many volunteers, the conference continues to provide educational opportunities for everyone and increases the support we provide our membership. Our 2023 conference generated enough income to cover our budgets for five months, which is 270% larger than in 2014.
In 2023, we achieved several goals that have propelled our organization well above the ones we had set for ourselves. Although we hit our revenue targets, we must focus on recovering lost institutional membership post-pandemic. Despite the pandemic lag, UAA continues to grow and our IRS classification has been upgraded to a medium-sized nonprofit organization as recognized by the IRS, surpassing the $500,000 in revenue mark. Thanks to several supporters, we increased our scholarship funds by over $150,000, giving us more scholarships than in previous years. We continue to grow our reserve funds, collectively increasing our financial strength to weather an economic downturn in the next five years. This is an extraordinary milestone for our organization thanks to your support and the leadership of the Board of Trustees.
Looking towards 2024, I reiterate my call from last year to our board, committee chairs, and general membership. First, I ask the chairs of our standing committees to focus on increasing member engagement and support. To our Board of Trustees, I charge them with the task of continuing to enhance the organization in ways that add value to our members, increase our sustainability in the long term, and focus on growing our institutional member support. Moreover, I charge them with finding innovative ways to ensure future professionals are supported and have ample opportunities to enhance their skills. Finally, I will continue working with government and industry stakeholders to ensure they know our membership needs and the ability to support the aviation industry with well-educated graduates who are committed to the profession.
To achieve these goals, I am asking for your support and continued engagement with UAA. I believe we can achieve so much more to ensure a sustainable future for our industry. This starts with you providing feedback, engaging within the industry, presenting at UAA conferences, and conducting research/scholarship. If there is a way the Board of Trustees can support these endeavors, please let us know.
I look forward to working with you this year and continuing to climb to new heights.
Chaminda Prelis, Ph.D.
President, University Aviation Association