Mary Robb

Why do you want to be a board member?

Experienced professionals are important for any board.  I am a licensed attorney, with 13 years' experience in areas including, but not limited to, non-profit organizations, criminal law, ADR, and civil litigation. I enjoy contributing to our community in both leadership and volunteer roles, and working with the board is perhaps the best way to use my education, skills, and talents to benefit the org.

If elected to the board, what will your priorities be?

First and foremost, to become more familiar with the org itself, and develop a working knowledge of both our immediate, and long-term goals.  My other priorities include helping to manage conflicts in a proactive manner, helping the board with its search for our permanent home, and helping develop relationships with the authorities and community in whatever location we call home for any of our burns.

What is your long-term vision for the future of Flashpoint Artists Initiative?

For us to continue having our burns, to increase the sense of community and "home" among all our members, to continue funding local artists, and to continue and increase our contribution to our "default world" communities.

What would you most like to contribute as part of the FAI BOD?

Helping us to establish a permanent home, helping to create the 501(c)3 org when the time is right, and helping to ensure the smoothest possible relations with authorities during our events (helping to create, and preserve "The Bubble.")

Please tell us about the experience (professional, burn world, or otherwise) that you can contribute to the FAI BOD.

Please see above regarding my 13 years' experience as an attorney.  I have also served as an officer (treasurer) and director (community outreach/volunteer recruiting) in student government, and other organizations.  Please see my response directly below for my relevant burn-world experiences.

What roles have you served in at Alchemy and/or Euphoria?  In leadership positions at other burns?

I was the Effigy logistics lead for Alchemy 2016, which included not just traditional logistics, but purchasing, and interacting with authorities on site as well.  At Alchemy 2015, "Alchemud," my first burn, I directed traffic at the main intersection during Saturday's mass exodus, and at Euphoria 2016, which shall remain unnamed, I work on the Effigy build and pre-build teams, volunteered at greeters on Thursday night, and in traffic Sunday morning.

Please describe your leadership style and experience (in detail).

Much of my experience is detailed above.  I have also taught college courses, recruited and directed volunteers for various organizations in which I have been involved.  As an attorney, I have directed my own staff, my clients, and consulted on, and tried cases to juries, which is all about leadership.  My style is best described as, "Everything is Going to be Fine," and "Respond.  Don't react."  The first inspires positive attitudes, and helps people to stop worrying, and let go of the fear of failure that can sideline them.  The inclusion and participation hurdle is cleared, I lead by continuous encouragement;  helping people find niches; and positively keeping them on-task.  The second keeps me calm, no matter what; and allows me to conflict and perceived crises , in accordance with applicable laws, board standards, and, third, safety.  That said, in matters of principle, law, and preservation of the group's mission, I have no problem standing my ground, and making sure things get done.

Please describe a time you faced a difficult leadership situation and the steps you used to resolve it (in detail).

As a very new attorney, I taught a college paralegal course.  The class met at night, so my students were a bit older, and most had jobs during the day.  I had two leadership issues arise during my first semester.

First, a difficulty of my own making, I tried, initially, to run the course like a law school course, expecting every student to be prepared to recite during every class, and to draft full documents for exams.  This didn't work, for a number of reasons, and I laugh about it now.  Law school was my full-time job; I had an advanced degree, a full scholarship, and some assistance with my two young children.  I failed to consider where my students were coming from, their experience and prior education, and the obstacles they faced returning to school at all.  

Second, a difficulty not of my making, one student was very hostile towards me.  For night classes, we spent the first few minutes of class chatting with the students, to help them transition into school mode, de-stress from their days, and to allow flex time for traffic.  One night, a woman yelled at me to start class and stop wasting her time.  I had many feelings.  Instead of sharing, I said the material was so exciting I couldn't wait to get started, either.  Her attitude continued throughout the class, and several other students told me the woman threatened me during their break. I wanted her expelled, maybe imprisoned...

I felt like a failure as a leader and a teacher.  I thought about the many classes and groups I had taught and led, and realized the difference.  I didn't know these students.  I had to find a way to connect with my students within the night school structure.  I increased my office hours, and each student had to see me personally to get the results of every exam.  We went over their questions, but mostly, we went over their lives.  I got to know them as people, and learned how hard some of them struggled just to get there, that their education and experience were far different from the average law student.  I learned that the woman who was so hostile was a former transit police officer, who had been knocked onto the tracks.  She was not electrocuted, but her back was broken.  It was raining the night of her outburst, and the rods in her back were causing her a lot pain, but she did not want to miss even one class.  I was glad I had responded, instead of reacting.

Once I knew my students, I started teaching for them, and not for my overly-inflated new-lawyer ego.  I like to think my students learned a lot in that class.  I know I did.  Lesson to me:  the essential ingredient in effective leadership is humility.  The leader is not more than, nor less than, the participants.  The roles are simply different, and everyone needs to feel valued.

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop?  Why?

3; the Owl said so, and I tried it myself.


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