By AMBER NEVILLE
LEADS LARGEST: TYPros Director Chris Oden has led her organization to become the largest in numbers of its type in the nation. She looks forward to continued growth in 2010.
DANIEL C. CAMERON for GTR Newspapers
“We are currently at 6,300 registered members,” says Tulsa’s Young Professionals executive director, Christina “Chris” Oden. Since 2005, the ros organization has registered over 1,000 members per year.
ros offers free memberships, and is one of the few in the nation doing so. “Ideally, we want to remain a free organization so that it can be inclusive of everyone, regardless of income, race, background or profession,” says Oden.
In September 2009, Oden traveled to the Next Leaders Summit in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she engaged with other young professionals to discuss the success of the largest YP organization in the country. Oden attributes the success of the ros organization to its active, volunteer members. “TYPros is leaps and bounds ahead of other YP cities with their ideas and accomplishments. We have dedicated volunteers who are passionate about Tulsa and make things happen.”
For example, in 2009, ros raised over $20,000 in combined contributions for Big Brothers Big Sisters Oklahoma with Bowl For Kid’s Sake and the Tulsa Area United Way for the “Rock The 918” event.
One significant impact in 2009 for ros was the successful placement of 85 YP’s on community boards through the community boards program. ros and Leadership Tulsa have partnered over the past three years to place younger members on community boards in Tulsa. Earlier this year, the ros Sustainability Crew showed the community how to recycle, and how to have a sustainable gala from choosing a local venue, local foods and beverages, recyclable containers to solar powered generation for lights and entertainment. Even the gift bags and educational goodies were made from recycled material and/or could be reusable.
Oden says, “The Green Gala was a huge success with over 300 people in attendance, including notable figures outside of ros. It is an event ros will continue to do.”
ros is supported in the community by local businesses via sponsorships. The annual resource campaign contributes to the organization. Volunteers sell sponsorships to the community to generate contributions to the Tulsa Metro Chamber and its events. Volunteers who perform extremely well are eligible to earn cash and prizes and even a trip to places like Vancouver or St. Thomas. Oden encourages ros to volunteer on the resource campaign as their efforts directly impact the ros organization. For more information, contact the chamber directly at (918) 585-1201.
Oden started as a general member of ros in the colleges and universities crew in 2005 and helped to launch the internintulsa.com Web site. At the time, Oden was working for St. John Health Systems in their marketing department. Oden had come from an advertising firm in Kansas City, where she worked as an intern and full-time staff member until she and her husband relocated to Tulsa in 2004. While working at , Oden became more involved in TYPro’s and in April 2005, the Chamber announced their need to fill the ros director/marketing specialist position.
Oden applied and did extensive interviewing with some of the current chamber staff. Oden recalls the process. “They (the Chamber) made it very clear in the process that the competition was steep and that the position was not for the faint of heart.”
Finally, in September 2005, the Tulsa Metro Chamber announced Oden as ros executive director. Oden is going on her fourth year as the director and plans to keep going. Oden is an Oklahoma State University graduate with a bachelor’s of arts in advertising and a minor in theatre.
While in high school, Oden was very active, from competing in academic bowls to being a cheerleader to being the student council, Spanish club and drama club presidents. She was also valedictorian of her class in Fairfax, Okla.
Oden says she is busy being a wife and a mother when she is not putting in long hours at over 90 percent of all TYPro’s events.
In 2010, ros will begin with a new chair, Michael Christian, who will replace Karisha Arnett. Christian and Oden will work together to keep planning events the members want. “Be sure to keep an eye out for the ros Five-Year Anniversary party in April,” says Oden. Information about this event and others up and coming in 2010 can be found on the ros Web site, www.typros.org.
Editor’s Note: Tulsa-area leadership has been working hard over the past few years to keep young professional talent in the region. One organization that has been very effective with these efforts is Tulsa Young Professionals, known by its acronym “TYPros.” This is one of an ongoing Newspapers series spotlighting young Tulsa leadership. Greater Tulsa is fortunate to have young talent contributing to its betterment.