July 15: The Alliance for Massage Therapy Education just completed its First Annual Conference at the Canyons Resort in Park City, Utah on June 3-5. With 85 participants representing all aspects of the massage education sector, the Conference featured keynote presentations, continuing education workshops, lively discussions, and opportunities for professional network development. In addition, Alliance members at this meeting elected the organization’s 2010-11 Board of Directors and a Nominating Committee for the following year’s election. This democratic process is at the heart of a non-profit organization.

With the theme “Shaping the Future of Massage Therapy Education”, the Conference did indeed help to define key strategic priorities for massage school directors, teachers, continuing education providers, leaders of stakeholder organizations, and representatives from the leading companies in the field. Among the unique components of this event was a half-day visioning session, where attendees had the opportunity to offer their perspectives on the primary challenges facing massage education while helping the Alliance refine its program and service offerings.

The Conference affirmed the Alliance’s role as the voice and advocate for massage therapy education. “Though we have only been serving this important community for a matter of months, the attendees were focused on how the Alliance will serve as a robust, results-focused collaborator with its members and other important stakeholder organizations,” said Alliance Executive Director Rick Rosen. “What was evident throughout was the passion our rapidly growing membership feels about the foundational role lifelong learning plays in developing successful, intelligently trained massage therapists who provide quality services to the public.”

The Conference was designed by the Alliance Leadership Team to provide nourishment and inspiration — along with the latest information and best practices. In bringing this inaugural event to the foot of Utah’s Wasatch Mountains, attendees were influenced by the dramatic and healthful environment in many ways. On the first evening of the Conference, the group gathered for dinner at the resort’s Red Pine Lodge, which was accessed by a breathtaking gondola ride up the slopes. Following a delicious meal, there was a special “Talk Story” program that featured educators who shared very moving tales of the teachers who had transformed their lives.

One of the storytellers was Pualani Gillespie, who had traveled to the Conference from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. She talked about her experiences with Auntie Margaret Machado, the revered teacher of traditional Lomi-Lomi massage who recently passed away at the age of 93. As a holder of this lineage, Pua also offered the foundational principles of this time-honored healing system — Reverence, Forgiveness and Unconditional Love (or Aloha) — and encouraged the Alliance to incorporate these ideals into all of its endeavors. Overall, these educators’ stories served as reminders of the powerful role mentors play in our lives.

Here are some quotes from attendees that capture the spirit of this event:

• Thank you for providing a much-needed forum in which the evolution of massage therapy education can be nurtured.
• I’ve been going to massage school conferences for 20+ years, and this was the most uplifting and meaningful event I’ve experienced.
• I loved the team approach and the great location. Thank you.
• It was a priceless experience. I felt like I was a part of making history, and am very humbled and honored to be in attendance.
• The energy, camaraderie and vision that was shared made such a difference for me.
• I am so grateful the Alliance was formed. The conference provided me with invaluable contacts and a quality educational experience.
• The conference was held in a beautiful setting with visionary, positive, collegial participants who offered informative and valuable information.
• Attending this conference gave me hope for a massage education organization after a long period of discouragement.
• I loved meeting so many great people, and having the time to visit with old friends.

Through the many conversations and presentations that took place over the three days of this Conference, a common ethic emerged: participants expressed a great commitment to support cooperation and unity among the many organizations that comprise the domain of massage therapy education, and the massage and bodywork field as a whole.

About the Alliance: The Alliance for Massage Therapy Education is the voice, advocate and resource for the community of massage therapy schools and educators. It serves the entire education sector from entry-level training programs through post-graduate studies. The National Headquarters of the Alliance is located at 1760 Old Meadow Road, Suite 500, McLean, Virginia 22102. The phone number is 703-506-2888, and the general office email address is admin@afmte.org.

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