Nollau Leadership Institute Opens Participants to New Expressions of Leadership
Enrollment currently is open for the 2024-2025 Nollau Leadership Institute, CHHSM’s signature, year-long program. So what is it that makes Nollau special, so much so that former classmates recommend it to their colleagues?
The Rev. Jasmine C. Quinerly — a member of the Settegast Heights Village Apartments (Houston, Texas) board of directors, vice chair of the UCC board, and part of the current Nollau class — found her way to the program from a previous Nollau participant. Her friend, the Rev. Dr. Ginny Brown Daniel, currently interim pastor of Congregational UCC of Austin, Texas, participated in the 2021-2022 Institute. Quinerly was supporting Daniel’s run for the Texas House of Representatives when she heard about the program. Set to attend a nonprofit leadership program at Rice University, Quinerly shifted her plans.
Daniel “expressed the benefit of the Nollau Program to work relationships and the enrichment of her leadership style,” said Quinerly. “It was that conversation and time of encouragement that led me to seek a position in the CHHSM leadership program. I am grateful to Rev. Daniel for sharing — we grow when we know resources are available to us.”
The Nollau Leadership Institute includes two in-person retreats at Bellwether Farm, a camp, retreat, and education center that offers a model of sustainable living that promotes physical and spiritual wellness, fidelity to the environment, and social justice. Each retreat makes use of rituals, art, poetry, embodiment, Quaker listening circles, and time to simply be in nature, along with interactive, didactic sessions.
The program also consists of online interactions between the retreats, plus an additional day of programming at CHHSM’s Annual Gathering. Additionally, the Nollau class’ final capstone projects are displayed, with time for interaction between Nollau participants and Gathering attendees. The Annual Gathering concludes with the consecration and commissioning of the class as Diakonial Ministers.
“The first retreat focuses a lot on the individual level: who am I? What does it mean to be a leader? Who are we as a cohort?” said the Rev. Dr. Elyse Berry, CHHSM’s associate for advocacy and leadership development. “The second retreat then uses that self and communal awareness as a foundation to really hone in on organizational content and skills. The year-long format allows the cohort to be a ‘leadership lab’ of sorts, where they get to practice their leadership skills in a safe and low-risk environment on the retreat. This is different, and deeper, than just learning content on a webinar, for instance.”
That care in developing the person as well as learning skills was a pleasant surprise for Kim Kilday, chief marketing officer of EveryAge, based in Newton, N.C. Like Quinerly, Kilday is part of the current Nollau class.
“I knew Nollau was a leadership academy, and I was hoping to meet other CHHSM professionals to learn from,” said Kilday. “Little did I realize that Nollau would include using the enneagram as a tool to learn about myself. As a marketer, I am more comfortable talking about other people’s stories, so this was a good environment to practice vulnerability. In business school, management classes didn’t focus on the manager; they focused on processes of managing, organizational behavior. What I found through Nollau was a convergence of practices, and how these connect to the humanity of leadership.”
Grounded in the health and human service organizations of the United Church of Christ, Nollau offers a unique space in which to experience leadership formation. The program brings together a community of leaders committed to creating a just, caring, and compassionate world. Such values deepen during the program, as participants grow in their leadership skills from a place of belonging. Cultivating the connection between others, the world, and withing themselves is the heart of the program.
“Besides learning about faith-based leadership and developing your own leadership skills, what comes through in Nollau is the importance of community — small groups that are formed, and the class as a whole,” said the Rev. George Graham, CHHSM vice president. “From interviews that I am doing with Nollau participants as part of my D.Min. degree project, I am finding that the relationships formed at Nollau extend for many years beyond the program, and provide an ongoing source of support for Nollau alums. The relationships that I formed during Nollau have been critically important for me, and I think that is the case for everyone who goes through Nollau.”
Although rooted in the UCC, the program is open to everyone. “Leadership is one of CHHSM’s unshakable beliefs, so developing, cultivating, and connecting leaders within CHHSM organizations and the wider UCC is incredibly important to CHHSM as an association,” Berry added. “But Nollau is completely unique as a leadership formation program because of the participants it attracts. Though our CHHSM member organizations are in covenant with the UCC, you don’t have to be UCC in order to work there or to participate in Nollau. Thus, we have diversity across health and human service sectors, church and regional church employees, and across religious and spiritual affiliations. It is a special blend of folks who are all dedicated to a similar mission, but come from such diverse backgrounds!”
Such diversity is important to CHHSM in other ways, too. In June 2020, CHHSM’s board, staff and friends released a statement on the pandemic of systemic racism. A year later, it completed its promised Race, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (RDEI) Assessment. CHHSM’s commitment to issues of Race, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice is used as a guide for the Nollau Leadership Institute. During the year, leadership is examined and practiced through the lenses of anti-oppression and social justice.
Over the past 20 years, more than 250 people have attended the year-long program. Named after Louis Edward Nollau — a 19th-century missionary, preacher and founder of several St. Louis-area CHHSM ministries — the Nollau Leadership Institute emphasizes the kind of integrated leadership that its namesake modeled: professional excellence rooted in faith-based purpose. Graduates of the Nollau Institute leave the program with a better understanding of how their faith calls them to lead.
For Kilday, the experience to date has been transformative. “I was hopeful to use Nollau as a vehicle to clear my leader mind, and learn better ways to lead. I wish we had a third retreat, because it seems like we’ve only broken the surface of what we can discover! As I talked through my idea for my capstone project, I am optimistic that I may have a tool to take back to EveryAge!”
Kilday says she found the retreat activities particularly meaningful. “Overall, I have never had an experience where a group actually listens to each other,” she said. “I never dreamed that using a Quaker Listening Circle as a leadership tool would be so impactful.”
The Nollau Leadership Institute fills up quickly, so complete the short, online application form as soon as possible.
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