Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Interview with Kristin Fields
During the 2012 CEE conference a year ago, I looked up at one point in my trek between buildings and around construction zones to see Conference Director Kristin Fields standing on the ramp at the back of the student union, marshaling us all in the direction of lunch. She looked so elegantly composed amid all the conference comings and goings and the dust and noise of construction that I found myself commenting to her on it. At other times, during that conference and the others I’ve attended, I’d see her often in the hallway as sessions let out – always with that same sense of composed awareness and attention to our conference experience.
As a relatively recent graduate, I’ve only ever known the conference with Kristin at its helm. This year, after four years as Conference Director, she’s stepping down. Since her contributions have been many, and since I can’t quite yet imagine CEE without her as Director, I decided to interview her. Below are highlights from our conversation.
Amy Frazier: How does it feel to be done?
Kristin Fields: Good! I’ve finally realized my part in the process. We really created this great thing and I can see how I have helped to make that happen. It has a really solid structure and it’s part of the fabric of the community. It’s a happy ending. I feel really good.
AF: What went through your mind when you began four years ago?
KF: I was excited about it. My previous job had been event management. I moved to facilitation, and missed the event management. This was like both. The conference had been the responsibility of the Graduate Assistant, but a new one always had to be retrained. Gerard wanted more continuity.
AF: And you did this along with having a full time job?
KF: This was the hardest challenge. I wanted to work on the conference all the time. My “5 - 9 work…” It was pretty much a year round job.
AF: I’m imagining that the degree came in handy.
KF: Oh my gosh! “It sure is a good thing we all have degrees in creative problem solving” – that was our mantra. All the times I filled my dining room table with Post-its! I would travel for work, and in airports it was process maps and flow charts. Each year there was some crisis. I used the degree formally or informally the whole way through.
AF: Tell me about one of the crises.
KF: The construction around the building! Last year I didn’t find out about it until I pulled in with bagels and muffins on the opening day. Another was the year before last, when I found out a week and half before the conference that there would be no food on campus. I was eight and a half months pregnant and dragging coolers to Bulger so people could have beverages for lunch…
AF: You taught the conference class as part of the job as well.
KF: Yes – I wanted to put my fingerprint on the course contract. Challenging people to take a stretch workshop was my contribution. This has been one of the most successful experiences for the students. It’s opened doors for people. I enjoyed this the most. We look to push people outside their own paradigms; we were really trying to be thoughtful about how to make the experience meaningful.
AF: You at one point were the President of the Alumni Network, so you’re the perfect person to ask: is CEE “the alumni conference?”
KF: Yes and no. Yes because most of our attendees are alumni. But it’s open to anyone who’s got a strong interest. We do want it to be a reunion, a homecoming. We want people to think “I have to go so I can see my colleagues and be refreshed and have more energy.” But now there’s also more of a focused push outward.
Everyone who comes is exactly who we want to have here.
AF: What’s next for you?
KF: I’ll be doing some adjunct teaching and I’m looking forward to spending more time with students. The position was heavy on logistics, time management, project management, physical labor. I’m looking forward to taking on intellectuality again. Having time to read before 10:30 pm.
AF: How about an IWBGI for CEE.
KF: IWBGI… there could be no more construction going on! To give some creative thought to the location; maybe a new space will present itself on campus.
AF: Where does CEE go from here?
KF: It was great that it was so hard to select the workshops this year. People were telling me they were mad they couldn’t go to everything. I’ll take that “negative feedback” and be really proud of it! Finally, we’re there – with the caliber we’re looking for. The continued challenge is to promote that caliber.
AF: Thanks for an inspiring conversation.
KF: It’s been an honor.