To Raleigh we went

Every year each chapter around the country sends a few board members to the annual AIGA National Leadership Retreat, this year held in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Comprised of two retreat veterans, Liz Magura (3rd retreat) – President and Susan Seeley Roe (2nd retreat) – VP of Tucson, along with 3 newbies, Kyle Larkin – Vice President, Brittany Baker – Programs Director, and Kathy Karrys – Membership Director; they all shared an energetic, tiring and eye opening experience.

Before the trip, each person noted what his or her expectations might be in attending, followed by takeaways upon returning home. 



What are you looking forward to most about attending the retreat?

Liz: Getting to see some familiar faces and reconnect with chapter members that I’d met in the past, meeting even more people. Meeting with Julie and hearing about her visions. Seeing Niki! 

Kyle: Getting to meet board members of other chapters and national leadership. Sometimes I feel like we’re in our own little bubble and it will be nice to meet other people and hear what they’re doing and learn how they’re doing it. Oh, and BBQ. Definitely looking forward to BBQ.

Susan: Learning from other chapters and seeing Niki Blaker!

Brittany: I am excited to meet other chapters and hear about what their chapters are doing. I am also excited about seeing a new city and state.

Kathy: Meeting new people, learning about other chapters’ membership initiatives  and going somewhere I have never been.

What do you think might be a large takeaway from the experience?

Liz: That I will either succeed or fail in my presentation – hoping it’s helpful!

Kyle: I hope to learn more about how other chapters are structured and how they get things done. How they’re engaging their own membership, and students in particular. It would also be interesting to learn more about how other chapters engage with other design related organizations in their states too.

Susan: I’m hoping to come away with some awesome programing ideas to implement in Tucson.

Brittany: I am hoping to be inspired and to bubble over with ideas for programming.

Kathy:  How other chapters handle membership position.


How do you hope to bring back what you’ve learned to the chapter and your design community? 

Liz: We were asked to present on some really great things we’re doing here. I am hoping that our new attendees will have a unique approach in how they view their positions, our chapter and the organization.  

Kyle: I’m hoping that we’ll all pool together our notes and have a nice presentation about what we learned at the retreat. It would be nice to include some key insights and some manageable goals for the next year.

Susan:  I hope I can bring enthusiasm back to our board and a sense of purpose. It’s easy to get bogged down in the day to day activities at the local level, but this retreat is a way to see we’re not alone and that the successes we experience at the local level have a ripple effect up to the national level and vice versa. 

Brittany: I hope to bring back new ideas for how to interact with our community. I am also VERY much looking forward to the design thinking workshop.

Kathy: More enthusiasm and more of a plan of action for Membership and EMERGE!

What do you hope to share with other chapters about your position and our chapter? 

Liz: I hope to be a resource to other chapter members. I want to learn some cool things that they do that we haven’t thought about and I want to be able to share some great things we’re doing and help build their chapters to be as great as ours has become! 

Kyle: I’m interested to learn how other VPs approach their position. I’ve been taking the approach of primarily meeting with and supporting all our directors. I try to help them accomplish their goals and become more efficient. It will be interesting to see if that’s how other VPs approach the position or if they focus on other things. As far as our chapter is concerned, I think sharing how great our design community is, how many volunteers we have, and talking up Design Week 🙂

Susan: I’m excited to share my thoughts on how AIGA AZ handles satellite boards. I think other state Chapters can learn from what we’re doing so they can touch all members in their states like we do.

Brittany: I will be presenting about our in-house events so I am excited to share about that. I also hope to share about our satellite teams and our design week. 

Kathy: Our personality, what makes us unique, our membership initiatives. 



Did you get what you wanted out of attending? 

Liz: Yes. New city, awesome people, reconnected and connected even further. Loved Julie’s energy and the vision that she has for the future of the organization. Niki was so great up there on stage! Her improv classes have really paid off! She had some great energy too as a conference emcee. What a hard job to speak in front of such a huge crowd, but she rocked it! 

Kyle: Yes, it was a great experience. It was wonderful to meet so many board members from so many different chapters and gain insights into how their boards operate and the different types of programs and initiatives they’re planning. And Carolina barbecue is delicious!

Susan: YES! It was wonderful to reconnect with people I met last year. I loved meeting Julie for the first time. Her passion for the organization is infectious and I know AIGA is in good hands with her. I had hoped to have more face to face time with her, but the group lunch I had scheduled with her was switched to Katie Baker (which I didn’t mind at all). Katie was great and the group had a good conversation about the general state of their chapters (in attendance was AZ, Orlando, Baltimore, Chicago, LA). Katie also gave us a quick status update on what to expect from the upcoming Membership system.

Brittany: I did. I feel very excited to do more programming for our chapter. There are so many ideas that I got and that I think our community will love to do and participate in.

Kathy: Yes. It was great to learn what others were doing and also to realize that many of the struggles that I have with membership are the same ones that others have as well. I also had a great time meeting new people and loved the AIGA organization. I felt like so many of the initiatives were things I was passionate about – Diversity, Women in Leadership, Community involvement, etc. It was a great time! And I loved Raleigh!

Fun video!

What was a key takeaway from the weekend? 

Liz: How excited I am to be involved with this community, industry, surrounded by creative people. I don’t think I’ve ever felt to belonging? It gives me a really unique kind of energy and I really am excited to have Julie as our leader – a woman, lover of music and all around great person. Also, I met with a round table who are UX/UI/Developer and all of us will strive to talk more about these disciplines. Figuring out how to better tap into these types of people. 

Kyle: There are a ton of amazing people all working to make AIGA a great community from local initiatives to the national level. Everyone has a slightly different approach but we’re all learning from each other and improving as we go.

Susan: My key takeaway or my main goal was to learn more about Women Lead. I attended two events for this initiative. At the lunch with Deborah Adler I talked about how Tucson Makers in September is focused around women creatives in Tucson. Deborah was very excited about the event and offered herself as a resource to me. She also gave me pointers on how to word our event copy to make it welcoming for men as well. I also learned a lot from Seattle’s Women Lead Director. I guess more and more chapters are breaking out this role on their board. It may be something we can consider. At the second Women Lead event I attended I met Leyla Acaroglu (she was AMAZING!). She took us through activities to break down our barriers as women. She said their will be a toolkit coming and Kathy and I signed up on her mailing list to beta test the content.

Brittany:  I really took away the feeling of pride for what AIGA is doing and for what AIGA AZ is doing. We are all so passionate and that passion is contagious. I was also really excited with how well our chapter is respected amongst other states. 

Kathy: I was glad to get to know our group better. I was also glad to connect with the EMERGE crowd because we had such a jam-packed weekend together and had so many loose ends about our project. I feel much better prepared for that event. 


What do you plan to share with with chapter and our board around your experience? 

Liz: Continuing to figure out how to grow our community. I want everyone to know about AIGA, what it stands for and how we’re the big dogs when it comes to design. Wanting to bring the energy and those feelings to our community.  

Kyle: Every AIGA chapter has their own approach for programming, initiatives, and building community. We all share some common roadblocks but by sharing both our struggles and successes, we all came home with valuable insights to bring back to our community. Our Arizona chapter is looked at as a model of community building and successful satellite boards. While we’re always working hard to improve, it’s nice to know that we’re doing a lot of things right!

Susan: I want to share with my team in Tucson that what we’re doing is noticed on a national level. I think they sometimes feel isolated and I plan to share the experience that Kyle and I had on our roundtable discussion on how to run satellite boards in a state run chapter. I was very proud that AZ is looked at as experts in this area and was so happy to answer people’s questions. We’re still figure things out here in AZ, but what we’re doing here is important for other chapters to learn from…so cool. 🙂

I also want to bring up the idea of having a Type Walk here in Tucson during Tucson Modernism Week in the fall. I think it would be a great was for us to connect with our community here in Tucson.

Brittany: Programming! I have so many programs that I want to plan for us. They range from workshops, to speakers, to tours, even to design for good programs.

Kathy:  I plan to continue to share the EMERGE program as I feel like it is a great way to boost membership. You can’t really force people to join things, all you can do is make yourself invaluable and fulfill the needs of your audience better than anyone else.


What did you learn about your position and how other chapters approach it?

Liz: I feel like I’m in a unique position being an in-house designer, UX/UI and president. There aren’t very many of us in this type of practice and I think it’s a testament to show that we really want to make it known that the practice of design has changed and is inclusive to all. 

Kyle: I learned that each board is structured a little differently. For some boards, our directors are actually called VPs. So there’s a VP of Communications, VP of Programming, etc. For boards that are structured similarly to ours, the role of VP seems to be fairly consistent: support the president and directors in their roles.

Susan: Ditto from my comment above, but it seems Colorado is doing a successful satellite board in Boulder and Colorado Springs. But they don’t sound as connected as our state. They said the people they have in those cities don’t always call in to their meetings like we do. I think it’s important that we do this because it’s too easy to become disconnected in a statewide chapter.

Brittany: I learned that there is no right or wrong way to approach it. It is a huge role that is hard and very important. It is one that relies on the whole group but also has to work somewhat independently as well. 

Kathy: I think most all the Membership committees struggle with the concept that you have to do something to get people to join AIGA, and I think its more about just being an organization that helps people, and continuing to do that. . .then people want to be a part of it. I’ve had a few people contact me because they liked what they heard about our Membership Initiatives. 


And there you have it! We can’t wait to do great things together through the rest of this year and into the future. You can join us too!

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By communications
Published July 1, 2016
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