Women’s Center welcomes new CEO

Rachna Krishnan is the new CEO of The Women’s Center. (Photo by Brian Trompeter

After years working in the health-care field, Rachna Krishnan had decided to devote herself to mental-health matters and join The Women’s Center’s board when the group’s top position opened up.

Krishnan, who on Jan. 21 succeeded Shirley Clark as the organization’s CEO and executive director, said she would work to increase the center’s impact.

“I think they do a lot of great work and they certainly make a difference in people’s lives,” she said. “I want opportunities for growth and whatever it takes to help us grow.”

The center’s leadership has no immediate plans to change the organization’s mission or core services, Krishnan said.

“The idea is to have new services and new programs and to expand the ones that we currently have,” she said. “The Women’s Center provides such a great service to the community. They’ve been here a long time and they’ve had a lot of impact.”

The center will continue to hold its annual spring leadership conference and fall fund-raising gala. One possible area for expansion: career-development services for women.

In a media statement, Clark expressed confidence about the center’s mission and future.

“I am grateful to have been able to serve the center as CEO these past six years, expanding our domestic-violence and mental-health services and education,” Clark said. “My support for the center will continue and I am excited about the future growth and potential of The Women’s Center under Rachna’s leadership.”

The center’s board chairman, Greg Baroni, in a press statement called Clark a “tireless and innovative leader” and said Krishnan “brings the leadership and experience to advance the organization into the next decade.”

Founded in 1974, The Women’s Center provides mental-health counseling, support and education services to more than 5,000 people annually.

It is based in Vienna, has an office in Washington, D.C., and provides direct services at these partner locations: Fairfax County’s Domestic Violence Advocacy Center, Artemis House, United Community, Cornerstones, and D.C. Survivors and Advocates for Empowerment (SAFE).

In addition, the center works with Britepaths, CrisisLink/PRS, Doorways for Women and Children, Shelter House, Homestretch, ARC of Northern Virginia, Fairfax County’s Neighborhood and Community Services prevention team, Fairfax County Public Schools, Northern Virginia Community College and Project PEACE.

The Women’s Center has an annual budget of about $4.2 million, 25 full-time employees and 102 therapists, nearly all of whom work part-time.

The center underwent some turbulence after its longtime executive director, Judith Mueller, left in 2003 following a dispute with the board of directors. Her successor, Cynthia Huheey, served for three years, then the organization had temporary leadership for six months until the board hired Vicki Kirkbride.

Kirkbride spent five years at the helm and was succeeded in fall 2011 by Carol Loftur-Thun, who led the organization for a little more than two years before departing and being replaced by Clark.

Krishnan was born in India, came to the United States at an early age and grew up in Lancaster County, Pa. She still remembers actor Harrison Ford being in the area while filming the 1985 drama “Witness” and seeing some of that movie’s sets.

“It was quite exciting,” she said.

Krishnan holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and a master’s in business administration from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.

Women’s issues long have been a part of her life. As a college undergraduate, she volunteered in Philadelphia with Women Organized Against Rape, staffing the organization’s hotline and provided moral support, information, clothing and supplies to rape victims being treated at that city’s Jefferson Hospital.

Krishnan initially worked in consulting management, then earned her graduate degree and switched to the health-care field for 25 years. She most recently served as senior growth officer for Inova Health System.

Her latest assignment was working at Inova Loudoun Hospital, where she helped bring in new programs and services to the hospital and its community.

“I think that’s something the  community really valued, not having to travel across county lines to get services,” she said.

Krishnan always has been interested in mental health, and volunteered for CrisisLink about a decade ago.

Krishnan lives in McLean with her husband and two children. She enjoys traveling around the world, but also practicing needlepoint, a skill she picked up as a child in Pennsylvania’s Amish country.

“That’s what girls did back then,” she said. “They learned to do needlepoint and sewing and things like that. But I have tons of stuff that I’ve made in my home over the years.”

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