Since 2011, I have been involved with AIGA Chattanooga in some capacity either as a student member attending AIGA chapter conferences and workshops, volunteering as a Chattanooga events coordinator intern, or being an official Chattanooga board member as Secretary and then President for the last 4 years. It’s difficult to fully express my gratitude towards AIGA National, our local leaders before me, and our Chattanooga designers. It has truly been a rewarding experience in my career. I have had the pleasure of working with and learning from some of Chattanooga’s coolest and most creative individuals.
As we prepare our chapter for a pause it’s important to me that I share my reflection of my experience as your president the last few years.
First off, I have to take a moment to recognize the leading ladies who were by my side during this experience. Bethany Paden and Gabrielle Blades have been with me since the beginning of my term as president and I could not have asked for a better team to lead. If you’ve ever been a president, manager, or team leader I hope you’ve had the joy of being so proud of your team that you dote on them all the time. I have been supremely thankful and proud of these women in all their efforts both inside and outside of AIGA . They are superstars in more ways than you can imagine. One of the most rewarding opportunities I’ve had during my presidency is watching the passion, growth, and immense amount of hard work these two have put into making this chapter successful. We’ve spent countless hours together planning, complaining, and laughing all because we cared so much about the vision of AIGA and the power of design in communities. There’s so much more I could say, but in case you haven’t noticed, I love these women and feel lucky to have them as friends after we step down. Beth & Gabby– thank you from the bottom of my heart for trusting me as your leader and keeping me on track these last few years!
In addition to Gabby and Beth, I had the honor to work with other board directors through the years and to you all I most certainly thank! Chris Lykins, Adam Haskew, Della Wheeler, and Danielle Wennerstrom – Thank you for your time, expertise, and fun while we all worked together. And especially for encouragement and trust in me as I figured out how to be a new president.
Of course none of this experience would be possible without our Chapter Fellow and creator, Paul Rustand, and all the board members before me. You all paved the way for this chapter and we thank you for you vision to serve the Chattanooga design community. Another big thanks to the board I served on before my presidency. It was a pleasure to work with and learn from those folks. A special thanks to Cat Collier Martinez and Nano Martinez for seeing my potential and encouraging me to become the next chapter president. I feel privileged to have followed in the footsteps of so many talented leaders and supporters before me.
Finally a huge thanks to every volunteer and sponsor who helped us make our events possible. Your generosity of time and financial support was truly appreciated over the last few years.
I am beyond thrilled I had this opportunity to not just serve my design community but to grow as a designer and a leader. I think back to the day when I wondered if transitioning to president made sense, and gosh I can’t believe I ever doubted myself. This has been one of the best experiences in my career yet.
My team and I had the opportunity and pleasure to bring several new events and initiatives to our community like Women Lead and Design for Good. Through our hard work and passion, these events were able to promote women leaders in our community, have open and inspiring conversations, and give back to our community. The absolute best feeling is seeing all of your efforts – months of planning, weeks of prepping and working with volunteers, down to hours of setting up final details– come to life and be experienced by patrons.
I learned how to manage a team of six, set expectations, and maintain an organized workflow. I grew my confidence when it came to making decisions, having difficult conversations, and asking for sponsorship funds. I witnessed the excitement and joy that came from seeing your team succeed and grow their own confidence and skills. And most importantly, I learned the importance of gratitude towards any and everyone who has helped you along the way. A thank you goes a long way!
As a chapter leader that is part of a larger National design organization I was given the opportunity to travel to new cities, experience new adventures, meet new people and make new friends. I could go on and on about my experience as a president, what I learned, who I met, and how I drank the AIGA “Kool-aid” that still runs through my veins to this day. But you’ll have to ask me about that over tea or cocktails sometime. (Seriously, I love sharing my experiences.)
Letter to the future:
I’m not going to lie – it was not always easy. There were times when I felt let down when others weren’t as passionate about our organization or didn’t see the value in our hard work. But I have loved every fun and difficult moment of my time with AIGA Chattanooga and can’t imagine where I would be today without this opportunity.
I share my reflection in hopes that you find this as an encouragement to be the next design leader in Chattanooga, to be inspired by others in your community, and to feel that passion that motivates you to do great things.
This role is more than a fancy title. It’s an opportunity to take something already great and continue to nourish its growth in your own way. It’s a tool for personal growth and success, as well as a tool to include diverse people and talents into a collective design community. It takes passion, patience and a lot of hard work and sacrifices. Several before me poured their time, energy, and talents into this chapter all without pay but all with passion and excitement for the future of design. We exist to serve the design community. To all those after me, best of luck and cheers to the future of design and community in Chattanooga!
Cheers to the future!