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SEJ President’s Report: Announcing Upcoming Transitions
Dear SEJ members —
More than a month out from our fantastic #SEJ2023 conference in Boise, I’m still riding high off the good energy I felt from all of you in Idaho. This year’s conference was a huge success. The resounding refrain from nearly everyone I spoke to was: “best SEJ conference ever.” Thanks to all of you for being a part of it. Special thanks are in order for conference director Jay Letto and our conference co-chairs, Tom Michael and Christy George.
I’m writing to you to share information on a couple of important upcoming transitions for SEJ. One is an announcement from our current executive director, Meaghan Parker, and our plans to search for SEJ’s next executive director; another is a change in organizational structure.
First, I want to update you on an upcoming leadership transition. SEJ’s executive director, Meaghan Parker, had notified the board of her intention to step down later this year. Meaghan was first elected to the SEJ board as the Associate representative in 2012 and became the organization’s executive director in 2018. Since then Meaghan has grown and diversified SEJ’s programs, membership and funding sources — all while leading us through a global pandemic and period of economic instability. Many nonprofits struggled to keep the doors open and lights on during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Under Meaghan’s leadership SEJ not only pivoted quickly to meet its members’ needs, it also grew more resilient.
On behalf of the board, I want to take this opportunity to thank Meaghan for her more than a decade of service to SEJ. We would not be where we are today as an organization without her leadership. We also understand her need to focus more on her family and career opportunities in her field. And we are grateful that she has chosen this moment — when SEJ has secure funding, strong programs and robust reserves — to initiate and support a successful leadership transition.
The board has approved an executive search committee to identify SEJ’s next executive director. Board member Tony Barboza chairs the committee, which includes board member Jennifer Bogo and me. The committee will select a search firm to aid the board in assembling the most qualified, diverse pool of candidates possible to help lead SEJ into the future. The committee’s work will ramp up over the summer with the goal of having a new executive director in place this fall. The committee will be in regular communication with the board of directors to ensure the search is on track. Once we have the position’s job description finalized, I’ll ask you all to share it with your networks.
If you have questions about the upcoming search, I invite you to contact search committee chair Tony Barboza.
The second matter I want to tell you about is a new partnership. Over the past few years, the job of running a membership association has grown significantly more complex. To meet their members’ varied needs, today’s membership associations require staff with an expansive array of skills. These include financial management, grant management, fundraising, human resources capabilities and support for board members and volunteers. Organizations like SEJ need expertise with membership databases and services, familiarity with the hospitality industry and other conference needs, vendor contract management, skills in cybersecurity and communication technologies, and more.
It’s a lot to ask of SEJ’s three full-time staff and our member-volunteers.
SEJ’s small but mighty team has achieved so much, nonetheless. Yet we lack sufficient support or back-up capacity, which negatively impacts both our work and ourselves. We’ve been doing too much with too few resources. SEJ turned 33 years old this year. We want to ensure SEJ remains strong for the next 33 years and beyond.
To deliver the operational support SEJ needs to thrive, SEJ’s board has contracted with Bostrom, an association management company, to manage SEJ’s business operations. SEJ’s executive director will continue to report directly to the SEJ board of directors and will manage the contract with Bostrom. The executive director will also manage SEJ contractors, who will continue to produce SEJ publications and digital communications and provide critical advice and expertise on programs including the conference, awards, grants and mentoring.
SEJ board members and I spent a lot of time evaluating different ways to increase our capacity as an organization, and we decided unanimously to adopt this model because it will help turn SEJ into a stronger, more nimble and effective organization that better serves our members and the communities we report on and reach through our journalism.
It is understandable that this new relationship comes with questions, especially from our dedicated group of journalist members. I have compiled a FAQ that you can read, and you are invited to a virtual town hall meeting on Monday, June 5. Register here and come talk with SEJ board members, staff and representatives from Bostrom.
Change isn’t easy, but the board believes this is a crucial inflection point for SEJ, and that these transitions will not only help SEJ best meet our members' needs now, but also prepare us for the future. I and the rest of the board value each and every one of SEJ's members, and we look forward to ensuring that the organization can continue to fulfill its mission of strengthening the quality, reach and viability of journalism that advances public understanding of environmental issues.
Luke Runyon is president of SEJ's board of directors. He's a managing editor and reporter covering the Colorado River basin for NPR station KUNC in northern Colorado. He hosts the podcast, “Thirst Gap: Learning to Live with Less on the Colorado River.” Current SEJ term: 2021-2024.
>> Return to SEJ President's Report overview page.