Jennifer Braaten

Jennifer Braaten

“Spirit in the Desert is welcoming retreaters again.

In January 2020, Spirit in the Desert Retreat Center, its Board of Directors, and staff, were still reeling from the sudden and unexpected death of its dynamic Executive Director, Richard Anderson, who had been leading the exciting growth of the Carefree, Arizona retreat center.

The Board turned to Jennifer Braaten, Ed.D., of Sedona, Arizona to serve as Interim Executive Director with a portfolio of tasks including leading the search for a new executive director. Dr. Braaten had previously led searches to fill president positions at Blackburn College in Illinois and Ferrum College in Virginia. She also served as President of Ferrum College for 14 years and President of Midland Lutheran College in Nebraska for three years.

Dr. Braaten began her professional career as a history teacher in Robbinsdale, Minnesota. She says, “I’m just a teacher at different levels.”

When asked to be Interim Executive Director of Spirit in the Desert, Dr. Braaten said, “I immediately said yes to the challenge because Spirit in the Desert is a unique and important place for hospitality, hope and healing.” Two months into her assignment, her job became immeasurably more difficult: COVID hit and the new challenges of cancelled retreats, loss of revenue, and staff reduction were unprecedented.

The center’s Chief Financial Officer, Eric Simonson and Dr. Braaten worked together to keep the center afloat. During that process, Dr. Braaten discovered that Eric’s deep passion for the center’s mission and his business background were the right combination to lead Spirit in the Desert through the crisis and reopening after the pandemic. Eric assumed his new responsibilities as Executive Director in April 2020 and Dr. Braaten’s interim work ended in May 2020.

However, the Board of Directors had something more in mind for Dr. Braaten. They appointed her Chair and she will assume responsibilities for a three-year term as Chair of the Board of Directors July 1, 2021.

She said, “Spirit in the Desert is welcoming retreaters again and I am excited about its future. After the trauma of past months, we need this peaceful place more than ever. We have a tremendous staff, a committed Board, friends, and donors. The need is huge and I’m confident we will compassionately meet that need.” The Spirit supported the people of Spirit in the Desert through an arduous time and continues guiding them into its future.

Lead Facilitator, Healing of Memories
Pamela Cornwell Chambers
Deborah Hutterer