ASU Lodestar Center


Gregor DeBruhl

ELC Alumni Spotlight: Gregor DeBruhl on seizing the opportunity to learn

February 7, 2024 — Just over a year ago, Gregor DeBruhl made the 5,800-mile trip from Tokyo to Phoenix to join Arizona’s bustling nonprofit sector. Formerly a chief operating officer for Learning Tree International School in Japan, DeBruhl now uses his expertise as an executive director for the Children’s Treehouse Foundation.

While he came in with experience in executive leadership, DeBruhl says he lacked skills that would fully transfer to leadership in a nonprofit. In his mission to adjust, he turned to the ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation’s Nonprofit Executive Leadership Certificate — a program dedicated to improving the skills and building networks for nonprofit leaders throughout the state.

“I went in with the desire to learn more about the industry that I’m working in,” DeBruhl said. “It’s nice to learn wherever I can.”

The Children’s Treehouse Foundation is dedicated to “psychosocial intervention programming” that supports children impacted by a parent’s cancer diagnosis. The organization partners with hospitals and cancer centers across the country to train staff in its support programming, building an equitable system where all children have equal access to support.

“For us, that’s the way forward,” said DeBruhl. “To do it in the most equitable way —  to where it just exists for everybody — is to incorporate it into the hospital.” 

However, while he connected immediately with the organization’s mission, DeBruhl says the day-to-day work was a challenging departure from his background. For example, despite the large scale of The Children’s Treehouse Foundation’s work, it operates with a small team.

“One of the biggest transitions for me professionally was moving from a much larger organization where I could delegate a lot of tasks to a much smaller organization,” he said. “Some of my delegation ends up (going) to me next week — delegating to future Gregor!” 

The Nonprofit Executive Leadership Certificate, from the Center’s Nonprofit Management Institute, connected DeBruhl with the resources to support this adjustment, not just with learning materials, but also with access to his peers in nonprofit leadership.

“I feel like about half the learning can also come from the cohort themselves,” DeBruhl said. “They’re ultimately people like me who are wrestling with some of the same challenges that I am.”

Because he came in “hungry to learn,” DeBruhl says the benefits have been strong. He found a strong connection between the teachings, his connections with other cohort members, and his new work.

“They were absolutely applicable to the things I do in my role,” DeBruhl said.

However, even since completing the certificate, DeBruhl says his transition process is still underway, calling the process “a forever adjustment.”

“The nonprofit world has its unique bank of eccentricities,” DeBruhl said. “There’s things about it that are awesome, and there’s things about it that are really challenging.”

Still, he recommends the Nonprofit Executive Leadership Certificate program to any nonprofit professional eager to take advantage of the opportunity, calling for fellow “active learners” to reap the benefits.

Anybody who is considering taking part “probably recognizes that they have opportunities to learn,” DeBruhl said. “And I think this was a great opportunity to learn.”

Story by Lillian Finley, ASU Lodestar Center

Image:  Gregor DeBruhl, Executive Leadership Certificate alumnus

Find other learning opportunities with our Nonprofit Management Institute classes

Since 1993, the ASU Lodestar Center's Nonprofit Management Institute (NMI) has taught nonprofit professionals the most up-to-date trends affecting the sector today; how to lead and manage staff, volunteers and board members more effectively; and how to make strategic planning, marketing, fundraising and resource development work for you.

Our programs are open to individuals of all educational backgrounds and levels of experience who are seeking professional development, from staff and management to volunteers and board members, as well as private-sector professionals seeking a career change. We fill a unique educational niche by helping hundreds of working adults reach their professional development goals.