What does being a finalist for this award mean for you and your organization?

Out Teach has experienced significant wins and undergone important changes over the years, including a rebrand into who we are today. What makes us Out Teach, and what inspires communities to partner with us, is that we live out our values, beginning with our board. Each individual leads by example and is deeply committed to sustaining our mission to create a future where every student – regardless of background, resources, or learning differences – can experience the wonder of science first-hand. To publicly recognize each person’s unwavering commitment to navigate the organization through complex challenges, advance our mission, and create a legacy of excellence by being considered for this award is invaluable.

To be considered this year is particularly important because of the long-term commitment of our outgoing board chair, Shally Stanley. Shally has served on Out Teach’s board for nine years, and as she reaches her term limit at the end of this year, I know that no one is more deserving of this award than her. Her leadership, dedication and execution on priorities far surpasses expectation. She has set a board culture of active engagement, unwavering commitment, mutual respect, and accountability for each member and inspires all of us to follow in her footsteps.

What have you learned through the application process for Board Leadership Award?

The application process reminded us that commitment to good governance, adherence to best practices, boldness, and flexibility is not happenstance. As we wrote about our governance practices and our board’s work over these past years, it was quite rewarding to see how much we have evolved and how our evolution has helped propelled the growth of Out Teach.

We have been intentional about the composition of our board to ensure diversity in expertise, background, and talent, but going through this application also challenged us to think about the ways to sustain our culture over the long term. Prioritizing our ability to be innovative in times of change requires us to center both diversity and inclusivity. We were asked many thoughtful questions throughout the application process. For example, we were asked how our focus on recruiting a high percentage of board members with prior board experience impacts our ability to build a diverse and inclusive board. Although people of color have comprised 30-50% of our board members over the past years, more than 50% are women, and a spectrum of generations are represented, there is an opportunity for us to reimagine the ways we think about mentorship within our board. We have reflected on how we not only prepare first-time board members for success, but equally leverage the experiences and perspectives of directors with more board experience to mentor those with less experience.

That type of evolution in engagement is important. For instance, just six years ago, our implemented a committee structure to help us be more effective and tap into our diverse pool of expertise. Our progression to utilizing committees is what shaped our culture and ensured strong governance.

What advice would you offer for other organizations/board members striving for excellence in board leadership?

I have always believed that at the core of any healthy relationship is trust. An effective partnership between an organization’s CEO and its board members is no different. My advice to other organizations striving for excellence in board leadership is to center trust in action by demonstrating mutual respect through a willingness to confront challenges together, to listen to each other, to accept and give productive feedback, and to be open to each other’s wisdom.