Posted by: viaprograms | February 9, 2010

Reflecting on Seven Years with VIA

Effective December 30th of last year Gwen respectfully resigned from VIA’s Board of Directors where she served as a member for seven years, the last two years as Board Chair. Kevin Smith is VIA’s new Chair. Gwen is a development and evaluation specialist and consultant with twenty years of direct field experience in program planning and delivery, capacity building, and the evaluation of development initiatives in Asia and Latin America.

Serendipity brought me into contact with VIA in July of 2002 – first as acting interim executive director and thereafter as board member. I was and still am attracted by VIA’s core values and work – changing the world people-to-people and person-by-person through transformative learning experiences and cross-cultural partnerships. One of the most life-changing chapters in my own life was living and working as a human rights advocate and cooperant in Central America. Because of that experience I changed careers and for the past twenty years I have worked in the field of international development.

During my tenure on the board I am most proud that we successfully completed VIA’s 5-year endowment drive, which will contribute to the organization’s future financial sustainability. Some of my favorite moments during board meetings were listening to Stanford Program and Asia Program staffs reflect on their work in providing experiential learning opportunities for volunteers and students. Their efforts have been invaluable to active service learning that encourages livelong civic responsibility and engagement. I have also enjoyed being a program evaluation resource to VIA staff and board in developing a more systematic approach to measuring and assessing the outcomes and results of their work goals and activities.

VIA is at an exciting moment in its history. The organization is fortunate to have an ongoing and supportive alumni base. With Michael as VIA’s new ED manning the tiller, board and staff are embarking on an important strategic planning process – charting the path ahead for VIA, exploring innovative programming possibilities and maximizing the organization’s operational potential. And just around the corner VIA will be celebrating its 50th anniversary. I’ll definitely see you all at the celebration.

It has been a privilege to get to know and serve the volunteers, students, alumni, and friends of VIA who care deeply and passionately about VIA’s mission and work and who continue to be a strong voice for public service. Their stories are inspirational. I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given over the past seven years to be a direct part of VIA and I leave with deep admiration for the staff and board of VIA, for their dedication to promoting US-Asia cross-cultural exchange and partnerships.

Gwendolyn Smith

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