Elevate your UU experience. Take the leadership leap.

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 Dec 2016 2Rev. 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. Adam Robersmith

MWLS's Spiritual Director, is the settled minister at Second Unitarian Church in Chicago, IL and a spiritual director in private practice. In his own spiritual life, he draws most strongly from the Christian contemplative and mystic tradition of the west, his interest in and love of science and the arts, and earth-centered theologies that draw on the power and beauty of the natural world.

You’ll often find him knitting, reading, walking, or wishing he had more time for his garden and home near Chicago, which he shares with his partner and dog.


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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.

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!

YOUTH Leadership School logo17 320w

YOUTH 14-18 years of age have YOUTH Midwest Leadership School!
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