A Personal Message From the Executive Director
May 25, 2023
It is bittersweet for me to announce that after five years as SEJ’s executive director, I have decided it is the right time to begin a transition to new leadership. Together, we have made tremendous strides since 2018, and today we are poised for even greater impact.
When I took the role of executive director, SEJ was in the midst of a challenging transition period. As I told the board at the time, my goal was to stabilize the SEJ ship and build the foundation for future growth so that the next leadership transition wasn’t so challenging. I’m pleased to say that in those five years, the SEJ team has:
- Doubled net assets and raised over $5 million, including $2.1 million in general operating support;
- Built and maintained healthy operating reserves of at least 10 months;
- Funded and managed $3.6 million in Fund for Environmental Journalism grants that have significantly increased environmental journalism;
- Made a strategic commitment to integrating DEI throughout SEJ operations that more than doubled the diversity of SEJ members, conference attendees, and FEJ grantees;
- Grown conference revenues and registration, while maintaining extremely strong results on participant surveys;
- Set new records for numbers of entries for the SEJ Awards for Reporting on the Environment and recognized five “best of the best” Pulliam Award-winners with $10,000 cash prize;
- Launched new fellowship programs that have supported 91 early-career and diverse journalists to attend SEJ conferences; and,
- Increased membership to record highs, both before and after the pandemic.
While I didn’t anticipate a global pandemic crisis, I am glad to have been SEJ’s executive director during this difficult time. Thanks to SEJ’s amazing staff and volunteers, SEJ not only survived, but thrived, during the pandemic. We pivoted the 2020 conference to a virtual format and launched new webinars, new rapid response grants, and new support for members, while maintaining financial and operational stability.
However, managing the crisis took a deep toll, so I’m looking forward to focusing more of my attention on my family. I’m also eager to re-engage my professional skills in editing, communications, and renewable energy, as well as volunteering for reproductive justice (and SEJ!).
I chose this moment because now is the right time for a successful transition to SEJ’s new leader. The new executive director will have secure and flexible funding through 2024, a profitable conference revenue model with strong university hosts secured for 2024 and 2025, an engaged board of directors, and a diverse and growing membership that reflects expanding interest in environmental journalism. This robust support will help ensure they start the job with the tools they need to succeed and grow.
They will also have a new source of operational capacity and support. As part of its 2020-2023 strategic planning process, SEJ’s Board of Directors identified the need for SEJ to build a more sustainable, robust, and flexible operational system to support continued growth in membership, programs, and funding, while providing the flexibility to respond to an increasingly uncertain and complex economic and operating environment. As SEJ Board President Luke Runyon announced in his letter, SEJ has contracted with an association management company, Bostrom, to provide operational support for SEJ.
I am pleased that the SEJ Board of Directors has recognized the need for more capacity and that they acted deliberately and thoughtfully to secure it. I am also pleased that the board has hired an excellent search firm to find the next executive director. When posted, I hope you will share news of this opportunity with your networks to help us find the most qualified candidates.
I am looking forward to working with the board, Bostrom, the next executive director, and the current team on this important transition in the upcoming months. The end result will be a stronger SEJ that is better prepared to meet the changing needs of our members, as well as the challenges of our complex future.
Since joining SEJ’s board in 2012, I have had the privilege of working closely with the truly extraordinary staff, volunteers and members of SEJ. I am deeply grateful to the board for giving me the opportunity to lead the organization that has been so important to my life and work. I am eternally indebted to the SEJ staff and volunteer leaders — past and present — who have taught me so much and who continue to demonstrate their steadfast commitment to our mission every single day.
SEJ has been an essential part of my life since I joined 17 years ago, and it will always be so. And while I will miss serving all of you as ED, I’m really looking forward to once again getting to go on those fabulous all-day tours. See you in Philly at #SEJ2024!