Leadership Northwest Indiana is celebrating 30 years of increasing awareness and understanding of issues critical to the success of the region to a diverse group of community leaders.
The Valparaiso-based nonprofit organization began in 1982, designed to expose current and future local leaders in the region to issues that affect Northwest Indiana. One class of 20 to 30 individuals participated each year for its first 19 classes, meeting once a month for the entire day from September through June with sessions focused on various topics including education, transportation, cultural diversity, health care and government.
The hope was that graduates of the program would use the knowledge they gained to take on challenges in their communities thanks to a network of new contacts and growth in leadership skills.
To meet demand, in 2006 a second class was added each year to run from February to December. The average size of each class is 38 individuals.
Jim Walsh, executive vice president, West & Zajac Advertising, was enrolled in the class in 1993 and is currently LNI’s board president. He said the program’s 30th anniversary “is a nice milestone.”
“I take that as a signal we’re doing something right,” he said.
Walsh said individuals in the program obtain a good sense of what the region is about.
“I felt like I was standing on the shoulders of some really terrific, bright people in the region, and they let me see over the fence – the things that go on here unnoticed and some things that are challenging and need work,” he said. “It’s really revealing. If you’re going to be in the region and looking to run a business or be in charge of a corporation or head up a nonprofit, or be a leader in the region in any way, this is a must-do.”
Walsh said if the region is to thrive, it requires something like LNI to develop leadership, which he said is key to any successful society.
“We’re developing that leadership for the South Shore,” he said. “That’s our whole mission.”
Chris Sheid, marketing and communications director at Indiana University Northwest participated in LNI last year. Sheid said what he appreciates most about LNI is how it brings together so many actively engaged leaders from across the region and allows them to learn from one another in dynamic and thought-provoking ways.
“Northwest Indiana is rich in talented, visionary professionals, and LNI is a significant resource for connecting those individuals and building lasting relationships that will pay dividends for Northwest Indiana for many years,” he said. “I recommend LNI for anyone who wants to grow their awareness about our region and play a role in shaping its future.”
In addressing the future of LNI, Walsh said LNI has started a new program, South Shore Leadership Youth for Community Engagement. The new program for high school students will meet one full day a month from January to December, excluding May and September.
“We’re creating new programs for young people,” Walsh said. “It’s a very exciting time.”
For more information on Leadership Northwest Indiana visit www.leadershipnwi.org.