Personalities of Pittsburgh: Katie Unger-Chipps, Leadership Washington County

Katie Unger-Chipps took over Leadership Washington County and rebuilt it into a community-oriented program.

Personalities of Pittsburgh: Katie Unger-Chipps, Leadership Washington County

Katie Unger Chipps, also known as LWC, is the Executive Director of Leadership Washington County. Unger-Chipps, who has been at the helm of the organization for 10 years, has transformed it into a hub for leadership, community service, and continuing education in Washington County. LWC had been a virtual organization for most of its existence. Last year, it moved to The HQ at CNX - a coworking area that CNX Resources Corporation developed at their headquarters in Southpointe. Unger-Chipps is also deeply involved in her community, especially in health care. She worked in this field before joining LWC. She recently joined the board directors of Allies for Children.

What brought you to Leadership Washington?

Before I got married and had kids, in my previous life (in pharmaceuticals sales), I started my master's. Then I was promoted and I couldn't work the hours required. After having my children, I began fundraising for their school. I knew I wanted to return. When I was searching for a master’s program, Robert Morris University came up. At the time, it had a Southpointe location and a partnership with Leadership Washington. I was a member of the class from 2012-2013. The class was a good one, but as someone who works in the for-profit sector, I thought that if the program were to survive it would need to provide a better return on investment to the companies that sent people. I was asked for an interview to be the executive director, which I accepted.

We began from scratch. We completely reworked, redid, the website and redid, the logo. I was looking at it as a new company.

You were able, in this way, to shape it.

The first step was to get the right people involved. We have a board of directors. It was like building a business, I had to get a marketing professional, a finance person, and a lawyer onto the board so that these people could come together to create the organization. This was the first step in raising the level of our program.

What is Leadership Washington?

Leading self, others and the community is our model. Every single session, our signature program includes each of these components. Our cohorts have given us positive feedback: 99% would recommend our class to a colleague the following year. Around 90 percentile of the companies who send employees to our class continue. We have a good relationship with the companies and they see its value.

We want them to understand the economic development and systems in our communities. We bring in experts. This is an opportunity that many people do not have. It's important. We want you to use that knowledge, and then... impact the community positively. We have a class project that involves the community. We've been raising money for non-profit organizations in Washington County. We're packing boxes for Food Helpers this year. This year we've done it two times, and I think that makes us the champs for packing the most boxes. We challenged any company to do the same!

This is a lot community service.

We want people who are interested in making a positive difference to go out and volunteer, sit on boards, and have a positive influence. Around 75% of alumni are on nonprofit boards at any given time. This also reinforces one of my knowledge about nonprofits: that it can be difficult to recruit people and that retention and recruitment are both issues. It's wonderful to see so many (Leadership Washington graduates) doing that. We also work closely with the Greater Washington Community Foundation, as they are deeply involved in the nonprofits of the area.

Your community work has earned you the Athena Award 2022 in Washington County.

My passions are women, children, and food insecurity. I spend a lot time in these areas outside of Leadership Washington County. Since 2007, I have been supporting the Washington Health System gala. I am super excited to announce that we've broken a lot of records. We keep raising the bar every year and exceeding it. This is exciting to me, as I am a salesperson at heart! I support St. Clair Hospital's ball. I worked in the pharmaceutical sector for about 12 years, focusing mainly on health care facilities. I am very close to our community hospitals. Our community hospitals are very powerful.

How do you manage time?

It can be challenging. They used to say work-life balance. We've had master classes with women where we talked about this phrase. There is really no such thing. Prioritizing the day according to what it needs is how you do that. Sometimes it is prioritizing the family because of something that happened. Some days it's the work. Women and leaders, in particular, need to learn to accept that they can't do it all.

What do you do if you are not working for LWC?

We're very involved with my kids' school and activities. This takes up most of my spare time. I volunteer with Horses with Hope in South Hills, an equestrian programme for children with severe disabilities. My daughter took part in Girls on the Run and I support them. Also, I enjoy reading and working out.


AGE: 50

Lever Brothers Sales Representative

Education: Bachelor of Arts in interpersonal and public communications, with an emphasis on sales/marketing at Bowling Green State University