Elevate your UU experience. Take the leadership leap.


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.

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.

Some PHOTOS from 2017 are on our FACEBOOK page!

Read more: What Is MWLS?

Adult Registration and Fees

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.).

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 mailling 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.

Facilities and Travel

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.

Curriculum and Staff


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 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.

rev sharon dittmar 2016Rev. Sharon Dittmar

I am delighted to join MWLS in 2017 as a co-leader with Reverend Ian Evison. 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. I have 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 and husband.

Rev Chris RothbauerRev. Chris Rothbauer

Since 2015, Rev. Chris Rothbauer has served as minister at Keweenaw Untarian Universalist Fellowship in Houghton, Michigan. A native of Southern Indiana, Chris has previously served congregations in Louisville, Kentucky, and Calgary, Alberta, Canada. They are a 2010 graduate of Indiana University Southeast, where they majored in Philosophy and English. Chris received their Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Leadership Studies degrees from Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago and also holds a Master of Arts in Philosophy from the University of Sheffield in Sheffield, England. Among their leadership activities, Chris is on the steering committee of TRUUsT and the board of trustees of Michigan UUs for Social Justice.
Lisa Friedman2a

Rev. Lisa Friedman

I look 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.


jack round 200w

Jack Round, Registrar, and second-year staff member. Jack recently finished his term as the congregation president at the First Unitarian Church of Omaha, NE where he has been a member for 16 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.

Emily Lewis

Emily Lewis, Student Dean, is 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 :)


Claude Diogo, Bookstore Manager and first year staff member. He lives in Wauwatosa, WI. His spiritual quest found a home at the Unitarian Universalist Church West of Brookfield WI, two 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 is a participant in the current (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 partakes in the “Grow and Eat Local” movement of sustainable urban agriculture.

Trena Winans, Chair, is 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.

tom peterson 200w 

Tom Peterson, Tech Coordinator, is a second year staff member. He has been a UU for nearly 30 years, most recently 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 in information systems for a major midwest insurance and financial services company as a technical systems architect. 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.

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.

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.


Omega Burckhardt 200w

Omega Burckhardt, Dean of Facilities and second-year staff member, lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She is a member of the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee, where she and her family have been members for seven years. 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 is 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, 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.

stacey grenier 200w

Stacey Grenier, Secretary, and 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.

MANY THANKS to past Faculty and Staff!

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.


FlameKeepers Donation

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.

You may enter your own amount -- suggested levels are $10, $20, $30, $50, $60, $70, $80, $90 or $100.00, although you may certainly donate more.

We process payments through PayPal. You may use a debit or credit card, or your PayPal account. Your receipt will say "MIDAMR-MWLS." Thank you for your generosity!

YOUTH Leadership School logo17 320w

YOUTH 14-18 years of age have YOUTH Midwest Leadership School!
Click the turtle to find out more.