New JBS leadership chief taking time to listen, learn

After many years with Discover Odessa at the Chamber of Commerce, Monica Tschauner has made the jump to become executive director of the University of Texas Permian Basin’s Shepperd Leadership Institute.

“It was another opportunity to still make a positive impact in our community. I obviously was a part of a chamber that is still making a positive impact in the community. It’s still a great way to still make a positive impact and bring leadership to the forefront, especially for our future young leaders,” Tschauner said.

A native Odessan, she graduated from Odessa High School, attended Odessa College, and graduated with a bachelor of arts degree from Texas Tech University.

She served as executive director for West Texas Gifts of Hope from 2014-2017, a nonprofit that serves cancer patients in 18 surrounding counties. In 2017-2023, she became the director for Discover Odessa at the Odessa Chamber. Discover Odessa recruits conferences, meetings and sporting events to bring visitors to the community and also markets all the city has to offer.

She didn’t take the decision to leave Discover Odessa lightly.

“It was not an easy decision … I prayed about it, and I felt this door had been open for a reason and I was willing to take that risk, not look back and just try something and don’t have any regrets and hopefully be able to to make a difference,” Tschauner said.

She is the first executive director of JBS since 2022.

“Right now I’m just visiting with people, learning from others and just seeing what people see as the biggest need,” Tschauner said.

People assume that if you’re a leader, you’re taking care of things. But everyone has a role to play in helping leaders accomplish their goals, she said.

She also wants to get students involved in leadership, as they have been in the past.

“I’ve learned that at one time, there was a Texas Leadership Forum that the universities go to every year and take a delegation of students every year, but that has stopped since COVID,” Tschauner said.

Savannah Woodward, director of Special Events at the Shepperd Leadership Institute, is overseeing the Water in Energy conference coming up in March.

They are going to have students attend that, so they will have a chance at getting an internship and networking.

“It’s a great opportunity for the engineering or business (students) to engage with those attendees that are willing to mentor,” Tschauner said.

UTPB is also planning to have students participate in the Washington Fly-In with the Odessa and Midland chambers of commerce.

The chambers will advocate in person at the federal level from April 29-May 2.

There was one two years ago that students participated in, as well.

The Archer Fellowship also is available. The Archer Center provides undergraduate and graduate students from across the UT System with the opportunity to live, learn, and intern in the nation’s capital, the website said.

Tschauner said there’s room for more programming. One idea is to have some type of leadership certification.

When she was in high school, she was part of a student delegation that attended a Lorenzo de Zavala Youth Legislative Session in Austin.

“We met with state and local leaders to learn how the legislative process works. I was so inspired that I had a dream to become the first Hispanic female governor of Texas! … That is no longer a dream of mine, but I know an experience like that one is where having dreams start,” Tschauner said.

The Shepperd Institute still offers the Distinguished Lecture Series. The most recent was with author Michael Chabon, which was offered in conjunction with Odessa Arts and Inner Circle donors.

“It was on a Sunday evening, but it went really well. He was a great speaker. I’ve learned something listening to him. He wrote the book Wonder Boys and then that turned into a movie that starred Michael Douglas and Tobey Maguire, so that was neat. He had a great story about how sometimes when he’s writing he just wants to quit and he said, but I just don’t quit. I just keep going. It was great to hear from his writer’s perspective (about) some of the challenges they go through. But just like any of us, we go through challenges, you just have to keep fighting and keep going,” Tschauner said.

Becky Spurlock, senior vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, oversees the institute, and Lin Crowson is associate dean for Student Housing and Leadership Programs.

“Monica brings to SLI a passion for leadership, serving the community, and a love for West Texas. She will no doubt grow the Institute’s programs to the community and help connect the resources of the Institute to other organizations, schools, and nonprofits,” Spurlock said.

Tschauner and her husband, Chris, have three children, Christian, Cade and Lindsey.