- President and CEO, Colorado Children’s Campaign, a research and advocacy organization for children in Colorado.
- Experience working with Oklahoma City bombing victims and victims’ families inspired Chris to pursue a master’s degree in community counseling.
- Chris says that she feels her master’s degree was a factor in her promotion to her current position as president and CEO.
Building Lifelong Connections
On a sunny, gusty day last March, Governor John Hickenlooper and legislators gathered at the Capitol Building in Denver for a news conference that had them sharing the spotlight with a well-dressed but rather, well, flat crowd.
It was Doll Day on Capitol Hill—an annual event held by the Colorado Children’s Campaign. Weeks beforehand, kids from around the state make more than 200 dolls, dressing, coloring and designing them. The dolls stand in for their young artists as a reminder of Colorado’s million-plus children. While the cardboard dolls are flat, they help bring dimension to the issues and challenges facing Colorado kids.
“Every year, we put cardboard dolls in the chairs of every state legislator at the Colorado Capitol to remind them of how important it is to keep kids’ interests in mind as they make important decisions,” says Colorado Children’s Campaign President and Chief Executive Officer Chris Watney. “Doll Day is held in conjunction with Kids Count, our annual report that checks the well-being of kids throughout the state,” she says.
The Colorado Children’s Campaign is a research and advocacy organization that has been speaking on behalf of kids in Colorado for more than 20 years.
Doing such impactful work is important to Chris, a desire sparked by a profoundly moving work experience she had. “I worked at the department of justice in Washington D.C., for a number of years. During that time, I worked on the Oklahoma City bombing case, and had a chance to really get to know a lot of the victims and the victims’ families.”
The experience led her to re-evaluate what she wanted to do with her life.
“That was the part of the job that was most interesting to me, meeting people and trying to see if I could connect with them and help them through a hard time. It really piqued my interest in how I could do that on a more regular basis,” she says.
Several years later, she stepped into the Colorado Children’s Campaign office “just to help out for a couple of weeks” and ended up staying with the organization, enjoying the chance to fight for something she believes deeply in—improving the lives of Colorado’s children.
While there, she decided to pursue a master’s degree in counseling. Enrolling in the University of Northern Colorado’s Denver-Lowry program, she worked full-time during the week, and attended classes on the weekend, earning her master’s in community counseling in 2006.
“The program’s faculty was incredibly strong. I stay in close touch with several of them. They played such a large role not only in my time at school, but also in helping connect me to people in the community. They have become lifelong connections for me in moving my work forward.”
Those connections and the skills she learned help her in her daily work leading a skilled team, assessing challenges, finding solutions and working across both aisles at the Colorado legislature.
“A big part of my job is working with the legislature and officials, including the governor and the governor’s staff. I’m often at the Capitol building, meeting with a wide range of policy makers and officials and trying to find shared interests. Those are really skills that UNC’s counseling program taught me.”
"The counseling program’s faculty…have become lifelong connections for me in moving my work forward."