The Transition Continues

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By: Julie Freeman, Interim Executive Director and CEO

For the second time this year, AGU is preparing to welcome a new CEO. On August 17, Randy Fiser will begin serving as AGU’s CEO, and the transition to new staff leadership will begin.

This upcoming transition is only one of many for AGU this year. Staff leadership changed from a CEO with a record of leading innovations to an Interim CEO charged with maintaining operations and calming staff. The Board of Directors adopted a new strategic plan that built on past priorities to chart a new direction for the future. Then there was the pandemic, which changed the way staff worked, leaders met and made decisions, and AGU community members conducted their work.

Throughout all these transitions, AGU’s staff and leadership have maintained their commitment to its mission of supporting and inspiring a global community of Earth and space scientists. And just as working from home is not business as usual, the decisions and plans for the future were anything but business as usual.

Most notably, in June the Board approved the recommendation for a completely virtual Fall Meeting. The decision was, of course, a responsible response to the threat to the health and safety of attendees and staff, but it was also an opportunity to reduce AGU’s carbon footprint and make the meeting more accessible to AGU’s global community. Even before the final decision was made, the meetings staff had been exploring the technology needed to support a gathering of more than 20,000 scientists and the programming to make the meeting even more engaging.

Board and staff also paid increased attention to the issues of diversity and inclusion following the death of George Floyd. Staff, leaders and members have had the courage to have some uncomfortable conversations and explore meaningful actions that AGU can take to become more inclusive. With the understanding that combatting racism is a deep problem, the Board is nevertheless committed to finding viable actions.

Charged with creating an implementation plan to support the new strategic plan, 84 staff members took the first step by working in cross-departmental teams to develop concrete plans for programs and processes that would help turn the aspirations of the plan into action. They willingly took on this task on top of their other responsibilities to maintain AGU programs. Their ideas will be prioritized and shared with the Board in September in order to finalize a plan for AGU’s next three to five years.

The many transitions have not slowed AGU down. During the last four and a half months—the time I have served as Interim CEO—AGU staff and leadership have demonstrated their resilience. They approached challenges thoughtfully and strategically. I know this way of working will continue through the next transition.

I leave this role confident that AGU has the capacity to achieve its vision—a thriving, sustainable and equitable future supported by scientific discovery, innovation and action.

It has been my honor to serve.

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