Jennifer Van Gilder, this year’s President’s Award honoree, is a creative, solutions-driven communications professional with expertise in market research and public health promotion. She is passionate about conducting research and managing initiatives that improve the health and wellbeing of individuals, particularly those who are at risk or experience health disparities. She joins the Texas Department of State Health Services as Communications Director on May 1, 2018.

We caught up with WCA President Karen Aroian, who had this to say about Jennifer’s 2017-2018 tenure on the Board of Directors:

“I had the pleasure of working closely with Jennifer, my VP of Communications. As a new Board member,  Jennifer immediately understood the position required project management, delegation and constant creativity. She has maintained and nurtured a dedicated team of volunteers, creating potent monthly publication themes to widen organizational dialogue and learning. Even WCA members began randomly expressing thanks for informative monthly social media themes and great PR efforts, so this award results from a collective appreciation for Jennifer.

Jennifer leads with grace and style. She and I worked closely and intensely together each week, and we grew as strangers into trusted colleagues and friends who gave our all and laughed a lot together. I cannot wait to share another year with her on the board!”

We were excited to take some time to speak with Jennifer in spite of her busy schedule and share some of her great advice with you!

Q: What have you/do you find most rewarding in serving at WCA?
 I love working collaboratively with colleagues to achieve shared goals. As head of the Communications Committee, I did my best to empower each member to bring their own unique talent and perspective to the table. Each person was a volunteer wanting to give, but I wanted to them to learn and grow as a professional as well.

Q: What recommendations would you give other women in joining an organization such as WCA?
A: I’d advise members to get involved as quickly as possible. Showing up at professional networking events and professional development conferences is important too, but it’s really rolling up your sleeves and working on projects together behind the scenes that enriches one’s experience and relationships within the organization. We’ve got amazing women who serve on the Board at WCA, and also in a wide variety of volunteer capacities. I’ve not only met great new professional colleagues but also developed some lifelong friendships through WCA.

Q: What would be some words of professional/personal advice that you would give?
A: Be compassionate. Everyone is really doing the best they can. If you truly understood the experiences or history of the person standing before you, you might feel more compassion for their current attitude or behavior. That said, one still has to function in a professional environment and set boundaries, goals, standards, best practices. I’ve found that bringing mindfulness, compassion and emotional intelligence to professional situations is a rising tide that lifts all boats.

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