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Why I'm Staying at the Institute

The word is out per our last blog, Chris Spence is leaving, sadly, his Director role at the Institute at the Golden Gate – but for good reason! I’m thrilled and honored to be staying at the Institute and taking on the Acting Director position.

Filling Chris’s shoes will undoubtedly be a formidable task, fortunately I am stepping in when the Institute has much success and many accomplishments to build upon. And my job is made that much easier (and enjoyable) by the brilliant and committed Institute team.

A colleague asked me what I’ve learned in the year I’ve been with the Institute that best prepares me for this transition and my new role. Reflecting on the question, the concept of being curious came first to mind as a potent leadership attribute.

Curiosity is one of the most valuable tools to help us connect, motivate, and inspire. It’s the seed of every new idea and a springboard for greater progress or disruptive innovation. For me it goes even deeper, curiosity isn’t just about finding the next big idea, it is the common denominator to make connections and gain understanding of others. It’s an organic regulator for openness and practicing humility – letting us see value in diverse perspectives. It brings the added benefit of often providing unexpected delight in the act of discovery.

Curiosity is also a natural part of the Institute’s work and culture. We’re energized, rather than intimidated, by complex issues facing parks and public lands. Our explorative approach is usually less about having the perfect solution and more about asking the right questions throughout a process. We start by asking questions – much of this done working with and for partners – pushing beyond conventional boundaries.

I feel energized by both the challenges and opportunities ahead for the Institute. We know our parks are precious resources but we’re just getting started as seeing them as powerful assets for addressing complex human challenges. As we discover a new future for parks, whether that be as a solution to the public health crisis or as a generator of social cohesion, their value will only increase. Now more than ever, we all need to keep calm and stay curious!

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