Recently I had the opportunity to prepare a training session entitled “Dynamics of Identity and Diversity: Social Justice Narratives” for a group of Fulbright scholars visiting our campus this August. In preparing the session material I selected two surveys and few exercises from the Social Justice Training institute and pondered their applicability and meaningful impact on a group of visitors from all over the world, particularly searching for ways to make them accessible to participants’ contexts. The inspiration to the hows and whys of engaging this session as a co-learning activity found its way to works done by EDRA members. This was not an aha-moment, rather it was a matter of fact; accompanied by a rising recognition of the great challenges and opportunities around us that EDRA members and organization have a responsibility to meet. EDRA’s work is steeped in the imperatives of social and environmental justice and authentic inquiry, overtly and covertly, across the board. It is that aspect that propels us forward as an organization and as a community of active and informed participants to ask difficult questions, to see and hear the missing voices, to build relations and bridges, to challenge injustice, to educate, to learn, to know and appreciate one another, to activate and speak out, and to seek a world of beauty, equity, justice, and memory. Our history and present as an organization speak to many milestones along these lines, the journey continues with determination, reflection, and insight.
Concluding my first year as the Chair of the EDRA Board of Directors, I’d like to share something about the board that carries the same values above. The Board of Directors code of ethics and responsibilities outlines three primary duties: duty of care (of the organization and its future, as a reasonable person would, with professionalism and ethic of participation), the duty of obedience (to bylaws, to overarching principled professionalism and ethic), and the duty of loyalty (fiduciary responsibility, declaring and removing self from conflicts of interest and personal gains). They underscore our professional, ethical, and heartfelt commitment to EDRA as a whole, its members, and its future. In embracing these duties the board takes seriously its role and listens to the members, reaches out to the communities around us, challenges positions when needed and speak out, inspires the vision and carries the mission of the organization forward. Regularly we find ourselves appreciating the diversity of EDRA and its layers of identity, the temporal and spatial qualities of our being as a professional and active organization, and the questions that remain to be asked; we recognize the strength and potential of impact we all have when we act out of this profound well of care, evidence, passion, and vision. Thank you for allowing us to represent you and for your active participation with us, together we do good!
This past year has been one of great energy, stemming from those values and visions. Below is a short list of what we have achieved and set in motion.
Increased Participation & Vested Engagement:
- Thanks to the nominations and process set forth in 2012, this year we welcomed the first emeritus member to the board, a most appropriate choice for the board position; Professor Emeritus and EDRA founder Henry Sanoff. With enhanced online system, 2014 board elections garnered the highest number of voters in recent history.
- With an agile conference theme, structure, and excellent conference co-chairs leadership, EDRA45NewOrleans showcased a record number of abstract/poster submissions. We also experienced a record low when it came to attrition of accepted presentations, people were there!
- EDRA45 NewOrleans boasted the highest number of conference registrations/attendees in EDRA’s recent history, the energy and conversations greatly made the faulty A/C recede to the background!
- This year we also implemented EDRA Shorts, and the word is that members want to continue this format with the great suggestions received during members’ meeting.
Recognizing Quality of Research:
New intersections and areas of explorations continue to be engaged and nudged, whether through conference collaborations, or as an outcome of focused sessions.
- A successful inaugural Translational Research symposium that took place in October 2013 in New York City at the New York School of Interior Design in New York City. EDRA, in partnership with the New York School of Interior Design, was pleased to present "The Landscape of Accountable Care: How a Patient Focus is Changing the Industry”.
- Following review of the inaugural symposium, the translational research symposia: Edra Horizons was launched in 2014, and the call for the 2015 symposium is out for your use. EDRA Horizons is a series of regional symposia whose primary purpose is the translation of design research into practice and policy.
- The EDRA Special Report: Development of Tools for Healthcare Environments Research and Practice, a compendium of 10 short essays authored by a community of researchers who have been involved in developing various tools to measure both environmental variables as well as outcomes, was published.
- EDRA CORE--The Certificate of Research Excellence -- launched during EDRA45NewOrleans, thanks to the great and sustained efforts of the leading taskforce. This certificate recognizes rigorous, valuable, and impactful practice-based research to spark innovation and promote best practice in environmental design. First applications are accepted October 1-November 15, 2014
- The Great Places Awards continued under a new format for interdisciplinary distance judging, publication, and celebration.
Reaching Out & Speaking Up:
Exploring connections, alliances, and new partnerships; this is an area we continue to work with and explore. We are reaching out to sister organizations, while keeping EDRA’s well-being and vision at the core of our dialogues.
- EDRA launched a committed, involved, and sustained response to NAAB’s 2014 Conditions for Accreditation, and our response was co-signed by several other professional organizations. We also invited NAAB for an ongoing dialogue with EDRA.
- Increased and enhanced communication via multiple portals: EDRA Connections featured compelling articles and currently invite contributions for the upcoming issue, Bi-weekly newsbrief Environment By Design continues to bring relevant and interesting information forward; and multiple EDRA social media channels (FB, LinkedIn, Twitter) make all EDRA news and connections more accessible by a wider audience.
- The board as a whole, and Development and Program committees in particular, continue exploration and outreach initiatives to bring visibility to work being done by EDRA members, and to advance our field through innovative and authentic teaching, research, service, and professional practice.
Investing in the Future:
- EDRA Student Research Grant call for applications launched June 2014; this grant is seen as a mechanism of investing in the future generation of scholars in Environmental Design Research and practice.
- EDRA Student Members, through engaging with student representative on the board, have spoken out; and outlined several initiatives to help strengthen the student experience in EDRA.
- We are eager to enhance participation from across many diversities. In our continued evaluation of who is not represented in EDRA, we are reaching out to minority groups within the USA and abroad. Your assistance and participation in this aspect would be greatly appreciated.
- Responding to a request from the membership and visible need, the International Scholar Initiative taskforce was initiated, and a draft proposal was developed for enhancing underprivileged international scholars’ participation in EDRA as well as expanding EDRA’s knowledge and outreach. This work will continue to develop over the next year with the idea of developing a funding structure and evaluation tools.
Governance and Organizational Transparency:
- Bylaws were revised to include the emeritus board member as well as clarify processes and procedures for elections and other bylaw articles. This is an ongoing process that looks at consistency of practice and process.
- The Knowledge Networks taskforce continues to develop strategies to effectively engage membership and energize networks.
The long view allows us in EDRA to build initiatives on sound reasoning and critical insights, sometimes a process that takes several years. When launched we allow time for these initiatives to mature, taking feedback and assessing direction, to enhance overall performance of what we put forward. EDRA’s members participation in taskforce groups and committees helped these initiatives come forward, we thank you all for the great It is a long view that we work toward, with many excellent ongoing reaffirmations in the process.
Many thanks for theses successful initiatives completed and the work planned go to Marwa Abdelmonem, David Boeck, Mallika Bose, Gowri Betrabet Gulwadi, Tasoulla Hadjiyanni, Shauna Mallory-Hill, Paula Horrigan, Henry Sanoff, April Spivack, Nick Watkins, Jeff Carney, Kristi Cheramie, Jeremy Wells, Lefteris Pavlides, Emily Chmielewski, Lynn Paxson, Cherif Amor, and many others.
I look forward to 2015 EDRA conference in Los Angeles and the theme, “brain STORM: Dynamic Interactions of Environment-Behavior and Neuroscience”, and to Greg Barker and Nisha Fernando’s creative and engaging approach as the conference co-chairs.
I am excited about the upcoming year and the great possibilities that await us. I thank the outgoing board members for their service and commitment: Tasoulla Hadjiyanni, Henry Sanoff, April Spivack; welcome the new board members on board: Lubomir Popov, Jennifer Senick, and emeritus board member Lynda Schneekloth , and extend great wishes to Shauna Mallory-Hill the incoming Chair of the EDRA Board of Directors. I also want to express heartfelt thanks to the extraordinary work of EDRA Executive Director -- Kate O’Donnell, and her wonderful team at EDRA Headquarters: Kartraice Hooper, Lauren Sawicki, and Anita Parker; without their commitment and heart none of this would have been possible.
I am embarking on a short trip with family to The Heart of The Monster and Big Hole, in the states of Idaho and Montana respectively; both historically significant to the Nimiipuu (Nez Perce) people. Our journey is a tribute and a remembering of painful truths. As I prepare myself to the journey, I remember the words from EDRA45 track chairs, the words of various speakers, and I know that within EDRA we have the tools and the courage to honor, acknowledge, and make amends. I wish you all a good and healthy 2014 summer, a time of rejuvenation, and growth.
Rula Awwad-Rafferty, Ph.D.
Chair, EDRA Board of Directors, 2013-2014