2018 IAN Retreat at the Chesapeake Bay Environmental CenterYesenia Valverde ·
Just fifteen minutes past the Bay Bridge, nestled within the sanctuary of Prospect Bay on the Eastern Shore, lies the idyllic Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center--a perfect setting for this year’s IAN staff retreat. Last Wednesday, staff members--coming from Cambridge, Annapolis, and even Rochester, NY--made the trip to the CBEC for the annual tradition of team-building and workshopping as part of an ever-ongoing effort to improve IAN. University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science staff at our partners’ offices, including the Chesapeake Bay Program and Maryland Department of Natural Resources, also participated in the retreat, many of which remotely by calling in via Zoom. The day provides a special opportunity for staff members to come together, meeting the new faces and re-connecting with the old.
This year’s retreat began with a show-and-tell where we each of us presented an item that reflected who we are to the group. A wizard hat, an ancient-looking diving regulator, and a fallen autumnal leaf, among other personal treasures, were showcased. Reflecting the variety of personalities and characters that our team is made all the stronger for, the activity was a fun and heart-warming start to the day. Up next was kayaking in and around Marshy Creek. Some of us buddied up for a tandem, while others rode solo. Katie May and I were able to catch glimpses of wetland birds, a terrapin, and my first ever bald eagle.
After lunch, we rolled up our sleeves and dove into the workshops prepared by Heath, Caroline, and Alex. Their primary objective was to improve people’s understandings of their role and responsibilities within IAN. The first activity involved each of us placing ourselves--via a color-coded sticky note, in classic IAN fashion--on a graph portraying one’s level of project responsibilities against that of administrative duties. We then placed a second sticky at the position where we hoped to be in the future. By comparing our perception of our own position relative to that of other staff members, each of us was hopefully able to walk away with a clearer idea of how we fit into the larger picture that is IAN.
The next activity involved each of us representing the breakdown of our responsibilities with a bar graph. Encompassing a wide range from “website maintenance” to “meeting facilitation”, the graphs were meant to visualize the relative magnitudes of different tasks that make up our roles. It became clear through this activity that, while there were similarities, there was lots of variation in our responsibilities within the different job classes (e.g. Science Integrator, Science Communicator, Intern, etc.), perhaps owing to individuals naturally gravitating toward their professional strengths or filling necessary gaps in projects. Finally, we used what we had come up with in the previous activities to write up our own job descriptions. We also each came up with a professional development plan that identified the kinds of trainings and opportunities for growth that we wanted to accomplish in the next year.
The day was filled with beautiful views of Prospect Bay and lots of laughter as we each got to know each other a bit better. As one of the newest staff members, I know I’m excited to work with such fun people at an incredible place like IAN, and I have hopes for what these upcoming months have in store for the team.