Leadership, faculty, and staff members from the National Evaluation Center attended the NNLM 2022 Summit in Charleston, South Carolina, August 9 and 10. The Spotlight Blog took the opportunity to ask about their experiences.
Veronica Hoyo, NEC Executive Director: I had not really understood how much we all, the ROCs, need to work in better communicating with one another. I think that it is very clear that we all share our passion for the mission and values of the Network but in our outward focus on outreach activities, we often forget that the starting point should be our very own colleagues first. Clarifying NEC’s role in and for the Network is one of my most urgent to-do items.
Erika Martinez Picazo, NEC Evaluator: I am new to the NNLM, so every single conversation, or presentation was a huge and amazing discovery for me; I was able to link faces and voices to email names, and most important I could get a sense of what I can do in my daily job at the NEC to support the activities of my colleagues of the NNLM.
Kristi Holmes, NEC Director: I appreciated the chance to slow things down and take conversations beyond an hour-long Zoom meeting. It was wonderful to make that human connection with our colleagues and have the chance to hear each other and connect in more meaningful ways over the summit.
Erika: It was an absolute delight to be able to share experiences with amazing colleagues. During lunch, breakfast or short breaks, those casual conversations gave a friendly touch to the long working day, and not to mention the dinner night where I laughed like a child with my new NNLM friends!!
Kristi: It was wonderful to see everyone! I especially appreciated the chance to meet and chat with colleagues who may not be in groups I meet with regularly. It was fun to meet new people and have a chance to really appreciate the vastness of this talented and dedicated network.
Verónica: Absolutely! In my opinion, there are many advantages to remote work and virtual meetings but the ability to engage in the most meaningfully “human” way is dependent on person-to-person contact. At the Summit, I was better able to establish deeper connections, to share likes/dislikes, hobbies, family stories and pictures! It was a fantastic experience to finally be in the same room with so many of my “Zoom-square” friends.
Kristi: It was such a treat to attend the performance by Ann Caldwell and the Magnolia Singers. During their a cappella performance, I was struck by how each person sang their part beautifully, but when each of the parts was combined, it was pure magic. It was a great reminder of the importance of a good collaboration!
Verónica: Yes! I am very grateful that our brilliant hosts thought of having Charleston’s First Poet Laureate, Mr. Marcus Amaker, be the opening act to our first working day. I think his presentation set the right tone for the entire Summit meeting. He challenged us to be honest, vulnerable but also politically/socially engaged, accountable to our choices, our personal backgrounds, and circumstances. His entire presentation was perfect, and I particularly enjoyed hearing him talk about his work as poetry teacher to Charleston’s children and read to us his students’ work.
Erika: I particularly liked Mr. Marcus Amaker’s poem about taking care of oneself. Sometimes our job responsibilities, family concerns and grown-up activities make us forget how important it is to take a short pause and re-evaluate (of course! we are evaluators…) what is really important in life… books, friends, good conversations, food, walks… and we were lucky to experience all those in Charleston for a couple of days…
Verónica: I just want to congratulate our hosts, Region 2, and everyone else involved in the planning and execution of this summit for all their excellent work. I was very grateful for all their efforts to keep us safe, engaged, and well-fed. Charleston was an overall great experience, thanks NNLM!
Erika: I want to thank hosts and event organizers for their tremendous effort to make this summit a great success. I had the chance to talk to NNLM colleagues from different regions and learn more about their projects and challenges. It was a very productive summit!
Kristi: What an amazing opportunity for fun and fellowship. I appreciate everyone’s friendliness and efforts to make the event a success. Our R2 hosts did a wonderful job to make us feel welcome and set the stage for a productive summit. My sincere thanks to R2, the summit organizers, and colleagues around the NNLM for your incredible efforts to make this a success. It was a joy to visit the wonderful city of Charleston and I will be back!