Lessons in Leadership: Integrating Courage, Vision, and Innovation for the Future of Sustainable Fisheries

A Lesson from the Stream: A Personal Reflection on Understanding the Them versus Me Identity Associated with Backgrounds, Race, Training, and Talent

Stacy A. C. Nelson

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874608.ch53

Waking up before sunrise was never one of my favorite things to do. However, in the role of program leader, equipment manager, field campaign organizer, major professor, mentor, and van driver, I was left with no choice. So before the sun rose on what was to become a moderately warm midsummer’s day, I maneuvered the large, aging van from the university motor pool through campus and around the corner to pick up two barely moving graduate students. Half past 4 a.m. is really early for most people, definitely for me, but it seemed really painful for these guys as they slowly came to life loading coolers, water bottles, and all sorts of machinery and gear into a musty-smelling van. No sooner had we loaded the van than the students were back to sleep for most of our 3.5-hour trek to the southern range of the Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina. In the darkness of the open road, the rattles of the old van seemed louder as they combined with the heavy breathing of my sleeping students. I had hoped to drown out some of the noise with the radio, but I quickly realized this would not be an option as the only station that seemed to come in added to the chorus of noise from the rickety old van and my snoozing students. About an hour from our first field site, the sun started to appear and life began to return to each of the students. The student riding shotgun was from the western North Carolina region, so for him this was a homecoming of sorts. As the students came to life, I had already spent hours replaying each sample location that would provide us with the widest sample distribution for a full day’s effort. Weeks prior, I had already spent days going over and assigning each of our roles in the field. Every “I” was dotted, and every “T” was crossed. Then the student asked, “Dr. Nelson, are you doing okay with the driving?” After the past couple hours of getting accustomed to every shake and rattle and praying that our old van was reliable enough to get us to our field sites and back home, I answered, “I’m okay. We’ve only got about another hour to get to the first site.”