President's Perspective - October 2020

october 2020 president's perpective sandy fowler Oct 16, 2020

Whew! The annual conference is history, and I think it will be remembered positively in the memory banks of the people who attended. The theme hit the mark and resulted in many sessions directly related to the stress caused by the pandemic and racial crises we are all experiencing at this time. 

Several sub themes emerged from the concurrent sessions, keynote addresses, and conversations held during the conference. Mindfulness was mentioned often. It started in the first session on the first day in the Invited Workshop by Rita Wuebbler. Many sessions throughout the week started with deep breaths, and a few minutes of mindful relaxation or quiet meditation. 

As expected, the topic of working with clients in virtual space and its challenges appeared in quite a few of the presentations. The best parts of those sessions were the helpful tips on what can be done to make virtual sessions work. Leadership was an important subtheme found in several of the sessions as well. The other subtheme that I felt—and I wasn’t the only one—was the underlying sense of love that Lena Crouso mentioned in her opening keynote address. It was clear that we had been missing each other, and it felt very good to be able to connect with old friends and lots of new ones. Much as I would like to continue to talk about my experience of the conference, the assistant editors (Emily Kawasaki, Betse Esber, and Ingmar Pack) are writing about the conference too. I suggest that you read each one of their articles to get their impressions of the content and process within this novel experiment: our first virtual conference! They talked with many of the participants, so you may just find yourself in one of those articles.

Moving forward, the SIETAR USA Board of Directors has a lot of issues to address. Perhaps most salient is the ongoing harm caused by racism. DEI and Intercultural professionals have a role to play in finding solutions to achieving true systemic change in our association, in our work, and in our communities. SIETAR USA has taken a stand against racism in the past, but we also know we still have our own issues to deal with—now and in the future. We need to be clear about our commitment to facilitating dialogue both within various minority racial groups and across racial lines. During the conference, Practitioners of Color addressed the issues and challenges they face in two 2-hour special sessions. At the same time, a separate space for reflecting and discussing whiteness and anti-racism was provided for people who wished to join the conversation. We need to continue those dialogues, as well as embracing a combined discussion for Practitioners of Color and others.

Listening and talking are both important, but equally important is a commitment to bringing diverse voices and experiences to add to the richness of the discussions and to our profession and society at large. The time has come for another SIETAR USA Town Hall. Time to add more diversity to the governance of SIETAR USA and to its committees and teams. Time to explore a range of actions that reflect our values and beliefs. Time to develop plans to understand racism in a global context. The Board should take the lead, but we need to rely on our members to step up and join the conversation. Like it or not—we are all in this together.

I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly thank the Board of Directors and others for their recognition during the conference. Your kind words make it all worthwhile and will be remembered warmly for the rest of my life! Thank you!

Sandra M. Fowler
President, SIETAR USA