A few days into her new role as Thinkery CEO, Patricia "Trish" Young Brown is jumping in with both feet to learn as much as she can about the museum that focuses on science, technology, engineering, art and math.
Young Brown, who retired from her position as Central Health’s president and CEO at the end of 2016 after 11 years, said although her new position at the Thinkery—where she started Jan. 17—is a departure from health care, the two companies are not unrelated.
In her new role, Young Brown will look to create a long-term strategic plan that fits in with the Thinkery's mission: To create innovative learning experiences that equip and inspire the next generation of creative problem-solvers.
"The mission really grabbed me," she said. "And the idea of being able to impact our little folks was a pretty appealing thought."
Young Brown said she had been thinking about making a career change for a few years while debating whether she wanted to continue working in the health care industry until she retired.
She said she decided in August or early September—around the time she was approached with the opportunity to run the Thinkery—that she was not going to renew her contract with Central Health for a 12th year.
"I had started at that time already thinking I wanted to make a change," she said.
Young Brown replaced Troy Livingston, who served as CEO for about nine months.
"We are grateful for his service and wish him well," said Adrienne Longenecker, director of development and marketing for the Thinkery. "Both the board of directors and Troy felt it was best for us to move forward with a new leader."
Longenecker said the Thinkery hired an interim executive director and a search firm to look for Livingston's replacement before extending the job offer to Young Brown.
According to his LinkedIn profile, Livingston is now a senior consultant at Expose Your Museum, a nonprofit evaluation and consulting company in Denver, Colorado, whose clients include The Chicago Zoological Society, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the Dallas Museum of Art.
In an October news release announcing Young Brown's retirement, Central Health board Chairwoman Katrina Daniel said Young Brown had “graciously offered” to help the organization find a new CEO.
A recruitment company was selected to assist in the search for a new CEO in October, and in November, Central Health appointed Larry Wallace, the organization’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, to serve as interim president and CEO.
Central Health Director of Communications Ted Burton said the search subcommittee has met twice since forming and is finalizing the pre-screening guidelines for the interview process. He said the next step is to select the candidates that will be interviewed in person.
At the Thinkery, Young Brown said she wants to find ways to further collaborate with the community to make a greater impact.
"There's a real opportunity for the Thinkery to grow its reach," she said, listing off possible future collaborations with the new Dell Medical School and advocates of early education.
The 40,000-square-foot Thinkery opened in the Mueller area on Dec. 7, 2013, and Young Brown said in a sense, the museum is still getting its bearings straight in its new location.
"The paint is still wet here," she said. "When [the Thinkery] moved here three years ago, there was obviously a plan to occupy the new space and build out programming, and [the staff] have been doing that."
She said the Thinkery is currently searching for a consultant to help with the long-term strategic process.
The museum, which has a core audience of age 11 and younger, already has programs geared toward teen volunteers who can eventually become museum employees. There is also Thinkery 21, a quarterly adults-only program that includes beer and exhibits catered to a specific learning topic.
Attendance at the Thinkery was just under half a million people in fiscal year 2015-16, according to Young Brown.
"The Thinkery has captured the heart and mind of families in Austin that want their children to have experiences here," she said.
Additional reporting by Evan Marczynski.
This story has been updated to reflect the correct square footage of the Thinkery and the age demographic of the audience it serves.