Eight years ago, the Eugene Chamber asked the question: how could the Eugene and Springfield communities more actively engage professionals who are early on in their careers?
There was a clear problem at the heart of this question: as we engaged in advocating for our local businesses and leaders, young professionals were overtly missing from key community conversations. They were not in conversations with local City Councilors. They were not systemically engaged in board leadership. They were not well-networked with a clear path for peer-to-peer connections.
As the City of Eugene teetered on the cusp of explosive growth, the Chamber knew our community could not thrive without these young professionals at the collective Table with a commitment to their professional growth, interpersonal connections, and overall livelihoods.
Thus was born the Eugene Young Professionals.
A program for young professionals, led by young professionals, this affiliate program of the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce continues to be led by a council of local young professional leaders who organize networking and professional development opportunities for their peers. This includes the county’s premier one-day annual young professional’s conference: The Eugene Young Professionals Summit. The Eugene Young Professionals Summit, with its programming focusing on one key element: helping local young professionals thrive. By building opportunities for setting down roots, this program offers a platform for local YP’s to explore opportunities for civic engagement and leadership, peer connections, and career growth.
Having recently wrapped up the 2023 annual Summit, we were excited to capture the momentum of the event and catch up with a few local YP leaders – Kianna Cabuco, Kathryn Adair, and Brandon Miller. Each with their own professions, these individuals are part of the current YP Council working to engage local young professionals.
“There was a moment when someone said that they felt like they found themselves at Summit. It was truly inspiring.”
The 8th Annual Young Professionals Summit
This year’s Summit theme was all about getting Back to the Roots. Kathryn Adair, Past YP Council Chair and Associate with Merriman Wealth Management, shares about this theme, “We get asked all the time to define who we are and we really felt like getting back to the root of why this event and community was created is important.”
“Our roots”, she says, “are significant to the mission that we continue to carry today, which is that we are building community and engagement among young professionals in Eugene and the surrounding area.”
“It was great seeing people at Summit who have attended smaller YP events within the last year”, says Kianna Cabuco, YP Summit Co-Chair and Deputy Executive Director & Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Coordinator at Lane County Medical Society. “ I think it shows how constant connections can be built and expanded.”
Centered on providing an opportunity for area young professionals to get back to the roots and celebrate this program, YP Council Leadership focused on developing opportunities for connection, professional development, and personal growth.
“I had the privilege of interviewing attendees after the event and ”, Brandon Miller, YP Event Promotion and Communications Chair, and owner of Brandon Miller Voice Over, LLC, shared. “It was truly inspiring.”
A full-day conference, this year-long culmination of YP programming brought together local experts to present on topics and interests discussed throughout the year. This year’s speakers presented on topics ranging from financial stability and growth, to turning your passion into civic leadership, to building a career you can use to keep learning and adapting. While each session offered valuable insights into personal and professional development, they also offered a moment of reflection for YPs to use for future growth.
“The number one thing attendees said from my session”, says Brandon, “was that they aren’t reaching their goals because of accountability and that’s something we as the YP council can implement to help more YPs achieve their goals.”
As a tenant of “getting back to the roots”, Summit planners made sure the theme was woven into every facet of the day’s program, including the importance of relationships. Keynote speakers, Avery and Brian Baker of the Avery and Brian Experience, arrived to the smooth beat of R&B and laid out a clear path to the power of relationships for attendees. Central to the theme of the day’s conference, this keynote powerfully delivered the importance of open communication, trust, and intergenerational collaboration for strong relationships.
New to the Summit this year were Interest Groups. While the YP Council, in planning the Summit, recognized the value of professional development and networking opportunities, they also reflected on the value of a moment to focus on finding balance outside of work.
“I heard plenty of great things about the interest group breakouts”, shared Kianna. “That was exciting since this is the first time we did something like that. Attendees shared that they learned new things about the area, made plans with people at their tables, and were excited to meet others with similar interests to theirs. I’m hoping this leads to more community connections and networking in environments that are more fun and relaxed.”
Interest areas included home and garden, food and beverage, arts and culture, and a presentation from Travel Lane County, the region’s visitor and tourism organization, about outdoor recreation and travel.
All in all, with more than 220 attendees at this year’s event, the 8th annual Eugene Young Professionals Summit continued its mission: serving as a catalyst for local young professionals to connect, grow, and dig deeper roots into the local community. “Someone also mentioned”, Brandon shared, “for as small as Eugene/Springfield is, where are all these people hiding? She was referring to all the YPs that came to Summit…All the previous years of isolation are still lingering but we’ve been shown that people want to connect with other people more often.”
where local area young professionals can gather, share, connect, and grow, there is a better, richer community to follow
As the Eugene Young Professionals shifts gears into a new year of programming and community leadership, these YPers had a few things to share about how local young professionals can get involved with this year-round programming:
Kianna shares, “If YPs are interested in getting involved, the best way is to attend events, ask questions, and start connecting. It can be scary and intimidating (I considered myself an introvert, who is now an ‘extroverted introvert’), but all they need to do is start with one person. Just talk with one! Usually, that’ll lead into a small group conversation, and let it grow from there!”
“Join the YP council”, Brandon offers. “Attend YP events throughout the year. Use the YP Facebook page as a way to share ideas and create outings.”
To get involved in next year’s summit, Kathryn says, “VOLUNTEER!”
“It’s such a fun day’s event to be involved in. You can still attend but help out and it’s the best way to meet people and find some lifelong friends. I am still friends with many people I served alongside with in 2018 at my first summit.”
As the 8th annual Eugene Young Professionals Summit closed, one thing was for sure: where local area young professionals can gather, share, connect, and grow, there is a better, richer community to follow. We are grateful for all of our YP volunteers as well as those that continue to invest their time and energy into making this program thrive.
Together, we will build a future in which we all can prosper.