Erb Returns 2010: The Constancy of Change

On two beautiful crisp fall days this October in the warm familiarity of Gladwin’s Barn, 65  Erb/CEMP alums and some 30 members of the greater Erb community gathered to reunite, share their stories and experiences, and rediscover the warm bonds of community that time and distance can sometimes make you forget.

See a list of attendees here:

For those of you who were there, we’ve prepared this as a reminder. Please remember to enter your feedback on this year’s event in the following survey that Dominique sent by Sunday, Dec 5th, 11:59p.

For those of you who weren’t able to make it, here’s a taste of what you missed:

After a warm introduction by Erb Returns chair Tony Gross ’08, the official program began with a Job Crafting Exercise, facilitated by Janet Max of the POS Group, designed to help people identify opportunities to make their jobs more engaging and fulfilling.  (Jane Dutton, Ross MO Professor, is one of its creators).  It begins by asserting that there are three ways to make your job better – by making changes in the tasks you do at work, by making changes in your work relationships, and by making changes in the way you think about your work.  It then provides a framework to identify how you actually spend your time at work and how you would like to spend your time at work, based on your strengths, motives, and passions.  The final exercise was to create a diagram of the work life you want to have, and identify actions necessary to move in that direction.  And the best part of the exercise?  Playing with stickers.  If you missed the seminar and want to check it out, it’s available for $15 on the Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship’s website:

The Job Crafting Exercise was followed by an introduction (or re-introduction) to the Ross OCD staff – Marla McGraw, Leslie Lynn, and new mom Leslie Mulder (and baby!).  Bottom line:  whether job crafting or job searching, they’re still here if you need them.

Professor Gretchen Spreitzer, Chair of the Management and Organizations Department at Ross, followed with a presentation introducing some of the concepts employed by the Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship.  The center “seeks to study organizations typified by appreciation, collaboration, vitality, and fulfillment, where creating abundance and human well-being are key indicators of success.”  One of the techniques Gretchen shared was that of “appreciative inquiry,” which is a particular way of asking questions that fosters a positive and co-creative relationship between the inquirer and inquired.  Basically – treat people in a positive and respectful manner and you get great results.  Perhaps obvious to Erbers, but it’s nice to have some academic research backing it up.  You can find out more about POS at

After a tasty lunch (provided by Mona Sotolongo of Cezanne Catering) that even featured a vegan delight (earning two thumbs-up from vegan Liz Abbett ‘10), we were treated to a refreshingly honest and inquisitive keynote by Chris Park, head of Deloitte’s sustainability practice.  He shared some insights from his experience working with clients on sustainability, but also wanted to get our opinions on the new positioning he is developing for the sustainability practice.  (Great free consulting from us – we need to start charging!)

What emerged was that at the big corporate level there is still a great deal of work to be done on the sustainability front.  While some of their clients are interested in moving sustainability efforts forward and looking for help with how to do so, many still need to see clear financial bottom-line gains, and some are not interested much at all.  It was a reminder of how important it is that we push sustainability agendas at companies we want to change from both within and without.

New Erb student Neesha Modi ’12 gave a quick talk on Erb “Resource Groups,” an initiative born in the last few years that seeks to put our collective knowledge of different sustainability areas on the web.  Erb alums can see what groups exist and sign up at  Many kudos to students and staff for their work in making our collective knowledge more collectively available.

The next programs of the afternoon were topical breakout sessions:  “Change Theory into Practice” led by James Lloyd ’03, “Corporate Sustainability” led by Rob Frederick ’00, and “Climate Change & Carbon Markets: Copenhagen & Beyond,” led by Doug Glancy ’07.   In the Change Theory session, we role-played dealing with those folks at work who just don’t get it (sustainability, being a decent human being, etc.).  We discovered a lot of value in this type of role play, and as one-day-to-be organizational-change-guru Emily Plews ’10 put it, a role-play allows us to try out in ten minutes different approaches that might take ten weeks to try out in real life.  Who knows what happened in the other sessions, though sporadic cheering and shouts of “Chug! Chug! Chug!” indicated it was not all business.

The final session of the day was an update from Erb SAB co-presidents Nate Springer ’11 & Katie O’Hare ’11, and Institute jefe Rick Bunch on the state of the Institute.  Rick had a lot of positive things to say about the program and the alumni.  A main point was that it is US – the alumni – that keep Erb ahead of the other programs through the “cutting-edge stuff we are doing in [many different] fields.” He wants everyone to know that this is a watershed year – we have 100 students enrolled in the Erb program and 200 alumni.  He went on to say that Erb graduates should not shy away from any position centered around sustainability because we are without question the most qualified for it.  Very nice to know.

The next day, after folks staggered in following a night partying at the Cottage Inn with fellow alumni and current Erb students, we began with a second round of breakout sessions: “Renewable Energy” led by Ian Black ’08,  “Green Building & Development” led by Rich Bole ’06, and “Clean-tech Start-ups”, led by Jeff LeBrun ’09.

One thing that the breakout sessions made clear – we have an enormous breadth of knowledge and experience in the Erb network.  Take advantage of it!

The breakout sessions were followed by a great new idea – Erb TED talks!  Seven-minute stories about life, work, and sustainability.

We heard some great and inspiring stories from:

-Tony Baptista ‘05…on birding in Cape Cod & keeping your sustainability metrics simple and sustainable for your organization

-Ruth Scotti ‘05…on working at BP during the recent oil spill crisis and the silver lining of opportunities the spill created for biofuels

-Michael Hokenson ‘05…on why glossy slides with coffee farmers and artisan women won’t raise you millions in financing on Wall St. — but persistence will

-Laura Flanigan ’06…on how navigating a career in sustainability is like being an astronaut

-Meghan Chapple-Brown ‘02…on best practices in bringing novel media and innovation exercises to green government initiatives

-Tim Reed ‘00…on the reunion theme of constancy of change. What has and hasn’t changed over 10 years of CEMP/Erb graduates

Everyone did a great job in the inaugural (and hopefully be a continuing tradition of) ErbTED.

The day closed with well-earned thanks to Tony Gross ’08, Melissa Vernon ’02, Emily Plews ’10, Annie Barton ’10, Ian Black ’08, Christina Gilyutin ’08, Priyanka Bandyopadhyay ’09, Devon Douglas ’09, Doug Glancy ’07, Jess Lin-Powers ’07, Rick Bunch, Cyndy Cleveland, Dominique Abed, Henry Ladd, Karen Houghtaling and all the others who put in a lot of hard work to make it such a great event.  This was followed by a group discussion on how to continue to build on the experience in the future.

Again, PLEASE FILL OUT OUR ERB RETURNS FEEDBACK SURVEY BY Sunday., DEC.5th at 11:59pm.  We need your input to continue to improve Erb Returns!

If one theme emerged from Erb Returns it was this:  while life may bring constant change, one thing that does not seem to change is the quality of Erbers/CEMPers from past through present.  We’re an impressive group, with an amazing pool of knowledge, experience, empathy, and all-around good people.  Some great ideas were raised for how to keep that community vibe going when we’re not all in the same place – hopefully this will happen.  But sometimes you need to be in the same place.  So next time Erb Returns returns, give getting here the ol’ college try.

If you’d like to see the all the photos from this Erb Returns, please click on the link below (the Password is “erberite”):

If you are interested in being involved in planning alumni engagement activities and the next Erb Returns, please e-mail Tony Gross at

On a final note, Fred Erb has fallen ill and is currently in the hospital.  Please keep him and his family in your thoughts.

Happy Holidays and best wishes for a healthy and fulfilling 2011.


Dave Fribush ’10 and Jamie Lloyd ’03


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