David Grindle was appointed the first-ever executive director of USITT in May 2010 and has survived his first winter in Syracuse, NY. On the eve of the USITT 2011 conference and stage expo in Charlotte, NC, Live Design touched base with Grindle to check on the state of the Institute.

1. What piqued your interest about the new executive director job at USITT?
The opportunity to serve the membership was the major draw. I thought there were many projects the Institute had wanted to get off the ground, but really they needed a full-time director to bring the details together for them.

2. How would you describe the current state of the Institute?
The Institute has energy and excitement growing from our 50th anniversary that is incredible. We have members bringing new ideas for programming, funding, and membership to the table, and that is exciting to see. Our board meetings are full of enthusiasm for our ongoing work plus new programs and projects that are in the planning stages. That enthusiasm spreads through all that is going on at USITT.

3. How does having an executive director affect the Institute's strong volunteerism?
The volunteerism at USITT continues to be one of the strongest parts of the organization. Having an executive director allows our volunteers to get more work done through alliances that have been strengthened at the executive director level. The best part of my job is working with the volunteers and saying, “What do you need from me and the office to help this idea succeed?” and watching it get done.

4. What are your goals for this year, and where would you like to see USITT five years from now?
The board asked me to focus on strengthening the member experience and growing the visibility of the Institute. Those goals are great opportunities, and I think we are well on our way. We’ve increased member benefits, expanded the presence of USITT in the industry, strengthened our online offerings, and reinforced alliances with our longtime partners while building new ones.

I would like to see the Institute grow through its active members. Finding ways to allow each of our members, at every level, to be active in their area—geographically and from a business perspective—would continue to forge new opportunities. If we can achieve that, then we will all be involved, and the organization and the industry better for it.

5. Is there one specific problem or challenge you need to solve?
The challenge we all have to face is how to maintain the current energy in our membership. There is so much excitement among the board, commissions, and the organization as a whole that we must capitalize upon it. Both president Joe Aldridge and I have been pushing the members to voice their hopes, concerns, and wishes for the organization.

We are a member service group and need to have the membership telling us what they want in the organization. We have that involvement at the moment, a continuation of USITT’s long-standing tradition. The challenge is to act on what is being offered now and continue the flow of ideas from the membership.