Reflecting on a year of challenge, change and gratitude

Today, I am reflecting on all that has occurred over the past year. During the past 12 months as we have all faced continued uncertainty so many have enhanced their commitment to the USTTI. Through their willingness to lead webinars, share insights and best practices the USTTI Board of Directors have displayed the vibrancy of the USTTI’s public-private partnership.

One year ago on March 9th, 2020, the USTTI postponed all first-trimester courses and on March 11th our staff began the process of working from home. In the initial days we expected this would last for two weeks or perhaps two months. There was an expectation that we would be back in the office by summer and we would welcome scholars to the United States for training by the third quarter of 2020. Instead as the weeks in March gave way to the months of April and May, we realized this would not be possible and that we would need to adjust.

In May, we convened a town hall of USTTI alumni to explore the feasibility of conducting webinars. For the discussion we met with fifteen officials from countries with varying levels of connectivity. What became evident was that training would be possible in this format and there was demand for USTTI programming. With the enthusiastic support of subject matter experts from government and industry I am proud to say the USTTI was able to respond and offer webinars in many subject areas. While not able to fully replicate our in-person USTTI trainings these sessions have been a forum for excellent discussion and meaningful exchanges. They have allowed participation from a greater number of women and men than previously possible in person. With the expansion into online training, we have also been able to reach individuals who had not been aware of USTTI’s tuition-free training before the pandemic. Attendees have shared that the information gained has been applied directly to the policy and regulatory process in their countries and requests for additional sessions continue to be received.

I am forever grateful to the USTTI Board of Directors, our trainers and all those behind the scenes for their ongoing counsel during this challenging year.  I also need to thank the USTTI’s Jamal Anderson, and Esther Gabriel, for their tireless efforts. Most importantly, I want to recognize our USTTI scholars. Your dedication and ongoing participation in USTTI training is remarkable. You have participated in our webinars during your early mornings and very late into your nights. You have asked probing questions about important topics and you have allowed us to watch as you used the information you gained in the webinars to enhance your work to expand the positive impact of the communications sector in your country.

While this past year has been full of unforeseen changes and challenges, I continue to feel an incredible amount of enthusiasm and support from the entire USTTI family. This enthusiasm and support is what has powered the USTTI since we launched in 1982 and it is what will drive our staff to be “politely aggressive” in making sure we continue to evolve and continue to offer much needed programs for the women and men of the developing world. Thank you for your ongoing support of the USTTI and we look forward to continuing this journey with you into 2021 and beyond.

Most Sincerely,
Jim O’Connor
USTTI Chairman and CEO