2014 Leadership Retreat, Denver, CO

Every year, AIGA chapters from across the country send their board members to a weekend-long retreat to network, share ideas, and learn how to build more successful chapters back home. This year, seven members of our board flew to Denver to spend a few days in the mountains, learning about leadership, seeing old friends and making new ones, and hosting one kick-ass closing party.

Our board representatives were President Gwen O’Brien, Vice President John O’Neill, Design for Good Director Kate Hunt, Diversity Director Carlos Estrada, Membership Director Emily Noffsinger, Volunteer Chair Melanie Ronquillo, and 2015 Leadership Retreat and Programming Chair Elyse Flynn.

During General Session, we were introduced to the AIGA National Board. Ric Grefe, AIGA Executive Director, spoke about the state of the organization as a whole. After celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, AIGA is looking to the future and remembering to focus on what is important: relevance, leadership, and opportunity. We were reminded that we are part of a much larger organization with support from all areas. Currently, AIGA has 68 chapters and over 25,000 members.

In addition, there was a one-day leadership workshop and an excellent experience mapping exercise that opened our eyes a bit to the experience of our members. Each of us also attended topic lunches and breakout sessions in order to share information and solve problems with other chapters. We took away a wealth information regarding programming, membership, getting students involved and AIGA’s new women’s leadership initiative.

Kate Hunt co-led a breakout session about Design for Good and spoke about Spring B’Reykjavik, our chapter’s trip to Iceland for Design Week. Carlos Estrada helped start a conversation on the topic of diversity within the field and the organization. This has led to a monthly call with other board members who want to make this a more relevant discussion. Gwen spoke about West Michigan’s first Design Week that occurred this past May and was able to share insight and learn from other chapters and cities. John also spent an afternoon collaborating with other Vice Presidents on a panel to discuss the VP experience.

As the weekend came to a close, Gwen and John took to the stage to introduce the attendees to our chapter and raffle off office chairs from Haworth, Herman Miller, and Steelcase. Next year, AIGA West Michigan is honored to host the 2015 Leadership Retreat at the Amway Grand in Grand Rapids. We spent the last evening hosting a closing party at the Denver Beer Co., complete with more giveaways, a taco truck, and a beautiful evening with lots of awesome guests.

We took away so much from the weekend: learning better leadership skills, one-on-one time with Ric, an inspiring presentation from Josh Ulm at Adobe, and even a quick re-energizing trip to the Colorado Red Rocks one morning. We all arrived home with pockets full of business cards, notebooks filled with ideas, and matching Tattly tattoos to remind us that we are part of #aiga4life.

This retreat was a chance for us to learn how to be better for our chapter, to continue creating strong programming, to build our membership, and to show everyone what AIGA West Michigan is all about. We are extremely excited for the months to come and especially for 2015.

Special thanks to Experience GR, Herman Miller, Steelcase, our donation sponsors Michigan Awesome, Give Studio, Teamwork Bags, and Jill DeVries for awesome board portraits.

By AIGA West Michigan
Published July 3, 2014