Gentry Thiesen Announced as 2024 W Board Chair

Feb 28 · Scott Elpers

We are thrilled to announce Gentry Thiesen has been appointed as the 2024 Board Chair for W – A Community of Young Professionals.

As Board Chair, her responsibilities include overseeing the overall development, strategy and long-term goals of W. During her tenure as Board Chair, she will also have a seat on the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.  

Thiesen is the Government Affairs Director for Realtors of South Central Kansas. She joined W in 2019. A year later, she started volunteering with W’s Impact Team and began serving on W’s Board in 2023. Thiesen has also served on Cairn Health Board, Districts III and IV Advisory Boards, Hispanics in Real Estate Board, Stormwater Advisory Board, Chamber Government Relations Committee, Chamber DEI Advisory Committee and was a Young Professionals Committee Member for the Kansas Recreation & Park Association.

As the new Board Chair, what vision do you have for W and how do you plan to achieve it?

W has experienced a large amount of turnover in staff and volunteers since COVID and the stability of the organization has been compromised for several years. My goal for W is to achieve strength in our most basic operations and upholding past precedent that has been forgotten or ignored – including Chamber board seats, access to budget, scholarships for the City to City trip and involvement with our investors. These matters can only be achieved through a strategic partnership of our excellent staff working internally and volunteers utilizing their connections to people with influence that advocate on our behalf. I want to set the W Boards of the next five and ten years up for continued success, just like the volunteers that served before me. 

Can you share a specific goal or initiative you hope to achieve during your tenure as Board Chair?

I am excited that W has been named as a partner in KLC’s Leadership Transformation Grant. Through this program, we are bringing expanded leadership development opportunities to the Board of Trustees and Action Team leadership. By the end of 2024, I hope to have a network of W members that use their collective training and experience to tackle the challenges of the organization and our community of young professionals. 

As Board Chair, how do you see your role contributing to the overall success and growth of W?

As Board Chair, it is my responsibility to push for progress by bringing some productive conflict to the organization. Nothing gets done if nothing gets done. It would certainly be easier to sit back this year and let the same dynamics play out as they’ve always done. But if it within my purview to change, I will use all of my social capital to find the best solution for W. And if it’s not, I will form the right relationships to make progress. And W deserves a leadership team that is willing to raise the heat.

What specifically motivated you to become involved with W?

There is no better place to get involved as a young professional than W. It is a place that you can devote significant volunteer time to, or it’s a launching point to get involved in other organizations, or find your next career. I became involved with W because I truly felt connected to my community of fellow young professionals. These are people that are my colleagues, my friends, people that have mentored me and helped me land new roles. I feel called to serve them through an organization that has so greatly served me. 

What unique perspectives or skills do you believe young professionals bring to Wichita?

Conversations since Visioneering have highlighted the need for young professional voices at the table. The importance of involving young professionals in our most pressing community issues is that we are the ones that will be most impacted by them in the 15 years they take to come to fruition. We represent the opinion of a group of people that Wichita so desperately wishes to retain. We need to be invited to the table, but more importantly we need to fight for our seat. The future of homelessness, the BioMed Center, Riverfront Development and workforce Issues are in our hands.

In your opinion, what are the most pressing challenges facing young professionals in Wichita today?

I believe that the biggest challenge we face as young professionals is feeling disconnected to our community because we don’t feel represented by those in charge. Decisions that directly affect us are made without our input and that creates a real dissonance for us in our workplaces, homes and at the polls. Feelings of apathy keep people from engaging within the systems that cause them strife. Young professionals should be equipped and enabled to create stronger neighborhoods, communities, cities, states and countries. 

What advice do you have for other young professionals looking to make a meaningful impact within W?

W is what you make it. You get out as much as you put in.