Board Spotlight: Deb Center

Board Spotlight: Deborah Center, PhD, MSN, RN, CNS, CTA-CC

Chief Program Officer

Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence

Serving on the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and Nursing Refresher Program Advisory Committees

Board Director serving since 7/1/2021


Since joining the board, one of my favorite things is to attend the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee which is a staff and BOD member committee. Many organizations have these committees and yet THEARI really walks the talk! – Deborah Center


This month for our Board Spotlight we’d like to introduce Deb Center. Deb works with the Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence as the Chief Program Officer. She has been a member of the THEARI Board of Directors since July of 2021. She was kind enough to answer the questions below so we, and you, could get to know her better.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where you’re from, where you live, family info (kids, pets, etc.).

I was born and raised in the Midwest (Missouri and Ohio).  I come from a Brady-bunch-like family of three girls/three boys.  I moved to Colorado following a divorce to be close to my older brother.  I never dreamed that moving to Colorado would have changed my life in so many ways! I have one daughter, Maggie, that recently married Noah and they now live in Norfolk, Virginia. My grandchildren are a rambunctious dachshund Dodgson and a gorgeous black cat Hollie!  Maggie and Noah both work with individuals that are neurodiverse on the spectrum that have experienced trauma, and they support their ability to engage in the world.  Maggie teaches trauma-informed care and works with individuals, families, and teams of peer supporters to promote resilience and quality of life.  Noah is now a professor at Old Dominion University, and he works with virtual reality and using technology to help individuals engage in their community.

I live in Colorado Springs and have a Norwegian Elkhound named Teddie and a small black and white cat Finley.

I went to Xavier University for my BSN, Wright State University for my MSN in Adult Health Critical Care as a Clinical Nurse Specialist and earned my PhD in Organizational Development and Leadership Psychology at University of the Rockies/Forbes School of Business and Technology at Ashford University with a dissertation focus on coaching and creating healthy work environments.

If you could plan a vacation to anywhere in the world, where would you go?

My vacations are often focused on family and connecting with friends – and while I have traveled many places, it is rarely about the destination and rather more about the people.  However, I do have on my bucket list to travel to Greece, Australia (New Zealand), and Italy.

What is one item you cannot live without?

Family – I believe family is the most important thing in life.  Having the love and support of people in your family (either by blood or close relationship) where there is an unconditional connection – and you can ask for help or provide help to each other – is essential. Over the last few years, as I have lost several family members, I treasure this even more and never take it for granted.

What is your favorite hobby?

I am a rockhound! I love to collect weird and unique rocks and crystals – either while hiking, traveling or just going to rock shops! I have quite the collection.  One of my favorites is a limestone geode that on the surface looks like an old green rock.  However, on the inside it is coated with incredible drusy quarts and has okenite in it – which is like little soft cotton balls – and is actually very fragile material.  It is a beautiful winter scene inside – totally unexpected – and reminds me – that true beauty lies deep inside, below the surface!

Can you tell us about where you work, how long you’ve been working there, what your position is, and a little bit about what you do?

I am a nurse.  I have been a nurse for over 40 years.  I started in critical care and then transitioned to nursing education.  Until coming to my new company – I had spent half of my career in clinical/patient care and half in nursing education.  My current role is with the Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence which is our state’s nursing workforce center and the largest nursing workforce center in the US.  I joined the Center in 2005 as a member of their Advisory Council and then became part of the staff in 2006.  Two years ago, I was promoted to the Chief Program Officer.  My job is to oversee and lead a variety of grants/programs specific to increasing the pipeline for the right number of competent nurses and healthcare workers and ensuring the right work environment for retaining them to meet the needs of the state.  I lead a variety of educational programs for interprofessional teams, leadership, and pipeline initiatives. My areas of content expertise are on teams, healthy work environments, civility, coaching, resiliency, emotional intelligence, and leadership.

I am also a leadership/executive coach with specialty certifications in emotional intelligence and a variety of workstyle and leadership assessments. Through my coaching I am also a facilitator/consultant – where I support groups through change and change processes.

Why did you join the THEARI BOD?

I joined the board because I believe in the mission, vision, and core values of THEARI \ I have been connected to this organization since about 2005 – through my work with the Center.  In the past, we had a few projects/programs that we partnered on for ensuring clinical placements of nursing students and I look forward to more opportunities to partner going forward.

How long have you been a member of the THEARI BOD?

It is my first year.

Tell us about your roles professionally.

I am a nurse, teacher/educator, coach, leader, change agent, facilitator, consultant.

What is one of your favorite THEARI stories you like to tell?

Many of my stories relate to before you became THEARI – and the amazing resources for students, previous opportunities for connecting with high school students interested in healthcare and the impact made on their lives/careers – with scholarships etc.  However, since joining the board, one of my favorite things is to attend the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee which is a staff and BOD member committee.  Many organizations have these committees and yet THEARI really walks the talk! The passion and commitment from the team is palpable. There is a lot of diversity on the committee, and everyone has a voice and is heard.  Discussions focus on ensuring belonging, access, and appreciation of diversity for every program of THEARI. I learn something at every meeting that I am able to take away and apply to my own personal life and work.

What is your proudest accomplishment as part of the THEARI BOD?

As a nurse, I am excited to be able to be an advocate for nursing on the THEARI BOD.  As the largest part of the healthcare workforce, ensuring nursing has a seat at your table is important.  I am proud to be that voice.

What are your top three goals for THEARI in the coming year?

My intention as a BOD member is to support THEARI’s strategic plan and provide resources to the staff to accomplish the organizational goals. My top three priorities focus on healthcare workforce pipeline initiatives; promoting, educating, and ensuring civility, justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in healthcare; and supporting the ongoing Nurse Refresher programs.

Is there anything else you would like our readers know?

Go Broncos!

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