One week after Mardi Gras, SRA awards ceremony captured the spirit of the Big Easy

Full of Pomp and Prestige, most conference business meetings are – let’s be honest—a total snooze fest. No amount of free gut retching coffee and stale pastries can ever give you back that hour. This year's SRA meeting felt different, though. I’m wondering if the conference organizers and leadership got into the spirit of laissez les bon temps rouler of the crescent city

The business meeting was smaller than usual. But like the Mardi Gras parades that rolled a week before, the crowd that sticks it out despite fatigue, exhaustion, weather, and a smidge of a hangover is doubtlessly the Best Crowd Ever. Instead of shouting "throw me something, sister!", the applause and standing ovations of #SRA2022 were to celebrate one another. The only way the joyous spirit of that early morning meeting could have been better is if Elizabeth Cauffman DID throw loot - preferably sustainable throws from Iris.

(Fitting the NOLA tradition of lagniappe, Past President Rob Crosnoe unexpectedly receives the “Outgoing Presidential Award” as a little something extra.)

You got to know somebody to be somebody who Rides in Mardi Gras, but this isn't exclusionary good-ol'-boys' tactics. One gets invited to ride because they're the person you want to spend 6 hours harnessed next to, standing within spitting distance of a porta-toilet and an emergency box of wine. Sure, other politics are at play, like membership dues and how long you've been begging to ride, but Krewes roll because they got something to celebrate. The SRA awards ceremony also felt like a community of well-wishers reveling in each other's accomplishments. And all seemed to look forward to the next year when once again we will go through ceremonial hoopla just for a chance to give our heroes one more standing ovation.

The first awardee, Raina Elyse Anderson, seemed to understand how important her heroism is to everyone who knows her. She spoke of her superpower in bringing people together to inspire advocacy and action. Earning far fewer accolades than the awardees but with no less prestige, riders in a Krewe are Royalty; King for a day; Goddess in glittered shoes. Floating above a sea of adoring fans in a sparkly plywood boat, you are reminded to be in the moment: Be right there, not working or worrying. You can be a hero, especially for this one day.

When you're on a float, it is essential to save some of the best throws for familiar faces that beam up at you. Past president Rob Crosnoe's leadership felt like that moment where you're part of the ceremony waving to Rex riders but still take the time to shout, "Got any doubloons?". As the company of riders pass by, in that moment, they are definitively your best friend ever. Rob’s humor, pomp, and whoopsie-doo ensured the mood maintained Raucous Revelry of this city.

(Ben and Birdie Shirtcliff rode in the Krewe of Orpheus on Lundi Gras before penning this blog.)

Velma McBride Murry beamed with pride at a gathering of scholars at all career stages who were proud to belong to a society where leadership reflected them in more ways than melanin. Like the queen of Zulu or Honorary Muse, Velma presided over the crowd with poise and pride at the richness apparent in her legacy of inspired mentees, colleagues, and friends.

It remains unclear who Mardi Gras parades are for. Is it the band cheering? Walking Krewe's whipping the crowd into playful ferver? The city who reminisces for years past when the crowd was 20-deep for the entire parade route? Celebrity guests reigning at Orpheus or as King of Bacchus? Is Mardi Gras for the crowds or the riders who paid thousands for the chance to litter the streets of St. Charles without abandon? This was the question I asked myself as I received my award for mentorship. Was the clear sculpted award for me? Did I travel all the way to Nola to give myself a pat on the back? Or was the award for the nominator to see their effort pay off? I sat in the crowd with family, friends, students, and colleagues there to support me. They were there for me. I was there for them so I could acknowledge that they matter to me. I value them for sticking with me. As I hugged Velma and stood for the photo op with Rob, I knew the answer to ‘who is it for’ is All of It.  The pomp and prestige is for everyone. 

The SRA award itself is crystalline and sparkly. It gains worth because it represents a moment of pride, revelry, shared joy and honest smiles. Mardi Gras throws - certainly not just beads- and please do not show us your chest- are likewise objectively value- free. Piles end up lining potholes and dangling in trees until sunshine fades away their color, rain decays their strings, and heavy winds send their grey/black round bodies to concrete graves. Nobody Needs Beads just like nobody needs an award to signify value. But locking eyes with a friendly colleague who smiles and sends shimmering beauty straight to you is priceless. A Mardi Gras catch is exhilarating because it represents that moment of undulating joy. For me, receiving an award at SRA 2022 was as exhilarating as riding in Mardi Gras 2022.

The full list of SRA 2022 Award winners is available at:


Birdie Shirtcliff received the MidCareer Outstanding Mentor Award at #SRA2022. She was nominated by Dr. Jenny Phan. Birdie recently joined University of Oregon Center for Translational Neuroscience as a Research Professor: [email protected].  She rode on the “winner winner chicken dinner” float for the Krewe of Muses, sidewalk side fourth from front, #22.  With her husband and dear friends who know somebody who knows somebody, she rode with Krewe of Orpheus, #16B sidewalk side, lower level.




Share this post:

Comments on "One week after Mardi Gras, SRA awards ceremony captured the spirit of the Big Easy "

Comments 0-0 of 0

Please login to comment