2022-05 From the President | Onward, UMRA!

This is my last column as UMRA president. Our forerunners in the organization had the wisdom to make this a one-year job, but with a required year of preparation as president-elect, and at least one year of service on the board as past-president. One thing I’ve learned so far—besides that the president needs to remember to bring the chocolate treats to the annual meeting—is that the energy of our members and their collective wisdom are what keep us moving and growing and rising to meet opportunities. 

That is coming through so clearly, for example, in the vitality and joy of our interest groups, and the initiative to reaffiliate, officially and creatively, UMRA with the University Retirees Volunteer Center, a sibling organization with whom we share common constituencies. See Jerry Rinehart’s UMRA-URVC article on page 4 of the UMRA News.Another place where collective energy is buzzing is in the Communication and Outreach Committee, which, under the leadership of Chair Eric Hockert and Webmaster Cathy Lee Gierke, has begun a top-to-bottom redesign of the UMRA website.

Defying the pandemic
We also owe a debt of gratitude to the UMRA members who led us into a new high-tech communications era when COVID took away our ability to meet in person. In March 2020, UMRA had to pivot quickly to maintain our programs and stay in touch with members. Kris Mortensen, our accomplished news editor, got a crash course in conducting webinars and is now an event producer par excellence. Mary Koppel and Julie Sweitzer are exceptionally deft at moderating the Q&A during our forums and workshops. Database Manager Virgil Larson and Membership Committee Chair John Anderson jumped into Zoom technology and now alternate the job of technical director for our virtual events; Cathy Lee Gierke backs them up with other technical support. 

They make it look easy, but every event has a long protocol of preparation, and any tech or human challenges that arise are dealt with coolly and masterfully. It’s remarkable that all our workshops, forums, new member welcomes, and social events held virtually have been high-quality experiences for our members and presenters. Because of the production team, UMRA has been able to defy the pandemic.  

UMRA’s collective energy rises and finds its way forward in the committees, the interest groups, the work of the board, and our liaisons who connect UMRA across the university.  So, note well the list of nominees [see page 3 of the UMRA News] for the board and get to know them and the incumbent board members. Let them hear from you what’s important for the future of UMRA, and then consider how you might take part in something new and interesting in the year ahead. 

It’s been a pleasure and honor to work this year with President-elect Ron Matross, and I’m looking forward to being on his team in the coming year. Onward, UMRA!

—Jan Morlock, UMRA president, jam@umn.edu