SEJ President’s Report: Growing Our Leadership Team To Serve SEJ Members
Dear SEJ members —
I am so honored to be able to call myself SEJ's new president. At our November full board meeting in Boise, Idaho we elected a new slate of officers to lead our organization into 2023. The meeting, held at Boise State Public Radio in the next city to host our annual conference, left me feeling energized and excited about the year ahead for SEJ. Big thanks to #SEJ2023 co-chair Tom Michael for being such a gracious host.
First, I want to introduce myself to those of you I haven't yet had the chance to meet. My name is Luke Runyon. I've been a public radio journalist for the past 12 years, with a focus on water, agriculture and public lands reporting. I am currently the managing editor and reporter for KUNC's Colorado River Reporting Project, where I focus on the Southwest's water scarcity from my home office in Grand Junction, Colorado. Feel free to check out my website to learn more about me or the work I do — lukerunyon.com.
Second, I want to give a thank you to Sadie Babits, SEJ's outgoing president, for her service as the board's leader over the past two years. Sadie is a gracious leader who is generous with her time and attention. SEJ is better off due to her time at the helm, and I’m grateful to continue to serve on the board alongside her.
Another thank you to Meaghan Parker, SEJ's executive director, who continues to steer our organization through turbulent times. Under Meaghan's leadership SEJ has continued to grow, both in membership and funding sources. As a possible economic recession looms, SEJ remains well-positioned to weather it thanks to Meaghan's strategic fundraising and sound financial management.
In this letter I'd like to let you know about what SEJ's board has been up to recently and give some insight into where we're headed in 2023.
#SEJ2023 in Boise
Yes, it does feel like we were all just together in Houston for #SEJ2022, but work is already well underway for next year's conference in Boise at Boise State University from April 19-23, 2023. If an SEJ conference in Boise sounds familiar, it's because this gathering was initially set for 2020, and had to be postponed due to the pandemic. It took just a couple of years to find our way back to the Gem State.
SEJ's board of directors met in the city in early November to hold our board meeting and to orient new board members elected in September. It was my first time in the fast-growing community and it made a wonderful first impression. I can't wait to go back in April to learn more about the region and its myriad environmental stories.
SEJ staff, volunteers and our conference co-chairs are pulling together a really strong program for the 2023 conference. Subscribe to conference updates and check out the agenda as it develops on the #SEJ2023 conference website. And you can help SEJ keep member registration rates low by sharing sponsorship and exhibitor opportunities with businesses, NGOs and universities seeking to engage environmental journalists like you. If you've ever wondered what to do with all those PR folks flooding your inbox, tell them to buy a table or ad and you'll see them in Boise instead!
New leadership and board members
At that November board meeting we welcomed three new board members: Rebecca Leber, senior reporter at Vox; Nadia Lopez, environment reporter for CalMatters; Annie Ropeik, assistant director of the Mississippi River Basin Ag & Water Desk.
We also took a step toward creating a more robust pipeline for leadership within SEJ's board. Since 2018, the board has established three new board-level standing committees: Fundraising, Governance and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. We decided it would be in SEJ's best interest to establish new officer positions tied to these committees to allow board leadership to better delegate tasks and foster emerging leaders within the board.
Using the power given to it in the bylaws, the board voted to create three new officer positions: Vice Presidents for Fundraising, Governance and DEI; and created a new committee, the Leadership Committee, which will be composed of existing officers and the new vice presidents. As required in the bylaws, the powers and the composition of the Executive Committee remain the same (President, 1st Vice President, 2nd Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary).
Our new Leadership Committee is:
- Luke Runyon, President
- Sara Schonhardt, First Vice President, Programs
- Michael Kodas, Second Vice President, Membership
- Kathiann Kowalski, Treasurer
- Annie Ropeik, Secretary
- Rico Moore, Vice President, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
- Sara Shipley Hiles, Vice President, Fundraising
- Sadie Babits, Vice President, Governance
The board also agreed to review the new committee approach at its Summer 2023 board meeting. I invite you to be in touch with anyone on the Leadership Committee to give congrats on their new roles, to offer feedback on board activities, or to learn about volunteer opportunities. You can find their contact information here.
End of year giving
I can't wrap up this letter without asking you to support SEJ's end-of-year fundraising campaign. You have a public radio reporter as president now! I've made a career of jumping on air to ask for money to support good journalism.
This fall, we're sharing how SEJ helps its members in their own words. I invite you to read the first two testimonials — from Debra Krol and Carey Gillam — and think about the breadth and depth of reporting supported by SEJ activities, and then make a donation to support SEJ and its mission in 2023. I'd also suggest sharing far and wide on social media. You never know who in your network might want to support environmental journalism and haven't yet come across the good work SEJ is doing.
The end of a year is a good time to take stock of where we've been and where we're going. Seeing everything SEJ members, staff and volunteers were able to pull off in 2022 has me so hopeful for the year ahead.
Luke Runyon is SEJ's newly elected president. He's a managing editor and reporter covering the Colorado River Basin for public radio station KUNC in northern Colorado, where he produces stories for a network of public media stations in the Southwest. Current SEJ term: 2021-2024.