GNSI President's Message

Sara Taliafero Presidents MessageDearest GNSI Members,

As we navigate through a season that in North America includes the winter solstice and day with the shortest span of daylight in our calendar year, I am in a reflective mood. Since accepting the honor of serving as President of the Guild this summer, I have enjoyed the challenges and rewards inherent in collaborating with the diverse and rich leadership and expertise that all of you bring to this organization. My every meeting and correspondence has deepened my respect for each of you and broadened my hope for what we are and what we can become.

Did that first paragraph sound like the preamble to a statement that I am stepping down? Indeed, it is quite the opposite. These first few months have humbled me as I continue to grow into a leadership role with GNSI, and my resolve to do well for us has deepened, making stronger my commitment to the responsibilities of my position.

Yet nothing about my efforts nor those of any Board member or leader makes sense except in the context of the network of relationships and connections amongst all of its members. In any organization, it is a persistent truth that things run smoothly and well with a large and well-organized group of people working effectively together. It is also true that many of the rewards are intrinsic—how satisfying and enjoyable was the journey, how rich was the camaraderie along the way?

But when considering major changes or overhauls in how an organization runs, there is another sometimes opposing truth—often, as a practicality, real change occurs when one person acts as the champion, visionary, and steward of that change. Therefore, I feel it is important to acknowledge the challenge of navigating some of the inherent conflicts members of an organization can face when their leaders and visionaries are working as agents of change.

Change involves, by its very nature, conflict, and opportunity. We often have a gap between what we are currently experiencing and the desired state, which would be our entire membership involved in deliberative and decision-making processes, a coordinated work-sharing and engagement with the majority of our membership, and overall high level of satisfaction and connectedness for our members.

I share these thoughts with you for two reasons. First, we are undergoing a strategic planning process and significant changes as an organization, changes that many have been working toward and imagining for several years now. We have, in the past couple years, finally hit that “leaping off” or launching point from which we are making change with increasing momentum and focus. This is something to celebrate. Along with that celebration comes the meaningful work to better connect with and value our members and give all the opportunity to be part of shaping the direction we take.

And, second, one of the visionaries and primary engineers of this critical shift for our organization, our Vice President, Ikumi Kayama, has decided to step down as a member of our Board. She has set down the load, the momentous outpouring of efforts she has made as an agent of change for the Guild and is now taking a break. She has honored us with the phenomenal undertaking of bringing conference planning to an entirely new level. She has championed volunteers, applied her phenomenal skills as an analyst and organizer to give us a structure, process, and definition to an appreciably complex undertaking. She has served and supported a number of initiatives and efforts throughout the organization and over many years that span back before her service as a Board member. I am in gratitude to her for taking us a few more steps forward after the Washington, DC conference before setting down her load and making her graceful exit.

As this year finishes out and we move into a new day, please take the time to give Ikumi an unqualified thank you for everything she has done and everything that she has been for this organization. Her part in the network of people who make up the Guild has mattered so greatly. It has been an honor to work with her, and I miss her since she has stepped down. Thank you, Ikumi, for taking the sometimes difficult path in service to all of us and for imagining a bold future for this organization.

This is an opportunity for all of us to acknowledge that many of us feel responsible toward this organization and have concerns, wanting to ensure that we make whole and good decisions for the sake of all as we move forward. And it is a chance to take off that hat of critical judgement, which is important to group thinking and decision-making yet ought not to be the only approach we employ. In a season of less daylight, please put on hats of sunshine, if you will—look with positive eyes on the possibilities. Wear a hat of fire and warmth, allowing for feelings, intuition, and emotion—without justification or prejudice. These are also approaches to group thinking and deliberative process that we can cultivate in each other as leaders.

So I say, with as much sunshine and thoughtfulness as I can muster in equal measure, thank you to all of you for being engaged, for offering your gifts, and for caring. Thank you to all of you who have gone above and beyond, despite the odds and the challenges. You are seen; you are valued. And thank you to all of you who took a survey or wrote a letter or took the time to talk to me or other Board members and leaders. Your observations help craft what we do going forward.

I am intrigued to see what possibilities we create next year as an organization with a mission of communicating science visually. I wish you a peaceful holiday season and a good new year to come.

Most sincerely,
Sara Taliaferro, GNSI President

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