“Having IslandWood staff run programs in schools is an incredible way to further the reach of IslandWood’s mission and make it accessible and available to more people.”
A member of IslandWood’s Board of Directors, Dr. Pooja Tandon is a pediatrician and researcher at the Center for Child Health, Behavior, and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute and an Associate Professor at the University of Washington. Check out our conversation with Pooja below to learn more about how she first became involved with IslandWood, her own children’s experiences in IslandWood’s School Overnight Program, and her passion for increasing equitable access to IslandWood’s programs.
How did you first get to know IslandWood, and how have you been involved since?
Many years ago I was invited along with some other faculty members at the University of Washington to IslandWood to discuss evaluation of its programs. IslandWood had become interested in finding ways to evaluate the impact of the School Overnight Program, and the environmental attitudes of the children that they served. We had a one and a half day seminar. I was very impressed by the programming and campus, and I thought that was the end of it. We had a few more meetings after that. And then Ben Klasky [Ed. note: Ben Klasky is a former IslandWood CEO] reached out to me to join the board. So I began my connection with IslandWood as an associate professor, as a scientist, and as a researcher within IslandWood’s interest in evaluating programs, and then connected more with the organization and people.
Why do you choose to support IslandWood?
There are so many reasons. As a mom, both of my boys have been to IslandWood’s School Overnight Program. I knew about IslandWood before that, because I knew that they would get to go there. They both went in 4th grade, and hands down it was the experience that they had heard about so much beforehand. It lived up to those expectations. I think it’s an incredible opportunity for kids who get to attend the program.
I believe in IslandWood’s mission, and I believe in its programs. And it’s not only kids; as I’ve learned more about the grad program, I’ve seen how IslandWood helps train these people who then have such an impact on others in terms of the values that IslandWood believes in.
I’m on the East Side, where IslandWood also runs school-based day programs. Having IslandWood staff run programs in schools is an incredible way to further the reach of IslandWood’s mission and make it accessible and available to more people.
You serve on IslandWood’s Board of Directors. Can you tell us a little bit about what that’s like?
This is my second term on the board. It is such an incredible and inspiring and dedicated group of individuals. They come from very diverse backgrounds in terms of life experiences and the skills they bring. I’ve learned so much from them and how they each contribute, from governance to day to day support of IslandWood’s work. I’ve appreciated the opportunity to get to know the leaders and staff at IslandWood, and the people on the ground. I’m a pediatrician, and my day to day work is quite different, so it’s been really eye-opening to learn more about how IslandWood does what it does and how intentional all of its decisions are. My experience on the board has really allowed me to appreciate what the staff does on a day to day level, and learn from my fellow board members.
What’s your favorite IslandWood memory, place, or program?
That’s a hard question! But I think I’m going to go with my favorite personal experience at IslandWood: the Circle of Friends Weekend. I went with seven or eight friends to see Elizabeth Gilbert as the speaker. All of my friends who I went with were moms, and all our children were younger. I had heard a lot about the transformational experiences attendees have experienced. And for us it was the same. It was a weekend away, surrounded by this beautiful environment and a moment to be with each other in ways we usually would not have been.
What are your hopes for IslandWood in the years to come?
I hope for more of what IslandWood does: touching the lives of students, both elementary/middle school students and graduate program students. It is something really special and unique and my wish is for more students to have access to the kind of special experience that IslandWood provides both on and off the Bainbridge campus. The challenge, like for many others, is to increase equitable access and allow more children and more adult students to learn from and contribute to and benefit from what IslandWood provides.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.