What's going on in FIRST Upper Midwest?

I want to address a removed post that moderators cited for being off topic, where I asked Eric of he was asking certain questions because he wanted a horse head in his bed. It was actually on topic, as it was an allusion to 1816 being like the mafia. I will attempt to be clearer going forward.

Edit: to avoid flags and takedowns I will add that I personally do not believe this is a personal attack and more of a broad conclusion reached by the various stories from multiple people over the last half decade that when assembled together in a thesis could argue that some members of the board who serve on that team exhibit behavior similar to a mafia.


This is a very interesting point, and one that’s been top of mind since I finally got around to watching the recording of Don’s FUN interview where he was asked a similar question

It seems that maintaining alumni representation on boards is a challenge faced by many across the program. It seems like FIRST Alumni would have lots to offer on these boards given their existence and continued involvement in the program is a pretty good indicator of that program’s success and they would be able to provide a unique perspective as a former participant in the program.


Interesting facts only tangentially related… it appears that non-profit boards, in general, are composed of older individuals. Alumni on FIRST-related boards is definitely important, as they bring a different viewpoint than mentors, parents, or volunteers. The best advice for anyone - if you’re in the area of operations for a non-profit you want to get involved with, reach out to them and let them know your interest! You can’t be a board member if no one knows you’re interested.

I know Rachel quite well (seeing as she was a student on my team our first two years, and returned later as a mentor), and I encouraged her to apply as a board member when FUM was starting up. It’s unfortunate she’s not able to continue in that role right now, but I’m hopeful she’ll return to it eventually.


I agree with this, although I’d offer that some of the responsibility also has to fall on the BoD. Diversity and inclusion are a massive part of FIRST, so not being proactive about maintaining diversity (gender, race, age, profession, to name a few) in leadership is a failure (in my eyes) of the BoD more so than the community. To describe my view a bit differently, sitting back and saying “no one has shown interest in stepping up to lead” is (once again, in my eyes) the same as saying, “we don’t want to look for new leaders because of X.”

If the BoD doesn’t go out of its way to set diversity goals (race, ethnicity, age, alumni, gender, etc.), no change will ever come about.


Is this a stated goal of the board?

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I’m not sure I have enough insight into how the organization operates (I’m in NC), but I’d have to imagine there are folks on CD that would know more. I also don’t know how (if any) FIRST guidelines affect the structure and operation of a regional BoD.

Diversity of the board (in many forms) is something that the board is acutely aware needs to improve. The nominating committee is beginning a new search for directors, so if anyone out there is interested or knows someone who they believe would be a good candidate, please reach out to someone on the board!

FIRST doesn’t have any impact on the structure of the board.

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Great. Let me ask you - how do we go about doing that? I can certainly recommend and encourage former students I know, as can other members of the board (and I know at least several of them have!). But that only goes so far, and limits you to a pool of a dozen or so teams, realistically speaking. How do we go about finding and encouraging former students we don’t know, from teams we don’t work closely with? We got the word out as best we can with email blasts, posts to the website, posts to facebook and twitter… but there’s only so much that can be done when you don’t have contact information for people. My team has encountered that when planning our annual event during the Minneapolis regionals - we get it included in email blasts and everything else… yet we get to the event and find a ton of people that had no idea about it.

D&I is important, even critical. As you’ll notice from the FUM website, there is a D&I committee that has been quite active in it efforts.

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One thing I admire about FIRST Indiana is that they have a student board comprised of Dean’s List Finalists. I don’t know much more than that but I thought it was a good way to utilize talent recognized by FIRST and add students’ voices/diversity to their BoD.

Full disclosure: I think Renee is pretty rad


That sounds like a really neat concept! IDK about restricting it to DLFs only, but I wonder if something similar could be implemented in other regions

Like with most problems, I would start by starting the discussion internally and attempt to identify the board’s shortcomings. I’d then ask people outside of the immediate group for feedback on their perception of the board and what they believe the board’s shortcomings are. I would avoid trying to explain, justify, defend, etc. anything that people might point out. Keep in mind that the purpose of this exercise is to ask for feedback.

You might find that some people may not be comfortable offering feedback. Several things might cause this, but judging by your response above, I suspect it’s because the board doesn’t currently foster a welcoming, respectful atmosphere. Keep in mind that I’m an outside observer with no ties to the region. All I did was stumble across something that stood out to me and asked a question.

To answer your question more directly, I would work to welcome anyone who wants to help with respect and encouragement. The objective of any FIRST organization is to inspire. Scaring people off isn’t inspirational. Challenging people isn’t inspirational.

To reiterate, I’m just an outsider with absolutely no skin in the game. I’m trying to offer feedback on the sliver of interactions I’ve had thus far after pointing out something I identified on a website. If I’m already put-off by your reaction to my feedback, what must others in the region think?


I’m confused.

How does the second statement address the need identified in the first?

It’s an honest question, it’s not meant to be challenging or disrespectful. I described some of the very real challenges we have when proactively looking for diverse membership. If you have suggestions for how to overcome or get around those challenges, please let me know! I would love to know how to manage reaching the people we should be reaching directly, instead of relying on others to pass the message along.

Fixing one does not automatically fix the other. Being more open and accepting of different points of view will make improving diversity easier. The point behind diversity and inclusion isn’t just to check a box. People of differing gender, race, ethnicity, age, etc. will have different life experiences, and that will inherently lead to differing opinions and perspectives. If an organization isn’t ready to do the necessary work to understand those different perspectives, it will continuously struggle to foster diversity.

Because I’m not familiar with the region, I don’t think it’s my place to tell the organization what to do. I can say that, until the organization is willing to embrace the mentality I described above, it will continue to push people away.

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Ok, so… what have you seen from the organization that makes you think it doesn’t embrace diversity?

It’s easy to make broad sweeping statements like you’ve done, it’s much harder to square them away with what i’ve seen come out of the D&I committee, or from the public work FUM has done thus far to support FRC.

Perhaps we’re using different definitions of the “Upper Midwest”, but I don’t particularly find an organization ran almost entirely by one state that benefits one state very inclusive or diverse.


I wasn’t able to find any information about the D&I committee’s tangible actions. I found several points outlining the committee’s focus, but tangible reports and data showing it’s impact aren’t available. Is there another place where I can find that information?

Looking at the site, you’ve done more than MentorBuilt has done, so good on ya.


Just going to put together two concerns already brought up in this thread around diversity in ideas - how about committing to fill one or more of the open board spots with a FIRST alumni not from the twin cities?

The board also appears to be lacking anyone involved in secondary education (high school teachers). The world of education has changed greatly since many of the members last sat in a classroom.

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So, an alumni teacher from out-state. Anything else to narrow down the selection criteria?

In all seriousness, there is a focus on increasing diversity where we can. Being aware of areas where more diversity is needed is the first step, and nothing that’s been said here has surprised me - We know we’re currently lacking in alumni and out-state representation. We’re lacking in racial diversity. We’re lacking in gender diversity. These are all things that the nominating committee considers. So please, if you know someone that helps fill gaps in our current diversity and would make an impact, get them in touch with us! Seriously, it’s really hard to fill the gaps if you don’t have applications, and we want people to apply and to get involved! The more people we have express interest, the wider the selection pool is, and the easier it will be to find someone that can make an impact while increasing the diversity of the board.

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