“The world needs authentic, ethical leadership now more than ever.”
The concept of empowering strong leaders to solve complex problems drew Chris Smithhiser to the Randall L. Tobias Center for Leadership Excellence. An education and development professional with experience managing leadership programs, Smithhiser is excited to advance the goals and initiatives of the Tobias Leadership Center, particularly in today’s climate.
“We’re at a crossroads right now as a society. People are frustrated, which reduces our patience. We need to step back and talk about what it means to be a leader,” said Smithhiser. “We’re all leaders in some capacity, and there’s a responsibility that comes with that. Let’s examine character, and how it relates to leadership and the responsibility we all share in improving our communities and our organizations.”
As the new associate director, Smithhiser works with Executive and Academic Director Julie Manning Magid to manage and execute the research, programs and events of the Tobias Leadership Center.
“Chris brings so many important skills, experiences and a great passion for leadership to the center,” said Manning Magid. “She also contributes a new perspective to Team Tobias as we work collaboratively to advance the center.”
Smithhiser spent the last several years at the Sigma Sigma Sigma Foundation serving as advancement officer and assistant vice president of education and training. She is excited about what lies ahead at the Tobias Leadership Center.
“I was really drawn to this role and the opportunity to work with Julie’s leadership style and her excitement for the growth of the center,” said Smithhiser. “The Tobias Leadership Center is doing really great things, and I look forward to taking it to the next level; strategizing what that looks like and how we get there.”
Originally from Conneaut, Ohio, Smithhiser moved out west, where she worked at Colorado State University. She and her husband Peter moved to Indianapolis, where they raised twin daughters Hadley and Olivia. The couple moved back out west to North Dakota for six years, during which time Smithhiser worked for the foundation and a small nonprofit. Though happy to be back in Indianapolis, Smithhiser enjoyed her time in the northern plains.
“People are very friendly in North Dakota. We never locked our house, and I enjoyed the trust level there,” she said. “The weather was a bit extreme though!”
When she isn’t at the Tobias Leadership Center, Smithhiser is either baking or reading, two of her favorite hobbies. She enjoys novels set during World War II and loves spending time with her two four-year-old pug dogs, Franklin and TR – the “Roosevelt Pugs.”
As she settles into her role leading and designing the operations at the Tobias Leadership Center, Smithhiser is excited to begin efforts to reinvigorate and reconnect the Tobias Leadership Network, made up of Fellows alumni. Following two years of distance and virtual gatherings and the challenges Fellows have faced during the pandemic, Smithhiser looks forward to strengthening the professional network.
“Sometimes facing challenges makes us feel isolated, but Tobias Fellows have this entire network they can reach out to,” said Smithhiser. “We’ve got to connect with one another to talk through our challenges and work together to solve them. I look forward to facilitating these conversations.”