Balancing Urgent And Important

Chris Agnew
3 min readOct 30, 2020


Since March, we’ve been in the urgent for much of our work. Through hard decisions and continual dedicated work by staff, we have established operating practices across TSS mitigating risk of rising COVID cases nationally and we have enough financial stability to start thinking beyond the urgent. The daily hard work providing learning and attending to the health and wellness of our community continues to be essential and it is also time to resume planning for the topics that may not be urgent but are important to the long term success of TSS such as employee housing security and other longer-term goals.

January 2020. Remember that lifetime ago? At the January Board meeting over nine months ago, we had identified faculty and staff talent and diversity, equity, and inclusion as key areas for future investment. Frank Pisch from the Compass Group, was visiting as part of a feasibility study for a future TSS capital campaign. Take yourself back in time with my blog post following that Board meeting.

Only weeks after that post, urgency took over and our goals shifted to COVID-19 — protect health and wellness, ensure the integrity of TSS, steward faculty/staff, and evolve learning delivery. While our near-term focus shifted out of necessity, our longer-term needs and goals for the organization for talent and DEI remain. Specific to talent, we know housing is a barrier for the recruitment and retention of our staff and any progress on improving employee housing security is a multi-year process. Our Wilson Campus structures are not getting any younger. Prices in Teton Valley aren’t getting any cheaper. It’s a balance of the urgent and the important.

COVID or no-COVID, employee housing security is still a priority and progress requires multi-year effort and significant financial resources. In late 2017, we worked with the Jackson Hole Housing Trust to complete an employee housing security survey. Through this data, we gained clarity on where we were meeting employee housing security needs, where we were not, and how employee housing needs change over different stages of employment and life. Two key takeaways from this data from employees were that progress on this topic is not accomplished through only one solution (ie: redevelopment of our Wilson Campus) and the largest gap in current employee housing security was longer-term employees with growing families (significant other, spouse, small children).

We are balancing the urgent and the important. At TSS, we should feel good that we’re at a place where we can broaden our view from the urgency of COVID to the importance of longer-term goals. We are not through the urgent and we’re keeping an eye on the important.

Both urgent and important is election day next week. The urgency of voting has important impacts years into the future. If you haven’t already, read my blog last week about the importance of all TSS staff taking the time to vote, wear a mask, and go out and exercise your voice on Tuesday or before!