GCU graduate took unusual route to CEO role
By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau
One would guess that Steven Sheets executed a precise career path on his way to becoming, at age 36, President and Chief Executive Officer of Southwest Behavioral and Health Services, one of Arizona’s largest behavioral health providers.
“I wanted to become a pastor,” said Sheets, who graduated from Grand Canyon University in May 2005 with a degree in Christian Studies. “Then I worked at a couple churches and realized – wow – I don’t know if I want to be a pastor. So I worked at a (specialty) retail store in the Valley for five years.”
The hours were long, and he quit with nowhere to go before he “stumbled into a job fair” and discovered Southwest Network, landing a job working with children and families at the behavioral health service provider in Maricopa County. He thrived, eventually joined Southwest Behavioral and Health Services and became the CEO after only eight years in the field.
“When I have time to reflect, the thing that was constant is I wanted to go into a job bigger than me where I could help people,” Sheets said. “Everything is about helping people get to where they want to be, where they feel the most comfortable.
“This felt like the natural progression of human life. I love seeing someone going from point A to point B and, whether I helped a little or a lot, they don’t need me anymore.”
Today, he oversees an agency of nearly 1,000 employees, including psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and other support staff, who provide treatment to children and adults throughout the state. Under his watch, the organization is evolving with a more integrated approach to care. One of the biggest challenges is working with clients’ economic and physical status — key factors in their mental health.
Sheets finds many interns and full-time employees at GCU, where he also serves as a mentor to students. He remembers GCU’s “commitment to unique and individual learning. They want to set you up for success. They took the time and effort to mentor you into shape so you are as ready as you could be to enter the workforce.”
Even if that path takes a few twists, as his did.
“Some of the best moments I ever had were working with children and families in their home or in their community and making their day-to-day life seem normal to them,” he said. “Challenges will arise, but we can move through them. And we can be stronger if we do move through them rather than focusing on all of the failures.”
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.