We are able to offer partial tuition assistance on a limited basis through the FlameKeepers Fund. We offer scholarships to assist individual students with their out of pocket expenses. Scholarships are typically $150, which will be applied to the Student Tuition if granted. Scholarships must be requested by May 15th in order to qualify for assistance. Scholarship applications are reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis and may be granted while funds are available.

You can apply when you register online.

This investment in leadership training is often subsidized or paid by the congregation. Participants can negotiate this on an individual basis with their individual congregations.

mwls tree logo

What is MWLS?

Part of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s nationwide network of leadership schools, MidWest Leadership School is a week-long intensive program in leadership and group dynamics. Led by lay and ordained staff with a deep understanding of UU congregations, MWLS

  • develops both youth and adults into congregational leaders
  • provides leadership tools and skills
  • deepens Unitarian Universalist identity

This is an extremely intense week of workshops, discussions, intimate small groups, worship preparation, personal theological exploration and growth.

In exchange for wholehearted commitment to a strenuous schedule, MWLS offers a life-changing and congregation-nourishing opportunity.

NEW LOCATION: Luther College in Decorah Iowa.

This is a two-part fee structure.

The Congregational Fee is always paid by the congregation as a sign of support for the participant's leadership development; in many cases, congregations pay part or all of the tuition fee as well. Participants work directly with their congregations to determine responsibility for the payment of the student's tuition fee.

By June 1, all fees must be paid in full and a letter of recommendation provided by the participant's minister, board president or chair. The letter should state why this participant is recommended for MidWest Leadership School. The letter may be sent by hardcopy or electronically to the school's Registrar (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

Adult Students per Congregation:





Congregational Fee





Student's Tuition





Total due by June 1





Remember that no more than 4 from a congregation may attend Youth MWLS, plus no more than 4 may attend Adult MWLS. Example:

2 Youth at Youth MWLS and
3 Adults at MWLS =
5 total but no more than 4 at each school, so that is okay.

For Youth MWLS information and fees, see: http://www.mwls.org/youth

Please fill out the Congregation Payment form even if you are mailing a check, so we can post payments accurately.

  • Registrations are processed on a first-come, first-served basis, based on the date received
  • SPACE IS LIMITED. Get your application in early to reserve your space. MUST REGISTER and PAY IN FULL BY JUNE 1.
  • MWLS staff encourages congregations to send teams and has structured the Congregational Fee accordingly.
  • Attendees in preexisting relationships are requested to attend as separate individuals. According to school policy, they will be assigned to separate sleeping areas.

The Staffs of the MidWest Leadership Schools look forward to meeting you this summer.

If you need to know more or have questions, contact:

MidWest Leadership School Registrar:

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Registration and full payment Deadline is JUNE 1.

Make checks out to MidAmerica Region with the CONFIRMATION NUMBER on memo line.

MidAmerica Region UUA
2355 Fairview Ave N. #312
Roseville, MN 55113
Attn: MWLS

Cancellation Policy


FlameKeepers Fund

Since 1996, the FlameKeepers Fund has supported MWLS by offsetting general operating expenses of the school and offering tuition assistance on a limited basis.  FlameKeepers donors include students, alumni, staff, and other supporters throughout the districts.  If you would like to contribute to this year’s FlameKeepers fund, please contact the Registrar or DONATE HERE.

Travel particulars will be available soon. In the meantime, you may enjoy the school's Residential Life page with dining and living information: http://www.luther.edu/reslife

Handicap Accessible AccessibleNotify the Registrar of your needs when you register so that appropriate room assignment can be made.

Questions? E-mail the Registrar: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


mwls classroom 2016The MWLS - Adult School program includes UU history and theology, leadership, group and system dynamics, and developing and sharing personal belief statements. In collaboration with Youth Leadership School, students explore, prepare, and present memorable and meaningful worship. All of these elements are essential for today’s congregational leaders.

The program is designed to provide insights, confidence, and enrichment for each participant’s congregation, work, and personal life. Participants explore alternative ways of looking at issues and finding solutions to problems through intense workshops, discussions, intimate small groups, and personal theological exploration.

The week is intense, with little free time, filled with intellectual and emotional rigor.

Graduates return with new skills, materials, ideas, resources, and connections to enhance their leadership effectiveness.

Led by lay and ordained staff with a deep understanding of UU congregations, a combination of lectures and small group encounters heightens understanding and the ability to navigate group process.


Rev Phil Lund Dec 2016 2

Rev. Phillip Lund

Phil has over 20 years experience serving congregations in the areas of faith formation and spiritual growth, first as a religious educator in Bloomington, Indiana, New York City, and Chicago, Illinois, and most recently as a congregational life consultant working for the MidAmerica Region of the Unitarian Universalist Association. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago and a certificate in InterSpiritual Counseling from One Spirit Learning Alliance in New York. In addition to being a Certified Practitioner of The MBTI® Step I™ and Step II™ Instruments, Phil has also received training in The Art of Hosting Conversations That Matter and Discerning Your Call: Dependable Strengths® for Congregations at Luther Seminary in Saint Paul, Minnesota; he has completed the Mediation Skills Training Institute for Church Leaders sponsored by the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center, and is a Conscious Aging Facilitator approved by the Institute of Noetic Sciences. In 2013 Phil was named the Fahs Fellow for Innovation in Technology by the Fahs Collaborative at Meadville Lombard. He currently lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota, with his wife, Julia, and their son, Henry David, and two cats, Nika and Dima.

rev sharon dittmar 2016Rev. Sharon Dittmar

This is my second year as a co-leader at MWLS. I served for twenty years as a parish minister (intern, interim, and settled minister). My favorite parts of ministry were worship and working with staff and lay teams in order to deepen relationships and develop and execute mission while having fun. I recently completed work with Parker Palmer's Circle of Trust, and have become committed to wonder and asking open and honest questions. Again and again it is the people in our congregations that bring me the most joy in my work. I live in Cincinnati, Ohio with my son, step-son, and husband.

Rev Chris RothbauerRev. Chris Rothbauer

I am so excited to be returning for my second year as spiritual director of the adult school at MWLS! I currently serve as a chaplain resident at the University of Louisville Hospital and as a community minister at-large in Louisville, Kentucky. I’m a native of Southern Indiana, and served as a parish minister for five and a half years at congregations in Louisville, Kentucky, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and Houghton, Michigan. I received my Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Leadership Studies degrees from Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago. Among my leadership activities, I serve on the steering committee of TRUUsT (Transgender Religious Professional UUs Together).


jack round 200w

JACK ROUND, Outfitter, and third-year staff member. Jack has recently served as the congregation president at the First Unitarian Church of Omaha, NE where he has been a member for 17 years.  During the week, Jack works in finance and accounting for a non-profit foundation.  Jack enjoys serving on the boards of an urban garden and a high school based on the Montessori method.  He has a wife and two children.

Claude Diogo

CLAUDE DIOGO, Technology Manager and second year staff member. He lives in Wauwatosa, WI. His spiritual quest found a home at the Unitarian Universalist Church West of Brookfield WI, few years ago, in 2014. As an active member of his congregation, Claude currently works with the membership committee and also contributes to the leadership development team’s work. He participated in the 2016 - 2017 “Wellspring” program at UUC West. In his day job, he is a Customs Coordinator with Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate, a food manufacturer. On the side, he partake in the “Grow and Eat Local” movement of sustainable urban agriculture.

tom peterson 200w

TOM PETERSON, Facilities Dean, is a third year staff member. He has been a UU for nearly 30 years, currently as a member of Second Unitarian Church of Omaha, Nebraska since 2002, where he is past chair of Nominations and Leadership Development. Tom is also a Worship Associate and choir member, and also assists with technology, building and grounds, and stewardship committees, and is a past chair of the Board of Trustees.  During the week, he works as a technical systems architect in information systems for a major midwest insurance and financial services company.  Tom is an avid woodworker and retired hot-air balloon pilot, and enjoys working in and around the rural home he shares with his wife and two dogs.

matthew foraker

MATT FORAKER, Treasurer / Assistant Registrar and first year staff member. Works as a Research Coordinator for Western Kentucky University. Since becoming a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Bowling Green, KY in 2011, Matt has served on numerous committees and is now the President of the church. As early as elementary school, he had strong doubts regarding the beliefs of his Presbyterian parents, in particular the notion of eternal punishment. His spiritual quest began in earnest in his 20s, studying eastern religions, yoga, meditation, and he practiced methods based on the ideas of G.I. Gurdjieff for 10 years. After moving to Bowling Green Matt discovered the UU church and felt he had found a place to call home. His other interests include worldwide cinema, mathematics, and the study of consciousness.

Omega Burckhardt 200w OMEGA S. BURCKHARDT, Chair and third-year staff member, lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She is a member of the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee where she is a Trustee. She has served as the Chair of the Social Justice Council, which is comprised of over 10 very active groups in the Milwaukee metropolitan area. In addition, she was a member of the Chalice Circle Steering Committee and the Immigration and Deportation Issues group. Embracing many career paths, she currently owns her own company that provides design and chef services, however she was previously with the University of Kansas and Marquette University as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Spanish and Latin American Cultures. In addition, she also leads technical brewery tours and beer education classes at one of Milwaukee’s largest craft breweries. She shares her full life with a loving husband, two kids, two dogs, a cat, and a frog. She is also thankful to have a wide circle of friends with whom she camps, travels, and enjoys fine food and conversation.
Laura McGee

LAURA MCGEE, Outfitter, is a first year staff member. She belongs to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Bowling Green, KY, and is on its Board of Directors. Laura is grateful that her long and circuitous spiritual journey brought her to the UU Church. She especially values it as a place where the Seven Principles provide a foundation for thoughtful inquiry and compassionate community. She teaches German at Western Kentucky University and heads the language department there. Just as one might imagine, she is passionate about language study, cultures and about travel.  She also likes to spend her time with art, film, hiking and cooking.

Babs Garcia

BABS GARCIA: 2018 is my first year as volunteer staff for the adult MWLS.  I attended MWLS in 2017 in preparation for my upcoming role as President of the Board of Trustee for the First UU of Springfield, MO (2018-2019). The MWLS experience helped me to better understand some of the challenges faced by congregations and, so importantly, it helped me better understand the kind of leader that I want to be.  Unexpectedly, the leadership skills taught at MWLS have been applicable in my professional leadership role at the environmental consultant firm where I work registered geologist and team supervisor.  When I am at home, I spend an inordinate amount of time playing outside with my two dogs (Scooter and Pepper), observing/appreciating nature and listening to nerdy podcasts.  I love hosting casual dinner parties and working on novel projects with my partner, Jonathan, around our veritable urban homestead.

Anne Marie Chastain

ANNE MARIE CHASTAIN: This is my first year as staff for MWLS.  I am excited to be serving the team as your Librarian in 2018.  I am a not-for-profit consultant, specializing in fundraising and board development for arts and higher education institutions.  As a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Indianapolis I have served on the Religious Education Council; I currently teach as part of the third and fourth grade Religious Education team; and I also am founder of our Moon Circle, which celebrates earth based traditions in our congregation. I love anything natural, connecting with the sacred feminine aspect of divinity, and nurturing friendships and community in all of our circles.

Jeremy Guenther 300w

JEREMY GUENTHER: Treasurer, first year staff member. I live in Dubuque, Iowa with my wife Sarah, our daughters Lucille and Penelope and two little dogs named Frank & Beans. Sarah and I were both raised Catholic but came to join the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Dubuque after moving to town from Madison, Wisconsin in 2009. I was serving my second year as board secretary for the Fellowship when I was fortunate enough to attend MWLS last summer. Now serving as board president in Dubuque, I’m very excited to continue my faith journey as part of MWLS staff and join other UUs as we seek our truths, expand our knowledge, and hone our skills together.

Chris Rode

CHRIS RODE: Co-Treasurer and First Year Staff Member, lives outside of Iowa City, IA with his wife Anna, and their 3 sons, Ethaen (9), Aedan (6), and Leo (6 months).  His family also consists of 2 dogs, 2 goats, a fluctuating number of chickens that enjoy listening to NPR (currently 19), 4 ducks, a rabbit, and a fish. He joined the UU Society in Iowa City in 2016, and currently serves on the Board of Trustees as Treasurer.  During the week, he works remotely as a systems architect & administrator for a non-profit in Tucson, AZ. He also enjoys books, movies, music, spending time with his family, and good BBQ.

MANY THANKS to past Faculty and Staff!

Rev Ian Evison Dec 2016 2

Rev. Dr. Ian Evison

I am Leadership Development co-leader returning to MWLS staff and a member of the MidAmerica Region program staff team - -just about the best team experience I have ever had. This year Sharon Dittmar, new to our MidAmerica staff team will join be as co-leader.

I love driving the roads of our MidAmerica Region and seeing how our congregations make real our UU faith in some many different and wonderful ways. A major focus of learning for me in the past few years has been the series of events beginning with the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson and continuing this year with the witness at Standing Rock. The theme of racial justice has become a central theme weaving through out work. I love working at that point where practical helpfulness for the jobs our leaders need to do right now meets vision for the future of what our faith will need.

Lisa Friedman2a

Rev. Lisa Friedman

I looked forward to being a part of the MWLS team and exploring the challenging and inspiring stories of our faith together. I currently serve as the Minister of Congregational and Community Engagement at Unity Church-Unitarian in St. Paul, Minnesota and have served congregations throughout MidAmerica, including Mankato, MN and Flint, MI. I have had a passion for history since growing up at the First Unitarian Church of Rochester, NY, where Susan B. Anthony was a member in her day. I currently live in Northeast Minneapolis, with my husband and two sons, where I attend a lot of youth baseball games in my spare time.

Emily Lewis

Emily Lewis, Student Dean 2017, was serving in her third year on staff. Emily embraces her journey as a Unitarian Universalist lay leader with gratitude. She was first introduced to UUism through her parents’ congregation, the First Unitarian Society of Madison, Wisconsin, nearly 25 years ago. Emily is currently an active young adult member at UU Church West in Brookfield, WI, and serves on their Leadership Development Team.

Emily grew up in a family of classical musicians, and later pursued studies in psychology, environmental education, and Montessori education. Emily lives in Milwaukee, WI, with her loving partner, Quinn, and their 10-year-old fur baby, Max. Emily cherishes time spent with family and friends in the outdoors, plays viola in community orchestra, is an active member of Educators’ Network for Social Justice Milwaukee and its greater LGBTQ community, and digs community-supported agriculture… pun intended :)

Trena Winans, Chair 2017, was serving in her third year on staff. She found her first spiritual home at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Midland, MI over 20 years ago. She recently finished serving a 3-year term on the Committee on Ministry including 2 years as Chair.

In her day job, she is Director of Education and Outreach for Senior Services: Midland County Council on Aging where she manages a department that teaches classes, organizes guest speakers, manages publicity and outreach efforts and oversees the volunteer program. On the side, she teaches a variety of fitness classes including Zumba and Boot Camp and is a very active volunteer in community theater as well as with her Leadership Midland class. She shares her life with her beautiful daughter Sophia, a junior in college, her boyfriend Michael, and his girls, Lexi and Emma, who are high school students in Auburn, Michigan.

tony sweazy Tony Sweazy, 2016 chair and returning staff member, has been a member of Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church in Louisville, Ky., since 2001. Tony’s family includes his wife, Kelly, of 22 years and his son, Leif, who will be a Senior at the University of Louisville. Roles served are Personnel Committee, Chair, past president of the Board of Trustees, and a member of the Green Sanctuary and Co-Chair, House committees, his involvement with church community has filled a void since leaving his previous career. Tony stays busy cycling, motorcycling, hiking, spending time at the lake, cooking, having fun volunteering with maintenance around TJUC.
stacey grenier 200w

Stacey Grenier, Secretary 2017, was serving her last year on staff. Stacey is a member at First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis, MN. She has been an active young adult helping out when and where she can.

Stacey just completed her Doctorate of Nursing from the University of Minnesota. She lives with her partner and their three fur-babies (cats). Stacey enjoys being in nature, traveling, and trying new restaurants.

Rev Tom Capo

Rev. Tom Capo
2015-16 MWLS History/Theology presenter, is minister at DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church in Naperville, Ill. Rev. Capo has also served congregations in Iowa and in Texas. While in Iowa, Rev. Capo was a commissioner on the Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission and served on many non-profit boards and steering committees, including Family Promise of Linn County, the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, the Inter-Religious Council of Linn County, the Sexual Health Alliance of Linn and Johnson County, and the Partnership for a Drug-Free Cedar Rapids. He was also a moderator for “Ethical Perspectives on the News,” a show sponsored by the Inter-Religious Council of Linn County and televised on the local ABC affiliate, KCRG.

Prior to ministry, Rev. Capo was a marriage and family therapist for 30 years. In addition to his marriage and family therapy practice, Rev. Capo provided consultation to NASA Johnson Space Center and a number of local hospitals, schools and universities in such areas as stress management, eating disorders, meditation and employee management.

Rev Dr Lisa Presley

Rev. Dr. Lisa Presley
Our 2016 organizational Development co-leader is a lifelong UU, and is in her 26th year of ordained ministry. Prior to that, she did almost every job imaginable in congregations including, but not limited to, board member, president, stewardship chair, worship associate, teacher of adult and youth RE, snow shoveller, bookkeeper, administrator, buildings and grounds person, caring committee and lots of other things. Lisa has worked as both a called minister and an interim minister in four congregations.

She has been on the UUA staff for ten+ years, working with congregations to help them do what they want to do better. Her current specializations for the MidAmerica Region include intercultural competency, ministerial transitions, safe congregations (both disaster preparedness and protection of members and children), and the finances for the region. Lisa lives in Michigan with her partner, and she enjoys reading, playing the celtic harp, kayaking and going to movies.

kathy mcgowan

Kathy McGowan
Congregational Life Staff for the Southern Region.  She is on the faculty of the Southern UU Leadership Experience (SUULE). More about Kathy.




Maria Wallace


terry mark

Terry T. Mark


tony sweazy

Tony Sweazy


Ryan Thomas

Ryan Thomas


Jennifer Thomas 2016

Jennifer Thomas



Rev. David Breeden
minister at Minnesota Valley UU Fellowship, Bloomington MN, lecturing on Theology and History in 2013



hilary krivchenia

Rev. Hilary Krivchenia
Minister at Countryside Church, Unitarian Universalist in Palatine, IL.
More about Hilary.



Rev. Dawn Cooley
Minister of First Unitarian Church in Louisville, KY. Read her Blog.




Rev. Renee Ruchotzke
Leadership Development staff for the Central East Regional Group, and Dean of the UU Leadership Team Institute (UULTI). More about Renee.


Would you like to contribute to the FlameKeepers Fund for scholarships? This Fund is set aside to assist those who wish to attend MidWest Leadership School.

Thank you for your generosity!

Be sure to indicate the Fund you want to contribute to. Please also indicate your Congregation's Full Name and State in the Comments field below. (e.g. Second Unitarian Church of Chicago, IL)