You don't need a college degree in meeting planning to become a meeting professional, but if it's up to Colin Rorrie Jr., PhD, CAE, president and CEO of MPI, who led the American College of Emergency Physicians for 21 years before joining MPI in September, and who helped to elevate the reputation of ER physicians, planners will have the recognition that they've sought for years before his tenure at MPI is through.

At a Town Meeting during the MPI Professional Education Conference, which drew 2,000 attendees to San Antonio in January, Rorrie said, “We will help you map out a course, see a progression in your career. We are revamping our programming at the World Education Congress to bring you the type of courses you need, and will continue with our Business Skills for Life programming. It's going to be a tough journey, but it's going to be a wonderful journey.”

The MPI Foundation will help to achieve that mission, having raised $5.1 million in just 18 months in its Envision 2003 capital campaign, said David Dubois, CMP, CAE, executive vice president of the Foundation.

At the meeting, Terri Breining, CMP, CMM, chairwoman of the MPI board of directors and president of meeting planning company Concepts Worldwide, also announced that MPI has established a research task force that is working closely with the MPI Foundation to identify additional research needs. Breining hopes that research will begin this year to address the second point of the MPI strategic plan, to “aggressively pursue opportunities to increase the influence that decision makers have on meeting expenditures by proving that meetings are a critical component of any organization's success.” The research will be conducted “outside the industry,” said Breining, perhaps by a large accounting firm or business school.

Also expected to launch in 2004, through a foundation grant from Hilton Hotels Corp., is MPI MIX, or Meeting Industry Exchange, an online peer-to-peer exchange for MPI members. “Our forum will be global and robust,” said Dubois, and should launch by summer.

In other news, the MPI Board approved an increase of the rebate it issues to each chapter for its members' annual dues. The bulk of the increase is expected to fund education, says Breining, because “chapters feed their members, and most of our members use MPI through their chapters.”