State Beat executive profile: Teresa Bruce of the Utah Psychological Association (UPA)
By Hannah Calkins
In her previous role, before she became the executive director of the Utah Psychological Association (UPA) in 2004, Teresa Bruce was often sought after by colleagues who wanted to decompress, process or just talk.
Inspired by this, and ready for a change, she began working toward a degree in social work. She continued her schoolwork after starting at UPA, but soon left the program to focus on her role at the association. Now, almost 14 years later, Bruce says that serving as executive director is hugely rewarding — different than a career in social work might have been, perhaps, but still a great fit for her personally and professionally.
”This job is a labor of love,” she said. “I have the utmost respect and admiration for psychology and psychologists. I see the good work these professionals do, and I want to do all I can to support them.”
The feeling is deeply, personally mutual, according to those who work with Bruce.
Cheri Reynolds, PhD, a former president of UPA and longtime board member, hired Bruce almost immediately after meeting her in 2004. “Teresa is our ambassador — everyone loves and admires her,” Reynolds said.
“Teresa is high-energy, creative and a great problem solver,” said Michael Ranney, executive director of the Ohio Psychological Association, who serves with Bruce on the Council of Executives of State, Provincial (and Territorial) Psychological Associations. “She’s also supportive and genuine — the first of us to welcome new executive directors, and the first to congratulate those who move on to new opportunities.”
Bruce exudes warmth, enthusiasm and competence — the efficacious combination that compelled her former colleagues’ confidences, drew her to social work and now makes her, in Reynolds’ words, UPA’s “revered and loved” executive director.
“My priority has always been to make sure that UPA has a strong future,” Bruce said.
Her track record on that point goes back to the beginning of her tenure at UPA. When she was hired, the association’s finances were bleak. But Bruce got things back on track by modernizing UPA’s bookkeeping system, galvanizing member recruitment and participation, and convincing the UPA board to forgo its expensive office space in downtown Salt Lake City. Her efforts were so successful that she eliminated UPA’s dependence on grants from the Practice Organization’s Committee for the Advancement of Professional Practice, which many state associations rely on to stay afloat.
This is her proudest accomplishment at UPA so far, she said.
Since then, with the help of volunteers, she has worked to sustain UPA’s small but robust membership of just under 300 members. In this regard, Reynolds says that Bruce’s business skills are aided by her natural sense of compassion.
“Many times, I’ve seen her support members who face difficult health, professional or financial problems which threaten their ability to participate or pay membership fees. She works out solutions for every situation, all the while recognizing each person’s worth,” Reynolds said.
For Bruce, knowing many members personally and feeling closely connected to them is the one big advantage of running a smaller association.
“We’re a close-knit group,” she said. “Our members aren’t just names to me — and that’s a great feeling.”
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