Face it TOGETHER CEO Works Behind the Scenes to Save Lives
She writes grants, presents to the community, takes media interviews, connects with donors to foster fundraising – the list goes on.
“Many people don’t look at non-profits as if they are businesses, but they absolutely are. I wear many hats from finance leader to HR director to visionary,” explains White. “Yet in all that, meeting with staff and helping them continue to grow and achieve is my most rewarding role.”
It is through the USD Beacom School of Business Master of Business Administration (MBA) program and past experiences that White prepared for this diverse role.
“Due to the skills I learned in the MBA program and the experience gained in past positions, I am a more effective leader for Face It TOGETHER,” White says.
A South Dakota native, White grew up on a farm outside of Vermillion, then moved to Yankton. Though her educational journey took her to Minnesota State University, Mankato, to get degrees in biology in clinical lab sciences, White never forgot her early experiences at USD.
“I remember attending the Dakota Days parades as a little girl and attending various competitions on campus in high school,” she says.
White began her career working in a medical lab at Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis. When she and her family moved back to South Dakota, White was ready for a career change.
She began working for Sanford Health in health care information technology, which was a good career fit. “I loved the technical thought process, project management of implementations and the satisfaction of creating solutions for end users,” she said.
While at Sanford, White was determined to earn a master’s degree. A mentor recommended getting an MBA, and she began to investigate programs, ultimately choosing the Beacom School of Business at USD.
As a nontraditional student, White was interested in the flexible online classes, accreditation and high-quality education at an affordable price. “USD was definitely the right decision,” White says.
White’s favorite MBA class was a leadership course that met in-person at the USD – Sioux Falls campus. “It was fun to meet in person, as most coursework had been completed online with classmates from around the country,” White says. “I found it interesting to hear their stories and why they chose USD. I was very proud to be part of a program that such a diverse group of students had selected for many of the same reasons I chose USD.”
A promotion became available at Sanford a semester before White’s graduation with the MBA. "Being so close to graduating gave me an advantage in the hiring process and truly helped me be more successful in that new role,” she says.
White was then hired as the executive director of clinical applications at Sanford Health.“My degree gave me the necessary groundwork for success with the expanded scope and additional financial responsibilities,” White says.
White made a pivotal career change when she started working as a grant manager for Face It TOGETHER. Before the end of her first year with the organization, she had the opportunity to become the CEO, a role she has filled since 2020.
Peer coaches at Face It TOGETHER have experience with overcoming addiction in their own lives and have completed extensive training to help others succeed. Unlike many centers, the organization gives chronic, long-term care to those working to overcome addiction, and coaches support individuals in their journey to achieve wellness.
“Giving hope to those desperately searching for answers is amazing,” White explains. “I am so proud to work with my team, knowing the impact they are making on their members and the communities we serve.”
White explains that in her day-to-day duties, no two days look the same. She may work on operational support, such as human resources activities. Another day she may see networking opportunities and community education. Still other tasks may include meeting with organizations and donors to encourage sponsorships or take part in Face It TOGETHER’s corporate programming.“The variety of experience is what makes me love the work that I do,” White says. “I believe the most important role I hold is to create great organizational culture and to develop a team that has the right people in the right seats on the bus. If I can accomplish those two things, all the rest should fall into place.”
White says the supportive culture that she and her team create at Face It TOGETHER tears down stereotypes and creates space for effective coaching relationships.
Under White’s leadership, Face It TOGETHER has seen immense success. In a coaching outcomes report, which analyzes data from 2016-2021, the non-profit engaged in over 16,000 coaching sessions. At 30 days of coaching, 84% of persons with addictions reported a reduction in high risk factors. Nearly 75% said they are feeling better overall.“As CEO, I often represent the organization in the community, but the really important work is happening in the coaching room,” White explains. “I most appreciate hearing the stories of success from our members and knowing that their work with a peer coach has not only improved their life, but also the lives of those around them.”
Throughout her career changes, White credits her "continual curiosity and a desire to learn" with creating this success.
“I took advantage of learning opportunities that presented themselves, from internal leadership training to completing my MBA,” she says.
White’s Message to Today’s Students
“Always be prepared for what life brings. Always be curious and continue learning. I have always focused on what I can do to make myself be a better leader rather than focus on any specific position,” White advises. “I believe if you continue your self-improvement journey, the right positions will open when the timing is right.”
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