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New Year’s Resolutions or Year-in-Review

Acting director, Jeff Gunderson.

How would you like your life to be evaluated? Would you rather be rated on the relevance of the New Year’s resolutions you made or would you like to have it based on what you actually did this past year - like one of those year-in-review special editions? In the past, Sea Grant was primarily reviewed on the quality and need for the research and outreach projects that were proposed - kind of like evaluating your New Year’s resolutions. The emphasis from the National Sea Grant Office is now on what we did with the money we received - more like the year-in-review special. Having to demonstrate to a national review team what you’ve done over the last four to five years is intimidating, especially when the review process is new and you are one of the first programs to go through it.

Minnesota Sea Grant was the sixth program of 29, nationwide, to undergo one of these reviews that we affectionately call the PAT review (PAT stands for Program Assessment Team). We got PATed this past October. Preparing for the review consumed a significant amount of staff time and energy. It also required a tremendous contribution of time and effort from our collaborators and constituents. The review team wanted to hear not only from us about what we did but also wanted to talk with real people who could comment on our past research and outreach activities. We prepared extensive documentation and set up four hectic days of meetings with collaborators, constituents, staff, and administrators.

After all was said and done, the process proved uplifting. Too often we begin focusing on the next project, the next proposal, or trying to meet the next deadline without taking time to look back and enjoy the fruits of our labor. Even more rare is reminiscing with our colleagues about our accomplishments. The PAT review provided such moments for us. We were able to sit down, look back at the materials that documented our past four to five years’ efforts, and enjoy the willingness of our collaborators and clientele to support us in this review process. It made us all feel like we made a difference, both individually and collectively. This review process also increased our visibility within the University of Minnesota and with our collaborators and clientele. Like us, I’m sure they had not really reflected on Sea Grant’s impacts until they were asked to speak with the review team. In addition to these benefits, the review team gave us high marks, which made the overall experience even more rewarding.

Nothing stays the same, however, and shortly after hearing the outcome of the PAT, we had to say good-bye to our director, Mike McDonald. This was a bittersweet moment. We all realized Mike’s move to direct the Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program in Raleigh, North Carolina, was an excellent professional and personal opportunity for him. Still, Mike’s leadership will be missed. Mike began directing the Sea Grant program during a period of turmoil when the director’s office was moved from St. Paul to Duluth. He was able to successfully accomplish this transition. He helped unite the staff in a way never achieved before. He kept our program visible within the University and at the National Sea Grant Office. He wholeheartedly supported staff and allowed us the freedom to do our best work. He created and fostered a real sense of teamwork and a feeling that we were part of something important. And, Mike was fun - fun to work with and fun to work for. We’ll miss Mike but we all wish him the best in his new endeavors.

jeff’s signature

Jeffrey L. Gunderson
Acting Director, Minnesota Sea Grant

By Jeff Gunderson
December 1998

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