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Being ETR's New CEO: To Boldly Go...

Being ETR's New CEO: To Boldly Go

By Vignetta Charles, PhD | February 23, 2017

I’m thrilled to be ETR’s new CEO. This is a job I’ve wanted for 19 years!

In 1998, I was Program Director of a teen pregnancy prevention program in Oakland, CA. I went to a training on Reducing the Risk (RTR), one of the best-known evidence-based programs in the field. It also happens to be a program ETR developed, evaluated and distributes.

I was excited about taking this curriculum to the youth in our program. But I also had some questions about the process. I wanted to make some adaptations to the curriculum to make it more relevant for our community. Did these changes align with the program objectives? Was there any research suggesting my changes could strengthen the program? Was it possible they could make the program less likely to have an impact?

Show Me the Science!

I knew ETR was a publishing company, but my questions weren’t about editorial issues. They were about the science behind their program. I did some sleuthing to find the phone number of one of the researchers who evaluated RTR—Doug Kirby, a world-renowned researcher and one of the rock stars of the field. I took a chance, took a breath, and cold-called Dr. Kirby at his ETR office.

I didn’t really expect him to answer, but I’ve always aimed high. To my surprise, he did answer. And then he talked to me for 90 minutes about my work, about steps the field could take to better support young people, and about ETR. That was my true introduction to this organization.

It didn’t stop there. Doug and I continued to have conversations, and over time he became my mentor and friend. But that first conversation sparked an interest and excitement about ETR which continues for me to this day.

I couldn’t imagine that the organization Doug described really existed. He told me about a place where teams could go from concept to evidence to scale, all within a single entity. Picture, he said, a place that leverages science to advance equity-focused strategies for youth and families. An organization filled with researchers, trainers, designers, publishers, writers, editors, librarians, techies, former school teachers, and curious, smart people, all lending their skills and talent to advance science to improve lives. A place where folks get an amazing amount of work conceptualized, completed and disseminated!

Going to Work

About a decade later, I went to work at ETR as one of the senior researchers. I stayed for several years. Almost a decade after that, I returned to ETR as Chief Science Officer. Today, I sit at the helm as CEO.

My love for this organization runs deep and long—with good reason. Our ETR crew is driven by our mission to advance health and opportunities for youth and families. We foster bold, innovative strategies alongside classic solutions such as applied research, evaluation, training and technical assistance, program development, health promotion products, and evidence-based program dissemination. We build strong, dynamic partnerships and collaborations with colleagues across the nation and internationally. And we have the expertise and experience to do all of this within one organization. How cool is that?

ETR’s Mission and Work

We believe that everyone deserves to live in a healthy community where there is access to economic opportunities, affordable health services and medically accurate and inclusive health education throughout life.

Using Education, Training and Research, we positively transform outcomes in four areas:

  • HIV and sexual and reproductive health
  • School-based health and wellness
  • Alcohol, tobacco and other drugs 
  • Equity and inclusion in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math

We design customized, science-based programs and services from concept to scale.

The people who make this organization the treasure it is continue to do amazing work. Our values drive us. Our science-based imperative emboldens us to move forward with rigor and vision, using the best strategies at our disposal.

We are developing new models to integrate developmental neuroscience into sexual health education. We offer interactive, skills-based trainings that put into practice the most current science about adult learning. We pursue research and community products that stem from our belief that family, community, school and work are places that can support individuals to achieve wellness. We work to address systems of power through steps such as policy improvements or mitigating the impact of homophobia in the lives of youth.

We are ETR, and we are committed to you, those you serve, your family, your community.

I’m honored to move ETR forward boldly to achieve our mission. And I’m excited to do it with partners like you. Reach out. And don’t be surprised when we answer your call.


Vignetta Charles, PhD, is Chief Executive Officer of ETR. She can be reached at

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