Sheena Payne, MS’15, and Patti Niles, who in 2017 earned an Executive Certificate in Nonprofit Governance from the Jindal School, were among 30 honorees of the annual award “that is given to influential women who go above and beyond in their business and community and who will continue to impact our business landscape for years to come.”
Payne is director of community affairs at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. Niles is president and CEO of Southwest Transplant Alliance, a nonprofit organ procurement organization. Both believe their education at the Jindal School played a role in furthering their careers.
Payne, whose experience at the Jindal School began in 2009 when she enrolled in the Academic Certificate in Executive and Professional Coaching, already had a distinguished career — having worked in the airline industry for nearly three decades with stints at TWA and American Airlines. She wanted to get into human resources to cap off her professional career but knew she would need additional credentials to make that transition. She also wanted to become a professional coach; so she decided to start down that path by enrolling in the certificate program in Executive Education at the Jindal School, which she completed in 2010.
“Living in Allen, I knew The University of Texas at Dallas has a great reputation, and I knew I wanted to be in an accredited program related to organizational consulting and behavior,” she said. “The certificate program at the Jindal School allowed me to learn about the various different coaching models and allowed me to network with a lot of people.”
As she considers herself a lifelong learner, Payne said enjoyed the certificate experience — so much so that she went on to earn her master’s degree in management science at JSOM. She credits being enrolled in the graduate program for gaining her entry into a major human resources project at American Airlines and then into similar assignments at BCBS. From there, she landed her current role, which she considers the most fulfilling role of her career.
“As CEO, getting that certificate from the Jindal School gave me some insights into what’s required when my boards and I discuss fiduciary responsibility.It really helped me help them." — Patti Niles, president and CEO, Southwest Transplant Alliance
Niles took a similar path to gaining the tools she needed to succeed in her role leading a company that recovers transplant organs and tissues for 10.5 million residents across 89 counties in Texas and one in Arkansas. Since the organization she leads operates with a governing board and an advisory board, she wanted to gain knowledge related to those interactions.
“As CEO, getting that certificate from the Jindal School gave me some insights into what’s required when my boards and I discuss fiduciary responsibility,” she said. “It really helped me help them. I’m also on some boards as well, so it has helped me with those, too. It’s made me more well-rounded, as it gave me some skills and knowledge that I really didn’t have before.”
DBJ fêted Payne, Niles and other honorees of the 13th annual program at a live virtual event last month. Previous recipients of the award who are Jindal School alumni include Sejal Desai, MBA’99, Judy Hendrick, MS’86 and Marguerite (Margo) McClinton Stoglin, MBA’14.
— Jimmie R. Markham