Vivian’s Voice: Warm Wishes and Gratitude
Dear colleagues and friends:
As I wrap up my final week at the William T. Grant Foundation, I wanted to reach out to express my deep appreciation to you. It has been an amazing 18-year journey, which blossomed from a 2-year Postdoctoral Fellowship and Program Associate position to Senior Vice President of Program.
When Ed Seidman first recruited me to the Foundation, I was reluctant. But Ed is persuasive. He knew that I had long struggled with how to make research matter in policy and practice, and he told me, “That is what we are trying to figure out here. Come and we will figure it out together.” I will be eternally grateful to him and Bob Granger for providing me with exactly that opportunity. We have not solved the problems of bridging research, policy, and practice, but we have learned a lot and built stronger two-way streets between those communities.
Someone asked me recently what I will miss the most about my time at the Foundation. Beyond the shadow of a doubt, I will miss the relationships and communities we have built together. Funders speak a lot about “impact” on hard indicators, but we sometimes miss the importance of building relationships along the way. I hope that what endures beyond my tenure at the Foundation are the communities we helped create to support studies of the use of research evidence, research-practice partnerships, and the democratizing evidence movement. I hope the relationships forged through our Scholars and Mentoring grant programs will also continue to flourish. Initiatives will come and go with time, but relationships endure. None of the big problems we seek to tackle will be solved by iniatives alone, but relationships provide an enduring foundation for the important work that still lies ahead.
Beyond the shadow of a doubt, I will miss the relationships and communities we have built together.
I have learned a tremendous amount over the years from our grantees. I know it was not always easy to share the concerns that kept you up at night—to be vulnerable with your funder and fellow grantees—but I am grateful for the leap of faith that you took with me and my colleagues. It is through the obstacles you encountered and overcame that we learned the most about what the field needs to succeed and how we can improve our work. I also appreciate the ways in which many of you challenged me—in ways big and small—when I was wrong. It is near impossible for foundation staff to become smarter if no one ever tells us we are erring, so thank you for making my work at the Foundation an opportunity to constantly learn.
My thanks also go out to funder colleagues and partners. In the Nerd Herd and the Transforming Evidence Funders Network, I have found a “safe harbor” to confront the challenges we face in our funding roles, to push each other to do more and better, and to collaborate to make greater collective impact. I know our relationships will continue into my next role, and I look forward to our future partnerships.
Finally, I want to thank the staff, Senior Program Associates, consultants, Selection Committees, and Board members that I have served with over the years. Whenever job applicants asked about our organizational culture, I told them of the warmth and commitment of the people at the Foundation. I am grateful for your hard work, consideration to one another and our applicants and grantees, and dedication to our shared work to improve the lives of young people.
I am grateful for your hard work, consideration to one another and our applicants and grantees, and dedication to our shared work to improve the lives of young people.
I depart knowing that the Foundation’s work is in terrific hands with our Program staff and with Kim DuMont returning as Senior Vice President of Program on October 1. Kim will bring wonderful insights, empathy, commitments to equity, indefatigable energy, and deep integrity to this role. I look forward to following the Foundation’s work under her leadership.
Over the next few months, I will take time off to travel, refresh, and rejuvenate before I start my next position as the President and CEO of the Foundation for Child Development on November 1. That role holds special meaning to me because it was held by my mentor, Ruby Takanishi, from 1996 to 2012. She passed away two years ago, and I’d like to think she would be proud to see me taking the helm of this venerable organization. I look forward to continuing to unite research, policy, and practice to bring about a better society for children, especially those who have been marginalized by racism, xenophobia, and poverty.
Until then, you can contact me at tsengvivian88 [at] gmail [dot] com.
With warm wishes and gratitude,