JETAA Chicago officer elections are coming up on March 1st! In light of this, we wanted to take the time to shine a spotlight on our current officers (election term from November 2019 - March 2021) in order to get to know the people behind the headshots, and to learn more about what they do in their roles as officers. This will be an 8 part "Get to Know Our Officers" series in which we will highlight each officer leading up to the elections and come to know their motivations, values and legacy.
Last week we introduced our Outreach Coordinator, Dylan Coffey. Next we would like to introduce our Activities Coordinator, Cassie Conrad (she/her), who was an ALT in Miyazaki Prefecture from 2013-2018!
Tell us more about your JET experience.
I never "went away" to college, and had not traveled much before going on JET, so for me my experience was full of so many things I had never done. Swimming in the ocean, climbing mountains, kayaking, ice skating... and ALL the traveling! I think the most important experiences for me were meeting people from all over the world, though. They're some of the best friends I've made.
When did you join/how long have you been on the JETAA Board? What positions have you held?
Activities Coordinator since November 2019
What inspired you to step up as a leader and join the JETAA Chicago Board?
While on JET I was a member of our local AJET board for four years, and was president for two of them. I really enjoyed planning events and other activities with my teammates. Miyazaki Prefecture is geographically long, taking 5 hours to get from one end to the other. But we were able to coordinate events and activities all over the prefecture so that everyone felt seen and connected.
When I returned to the US, I really missed that sense of community. I wanted to connect with people who could understand my life and experiences in Japan, so I turned to JETAA Chicago. However, there wasn't a lot going on events-wise, and most of those that did happen were often difficult for me to take part in due to location.
When I saw there was an opening for the Activities Coordinator, I volunteered to step in. I'd enjoyed planning events in Miyazaki AJET, and had been successful in bringing together people from all over so I hoped I could do the same thing for JETAA Chicago. It is a significantly larger geographical area, so it's been a bit of a challenge! But I think the virtual events have helped out a lot with that goal.
Describe your officer duties and what you have enjoyed about said duties.
As the Activities Coordinator, I don't necessarily plan every single event that happens. I oversee the planning process for each event and make sure it stays on track. I prepare the timelines and communications outlines for each event, and make sure that the various forms of communication and marketing are sent out on schedule.
While I've have a hand in most of the events and activities we've done this past year, the ones where I have also acted as planner and host for were the trivia and craft nights. As someone who has a hard time stepping in to other people's conversations and needs something to *do* at an event, I wanted to try something different from the virtual happy hours we started off with. The trivia events became a big hit, so I'm really glad I pushed for them!
What could be a healthy and/or needed culture add to JETAA Chicago?
While we have reached much more of our community this year through virtual events, I think we still need to work on specific subchapter engagement initiatives. At the moment, even though the main JETAA Chicago events have been promoted to the subchapters, we don't really know much of what the subchapters are doing at all. I'd love to see the subchapter leaders be more involved with the main Board, and vice-versa.
What is one highlight, accomplishment, and/or something you're proud to have been a part of during your time serving as an officer?
I think launching virtual events has really helped us inspire more activity from our community. I do eagerly wait for the time when we can do in-person events again, but I'm very happy with how much engagement we have gotten this year!
For you, what sparks joy?
- My cats (also any cats, but especially mine)
- When students *get it* for the first time
- Laying outside in a warm breeze (preferably by the ocean, but this *is* the Midwest)
- Hosting dinners and parties
- I guess Kyle (my fiancé) does, too XD
What is your favorite Japanese "thing" near where you live now (and/or in the Midwest)?
There is a small sushi restaurant which I have visited for many years now (since before JET). I visited there so much that the owner recognizes me and will often serve extra dishes. It's very omotenashi, and makes me remember all the times I experienced Japanese hospitality while I was in Japan. Also Mitsuwa and Tensuke!