An interview with an Advisory Services panel expert:
What are some of the rewards of serving on a panel?
You get to connect with different ULI members, the intellectual boot camp aspect of it breaks up the monotony of your current job, and you immerse yourself in a new place with new information and new people to come up with a really creative, innovative solution. Lastly, the opportunity to explore other cities and help them with their challenges and to see how we all have a similar toolbox in terms of how we solve problems. Helping other cities out and looking at how you can apply what you know to other communities was one of the most rewarding things for me.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a panelist?
From the sponsor side, it was making sure that we clearly and concisely formed the problem statement, really being clear about what we were asking the panel to do. Also making sure they had adequate information to support them in answering that question. You really have to be thoughtful about what you’re asking the panel to do, because they’re only here a week and at the end of the day you want them to give you what you need.
On the flip side of that, as a panelist, the hardest thing was to absorb such a large amount of information in a condensed time frame. I thought my brain would explode the first two days from reviewing the briefing book, GIS data, and policy and legal frameworks and really trying to understand the dynamics of their various relationships and partnerships in the community. Understanding that the most important thing was getting a grasp on how the community is functioning, how they feel about your particular problem, and really factoring that into what you actually do with your recommendation.
How have you benefited from volunteering as a panelist? How have Advisory Services panels had an impact on your work?
I know I have a greater appreciation for ULI in general. Being a part of a panel gave me an opportunity to give back to the community for very reasonable costs, might I add. It gives us an opportunity to give some really practical and reliable solutions for problems and development.
It’s impacted my work because I’m incorporating the process we used in Memphis into one of my current projects: the fact-finding stage, the analysis and testing of ideas, development strategies, and implementation steps—all in a very condensed timeline. I think there’s something to be said for that raw, off-the-top-of-your-head innovative thinking. I want to try it in one of my projects and see how it works.
What would you say to a ULI member who is considering participating in a panel for the first time? Any words of encouragement or advice?
For my first panel, I made sure that I knew the latest and greatest issues in the community, or whatever the study area is. I looked at media and tried to figure out the landscape and the tone of the community. Don’t walk in blind! The briefing book is only part of the story, and it’s the story that the sponsor wants to tell. You need to do your own research and look at other sources to figure out what’s really going on in the community. And also get lots of sleep!
And for prospective sponsors, be very clear about what you need and be very comprehensive in the information that you provide the panelists. If you say you have economic development tools, give them the toolbox. Give them everything you have. The more accessible the information is, the more efficient and innovative the panelists can be in creating their solutions. Be very responsive to the panels with information requests. Be very transparent.
Favorite panel memory?
I love music. I grew up in the Mississippi Delta, which is about an hour from Memphis, so I have a very deep appreciation for the musical landscape in that area. One of our panel dinners was at the Itta Bena restaurant located in B.B. King’s blues club on Beale Street in downtown Memphis. There was a live pianist who sang like Billie Holiday, and in that moment I realized that every detail about what we do during the panel visit is intentional. There was a plan to merge the panelists into the community and the culture in the city. I appreciate the thoughtfulness of everything that went into that process.
What are your professional interests?
I’m interested in community building, and neighborhood and business corridor revitalization. I’m drawn to the issue areas and really developing creative solutions for how to revitalize areas, working with the community to do that.
What was your childhood dream job?
I wanted to be a criminal lawyer. I was all over Law and Order—the original series.
What was the last book you read?
The Woman Code by Sophia Nelson. It’s kind of a personal guide to how to navigate life’s challenges and how to interact with other women. As you find a career ladder, it helps you deal with certain challenges in a very balanced way.
What was the first concert you ever attended?
The New Edition concert. It was at the Del Mar Fair in Del Mar, California, in 1985. I cried; I was so excited.
Panels I've served on: