Marti Coplai had attended countless conferences as a leader in services for older adults. But when her supervisor sent her to the Nollau Institute, she found it was a very different kind of experience.
CHHSM’s Nollau Institute is a yearlong program that creates opportunities for small groups of leaders to gather in person and online to learn and mentor one another as they explore their callings and explore techniques to make them better leaders. Applications are still welcome for the 2015-16 class.
“It was sad when it was over,” says Coplai, a 2012 Nollau graduate and now associate executive director of Evangelical Homes of Michigan based in Saline, Michigan. At the time she was director of the organization’s memory support center. “It was a really safe place because these were people from all over. You could really talk about things that you might not talk about at a regional conference where maybe your competitors are there.“
Participants come together with a variety of faith traditions and occupational backgrounds, from administration to chaplaincy to marketing.
“We always work really hard to have a diverse group,” says the Rev. Danielle Bartz, CHHSM program associate and Nollau faculty member, who encourages both new and seasoned leaders to participate.
The Rev. Kathie Bender Schwich, senior vice president of mission and spiritual care with Advocate Health Care in Illinois, found that the program helped her as an ordained minister of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to connect with CHHSM’s deep roots and to have a better understanding of what it means to be a faith-based organization from a UCC perspective.
“I was ready to connect more of the dots,” says Bender Schwich, a 2013 graduate. “It helped me round out the picture to get a greater sense of the whole.”
The Rev. Matt Smucker, also a 2013 graduate, treated the experience as a sabbatical from his work as director of pastoral care at St. Paul’s House in Chicago. “I think for someone who wants to do deep reflection and see about themselves and the ministry and agency in which they work, it’s a great opportunity to do that in a structured way,” he says.
Coplai carried home a greater intention to focus on each person at work who comes to her with something to discuss. “It has really made me, I think, a more successful leader,” she says. “I would hope people would say a more compassionate and open leader.”
Applications for the 2015-2016 Nollau Institute class, which starts in April, are available online now. Scholarships are available for small organizations.