Beth Baldwin Tigges: The right person to lead in the coming biennium

By Carol J. Huston | 11/01/2017

She has served 25 years in international, regional, and chapter positions.

Beth Baldwin TiggesLeadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence, and inspiration.
—Robin S. Sharma

Sometimes you meet someone and you know they are destined to make a difference in the world. That’s how I felt when I first met Beth Tigges almost 30 years ago. Beth Baldwin Tigges, PhD, RN, PNP, BC, the 32nd president of Sigma Theta Tau International, is the epitome of leadership. She is also just the right person to lead the honor society in the coming biennium.

Becoming a nurse
Growing up as the oldest of four children in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, Beth knew from the start that she wanted to be a nurse. Her first role model, the mother of a good friend, was an RN and director of nursing in a nursing home. Beth was impressed by her characteristics: calm, analytical, very organized, and dedicated to helping others. But it was Beth’s work as a “candy striper” for three summers during high school at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital, University of Pittsburgh, that cemented her choice.

Beth speaking at the 2015 Biennial Convention.
While applying to nursing schools, Beth saw a plaque on the wall at Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) that convinced her she had “come home.” The plaque contained the following quote by Virginia Henderson:  

The unique function of the nurse is to assist the individual, sick or well, in the performance of those activities contributing to health or its recovery (or to peaceful death) that he would perform unaided if he had the necessary strength, will or knowledge.

Beth thus found it especially meaningful when later, as a graduate student at Yale, she was able to spend significant time with Henderson, the nurse who inspired her to enter and lead in the profession she loves.

A clinical and academic career
Following her 1976 graduation from Penn State with a BSN, Beth went on to earn an MSN from Yale University in 1984 and become a pediatric nurse practitioner. A PhD from Columbia University in sociomedical sciences that focused on public health and social psychology followed in 1994. During an academic career that has encompassed teaching and research and spanned 33 years—Yale University (1984-87), Columbia University (1987-89), and The University of New Mexico (1989-present)—Beth has accumulated 27 years of clinical practice in which she has served as staff nurse, school nurse, community health nurse, and pediatric nurse practitioner.

Beth is a tenured associate professor and Regents’ Professor at The University of New Mexico College of Nursing in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA. As an evaluation researcher, she is a member of leadership groups on interdisciplinary teams that seek to improve research-related infrastructure and processes and, ultimately, research productivity at organizational, regional, and national levels.

Deborah Helitzer, dean and professor of the College of Health Solutions, Arizona State University, and founding dean of the School of Population Health at The University of New Mexico, worked closely with Beth on multiple teams. Helitzer describes Beth as “brilliant and modest,” “confident and growing,” and, perhaps most importantly, “a true collaborator who is not stuck in her own discipline.” She also notes that the research Beth participated in was always better because of her outstanding collaborative skills and ability to traverse multiple disciplines.

Beth has been and is currently funded as an investigator on numerous [U.S.] National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research Center grants that include funding for The University of New Mexico (UNM) Center for Clinical and Translational Science, UNM Pediatric Clinical Trial Site, UNM Center for Brain Recovery and Repair, Mountain West Center for Clinical and Translational Research, and National Children’s Study. She is also co-chair of the Program Evaluators’ Group for the NIH Clinical and Translational Science Award Centers. Her passion is to work collaboratively in research partnerships—on teams with other scientists, clinicians, and community members.

Beth Tigges and Pat ThompsonBeth’s record of scholarship is equally impressive. In the last decade, she has had eight articles published in peer-reviewed journals and two in non-peer-reviewed publications. Since 2002, she has been director, co-investigator, or principal investigator of eight extramural and three intramural grants. She has given 37 podium presentations at international conferences (seven in the last two years), nine at the state level, and 11 at the local level. She has also been a reviewer for seven journals, including Western Journal of Nursing Research and Clinical and Translational Sciences.

Carolyn Montoya, interim dean, The University of New Mexico College of Nursing, comments: “Dr. Beth Tigges has been a valued faculty member of The University of New Mexico College of Nursing for more than 20 years, where she has excelled in teaching, advocacy for faculty governance, and in her efforts to support interdisciplinary research throughout UNM Health Sciences Center. She brings exceptional leadership skills to the presidency of Sigma, and the entire College of Nursing is very proud of her milestone achievement.”

The epitome of leadership
What makes Beth Tigges just the right person to lead Sigma in the coming biennium? Although I address only a few attributes here, she has many qualities that will serve her well for this important role, including her long history with the honor society, servant-leadership style, commitment to being intentionally global, and extraordinary vision for the future. 

Immersed in Sigma
Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and, most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.

Over the past 25 years, Beth has served in numerous international, regional, and chapter positions. At the international level, she has served Sigma as president-elect and, as a member of the Executive Committee (2015-17), has provided strategic leadership, including involvement in the selection of a new CEO and completion of the organization’s rebranding initiative. She also served on the Executive Committee of the Core Leadership Group of the Global Advisory Panel on the Future of Nursing & Midwifery (GAPFON) to complete data collection in preparation for release of the final GAPFON Report (July 2017) and to begin implementation planning.

Beth Tigges, Hester Klopper, Cathy CatramboneAs vice president of Sigma (2013-15), Beth led the development of performance indicators for the honor society’s Strategic Plan (2014-20). From 2007 to 2011, she served as a member of Sigma’s board of directors, participating in the development of the honor society’s new global regional structure, its first virtual chapter, and the pilot phase of its first office outside North America.

 As chair of the International Governance Committee (2003-07), Beth led the development of more flexible chapter eligibility guidelines to promote success of chapters worldwide. She served as a member of the International Eligibility Committee from 1999-2003 and chaired that committee from 2003 to 2007. She was a member of the International Publications Committee from 1997 to 1999 and chaired the International Awards Subcommittee from 1991-93.

At the regional level, Beth served two terms as Region 1 coordinator (1993-97) for more than 50 chapters in a region that spanned five countries and nine time zones. She also served as chair of the Region 5 Public Relations Committee (1987).

At the chapter level, Beth served as president of Gamma Sigma Chapter at The University of New Mexico and vice president of Delta Mu at Yale University. She was also faculty counselor and awards chair for Gamma Sigma and Program Committee chair for Delta Mu.

Sigma's board of directors, 2015-17As a leader engaged at all levels of the organization, Beth has a keen understanding of the challenges chapters face in actively engaging members, being relevant, and advancing the profession through research, leadership, education, and practice. During her presidency, Beth will work to foster enthusiasm in local members by encouraging innovation within chapters, exploring new chapter models, and sharing best practices.

She also plans to further advance the use of technology by strengthening member connections through Sigma’s adaptive webpage; expanding web-based programming; and increasing use of videoconferencing, online education, and social media. She believes strongly that maximizing use of technology in these ways facilitates communication and collaboration across distance.

Leadership is not a “solo act”; it is imbedded in relationships, effective communication, shared ownership, and coaching and motivating others.
—Bernadette Melnyk, Kathy Malloch, and Lynn Gallagher-Ford

Beth has always been a giver of time to people and organizations she believes in. Her curriculum vitae is replete with service to professional nursing organizations, her UNM College of Nursing and Health Sciences Center, and her community. The list of graduate students she has mentored, either as a member or chair of their dissertation committees, fills several pages. In looking at her long record of service, it quickly becomes apparent that, since young adulthood, Beth has successfully fused her service inclination and leadership skills. 

Greenleaf (1977) called this servant leadership. The basic premise of servant leadership is that the leader’s first aim is to serve and help followers fulfill their roles so the followers can grow and progress. Servant leadership is a balance between leader and servant, and becoming a servant-leader doesn’t require sacrificing leadership qualities.

Servant-leaders think “about the next generation, the next leader, the next opportunity. That means a tradeoff between what’s important today versus tomorrow, and making choices to benefit the future” (Prichard, 2013, para. 20). Servant-leaders foster service inclination in others that promotes collaboration, teamwork, and collective activism. Thus, followers help not only themselves, but the organizations in which they work and contribute. 

Beth Tigges, Hester Klopper, and Cathy CatramboneSince her first professional leadership role as secretary of the Penn State Student Nurses’ Association—and later, as president—Beth has demonstrated the ability to collaborate and work well with others to create highly functioning teams that achieve shared visions. Thus, Beth guides by leading from the bottom up rather than the top down. 

Not surprisingly, Beth says she enjoys collaborating with people who are different from herself—whether they are from other chapters, geographic locations, disciplines, or communities—to pursue desired aims. Although collaborating typically takes more time than working in isolation, Beth believes that it often produces higher quality and longer-lasting results. She believes in creating a tailored, flexible environment that allows the maximum number of people to succeed. Thus, team-building will be a hallmark of her presidency. 

Intentionally global
If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.
—John Quincy Adams 

One of Beth’s favorite childhood memories is taking a two-week vacation every summer to visit extended family in Central and Southern United States, as well as in New England. Eventually, these trips transitioned into camping in many U.S. national parks and visiting historical sites. Despite traveling in a station wagon with no air conditioning and no seat belts, eating at roadside picnic tables, and camping out to spare the cost of hotel stays, Beth was smitten with the travel bug and a desire to see the rest of the world. 

Since then, she has traveled extensively, both personally and professionally. As a Sigma board member, vice president, and president-elect, Beth has had the opportunity to visit numerous chapters in multiple countries and has gained appreciation of the challenges as well as the opportunities associated with a global organization.

One of Beth’s goals during her presidency is to further develop our global infrastructure and promote membership growth through governance innovations, expand our physical and virtual worldwide regional presence, and provide global access to Sigma products and services. In addition, she wants to strengthen Sigma as a global force for nursing by prioritizing GAPFON implementation, developing targeted regional initiatives to promote leadership and scholarship, and forming new alliances with global business partners to meet the organization’s mission of advancing world health. 

Visioning the future
Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.
—Warren Bennis 

Vision focuses attention on what matters most and what needs to be accomplished. It inspires you and the people you want to motivate to act and take constructive steps toward a future you all want to see. Sigma’s vision is to be the global organization of choice for nursing. In the past two biennia, the honor society has grown to more than 500 chapters worldwide, convened the Global Advisory Panel on the Future of Nursing & Midwifery (GAPFON), finalized a broad-reaching strategic plan (2014-20), and fully implemented a regional governance structure with regional coordinators around the world. 

Beth Tigges and Billye BrownIt has, indeed, been a period of vibrant global growth and development. Yet, as Beth shared with me, we need to purposefully balance innovative and fiscally sound strategic initiatives for worldwide growth and development with sustainability of Sigma’s rich traditions and values—no easy task. Details of Beth’s vision and plan for action will be provided in her presidential call to action. 

Beth is a thought leader, and two of her greatest strengths are strategic planning and governance, especially facilitation of organizational change. This skill set will be a great asset in the coming biennium as she works with Elizabeth Madigan, PhD, RN, FAAN, Sigma’s new chief executive officer. 

Nancy Sharts-Hopko, PhD, RN, FAAN, former Sigma treasurer, remembers Beth’s capable shepherding of several bylaws changes through the House of Delegates, noting: “Beth is such a great blend of warmth and clarity. Her expertise in policy evaluation was one particular strength I appreciated during the years we served together on the board.” 

Kenneth Dion, PhD, RN, MSN, MBA, current Sigma treasurer, agrees, observing: “I have had the pleasure of working with Beth on the Sigma board of directors as treasurer during her tenure as president-elect. Beth is thoughtful and analytical. I have no doubt that the work of past boards will advance under her guidance as president.”

Karen Morin, PhD, RN, ANEF, FAAN, past president of Sigma, notes: “My first recollection of Beth is when she chaired the Governance Committee. Our paths may have crossed prior to that time, but it was her performance during hearing meetings and then during the House of Delegates that so impressed me. Not only was she knowledgeable, she was articulate and respectful when responding to delegate questions. She displayed these same attributes while serving on the board of Sigma. Beth always asked thoughtful, challenging, strategic questions that generated lively board discussions, the outcomes of which strengthened the organization. I look forward to her presidency!”

Hester C. Klopper, PhD, MBA, RN, RM, FANSA, past Sigma president, observes that she, too, first met Beth in 2003 while serving on the Governance Committee. She says Beth’s leadership as chair of that committee made a lasting impression, as it demonstrated how an effective chair can make a significant difference in achieving the committee’s desired outcomes. Hester notes that Beth was always prepared and fully engaged to accommodate various views of members, and she anticipated background information needed to make decisions.

In 2005, Hester again served on the Governance Committee under Beth’s leadership. As mentioned earlier, significant changes to the bylaws during that biennium required extensive engagement with members. Hester observes that Beth handled difficult questions and debates with grace and confidence and created a space of inclusivity. In addition, she was engaged and articulate when presenting proposed changes to the House of Delegates.

Up close and personal
It would be easy to find someone who would tell you that Beth is a warm, humble, caring, genuinely nice person who quickly establishes a culture of trust with almost everyone she meets. Her core values build on a strong faith, deeply held values of honesty and integrity, and respect for hard work. Her actions demonstrate genuine appreciation and respect for others, as well as divergent thinking and openness to learning new things. 

Hester Klopper agrees. She recalls that, while she felt a connection with Beth the first time they met, it was during their first board meeting in 2009 that they really connected as friends. She observes that Beth is loyal, caring, and warm and has the ability to connect on various levels. Hester also notes that Beth has an institutional memory she has not seen in anyone else: “Beth can go back in years and indicate to the point—and often date—decisions that were made. In addition, she is meticulously organized.” 

Beth Tigges in IndiaBeth grew up as the oldest child in her family with three siblings—two sisters and one brother. She is married to Chris, a physicist. They have two sons: Austen, 22, a chemical engineer in grad school, and Jarett, 20, a mechanical engineering student. While they were growing up, both were avid soccer players for 15 years, and Beth was team manager for more boys soccer teams than she can count. In fact, one of her most enjoyable leadership roles was serving for three years as president of the high school’s Boys Soccer Booster Club. 

Beth and Chris live in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She spends what little free time she has traveling to places she hasn’t been before, seeing new sights, eating at good restaurants, reading newspapers and mysteries, and binge-watching BBC mysteries. Her ideal getaway is an active vacation—off-season preferred—enjoying the sights, hiking, taking long walks, and eating great food. 

Always going the extra mile
Sigma has been Beth Tigges’ professional organization of choice for nearly 40 years, and she has given generously of her time and talents to make a difference in the honor society. Her presidency will simply add to that legacy. Hester, who worked with Beth as a board member from 2007 to 2011, confirms Beth’s commitment to the organization: “Always prepared. Always going the extra mile. Beth is a scientist at heart and finds joy in data-driven decisions. This is quite a unique blend of skills—being able to look at the big picture but also being able to engage with hard-core facts and stats. I know that Sigma is in good hands as we move into the future and that we will see the organization grow with her leadership. I feel humbled to call her my friend.” 

Carol HustonPatricia Thompson, chief executive officer of Sigma from 2007 to 2017, states: “Beth has been a colleague and friend for more than 20 years. She is a strong leader and committed, passionate member. She is the right person to move our mission forward during this time of growth and change.” 

Finally, Cathy Catrambone, president of Sigma from 2015 to 2017, observes: “Beth has an impressive history of service with Sigma that spans four decades. All who have had the opportunity to work closely with her appreciate her rich historical perspective of the organization. She is a strategic thinker with keen insight into the challenges facing global health and the profession. She will do an exceptional job leading the organization over the next biennium.” 

I couldn’t agree more. RNL

Carol J. Huston, DPA, MSN, RN, FAAN, is an emerita professor at the School of Nursing at California State University, Chico (CSUC), where she teaches classes on leadership, management, health finance, and health systems. 

Greenleaf, R. K. (1977). Servant leadership: A journey in the nature of legitimate power and greatness. New York, NY: Paulist.

Prichard, S. (2013, January 24). 9 qualities of the servant leader. Retrieved from

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