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A Hello and Farewell from SGCI's New Director

“By 2026, be the autonomous, world-class leader and premier think tank for science gateways…”  About 3 years ago, the leadership team of the Science Gateways Community Institute gathered together to begin the implementation of a management method called the Entrepreneurial Operating System. One of the key elements of this method is the creation of a document called the Vision/Traction Organizer, with a 10-year, envisioned-future state. This opening quote was the vision we agreed would make us feel as though we had really accomplished something at the end of our NSF funding and at the transition into a self-sustaining organization. These words were carefully chosen and have been reviewed annually since then.

Also part of that original planning was consideration of the staff we would wish to include. We underwent a process of identifying people from all of our experiences who we thought would make a “dream team,” distilled the qualities of those people, and used these as guidelines for the individuals we would include as SGCI staff. Those qualities are:

  1. Self-directed excellence, responsiveness, and ability to balance demands

  2. Enthusiasm

  3. Desire to learn new topics and technologies

  4. Service orientation: “When Others Succeed You Succeed”

  5. Actively interested in improving the way people do science

Unfortunately, this week we lose to retirement our founding leader Nancy Wilkins-Diehr, who embodies these qualities so strongly. Nancy drew us—who were at often-competing institutions—to come together in a collaborative way as nobody else could. I know for me, personally, working with Nancy and the activities related to the SGCI have been some of the highlights of my career, and I think my leadership team peers likely feel the same.  

As the incoming director of the SGCI, I know that Nancy’s is an impossible act to follow.  But our goals are going to include continuing the excellent work that has garnered us the strong reputation we currently have.  And…we’re going to embark on some new initiatives as we continue interviewing our clients and potential clients for new pain points, and we’ll assemble offerings that address those pain points as part of our sustainability plan. This transition has meant a significant change in my life to move to San Diego after spending thirty-three years living in West Lafayette, Indiana. Key in this decision were the vision and team criteria we originally developed and in which I believe strongly. In my past experiences, a good vision that everyone can get behind is a requirement. But a vision without the right people to make it possible AND fun to achieve along the way is empty. So while Nancy will be enjoying “The Next” of her life, know that we are as strong as the people working in the institute and that those five criteria were a purposeful choice to make our institute resilient in the face of change.  

Please join me in thanking Nancy for her founding of the SGCI and getting us off on such a strong footing for our continued journey together.  But also please join me in recognizing all of the SGCI staff as having enabled us to achieve what we have so far achieved, and who will be so key in what we accomplish in the future.


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