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Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute

Formerly called the Community Leadership Program, the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute prepares leaders from across Central Iowa to be effective stewards for our community's future. The nine-month curriculum offers a view of Greater Des Moines from different vantage points, heightens participant awareness of current community conditions and issues, enhances individual and group leadership skills, and helps class members see themselves as partners for change.

Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute Class of 2023

  • Lisa Behrends, YSS
  • Abby Bogaards, On With Life
  • Isaac Bracher, OPN Architects
  • Claire Brehmer, Hubbell Realty Co.
  • Lia Brown, Polk County Treasurer
  • Maria Brownell, Ahlers & Cooney PC
  • Marcus Coenen, Felsburg Holt & Ullevig
  • Lacy Covarrubias, Community State Bank
  • Dustyn Curran, Ryan Companies US, Inc.
  • Jana Daisy, Volunteer Iowa
  • Matt Davis, Neumann Brothers, Inc.
  • Joe Dolack III, DMARC
  • Tom Florian, West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce
  • Jody Gifford, NCMIC
  • Josh Hemberger, Substance Architecture
  • Vanessa Howell, The Howell Solution
  • Christine Johnson, Wells Fargo
  • Dau Jok, West Des Moines Community Schools
  • Aaron Jones, Belin McCormick, P.C.
  • Karie Kading Ramsey, Kading/Kading Properties
  • Emily Karwoski, Principal
  • Latoya Lewis, Optum
  • Danielle Martin, United Way of Central Iowa
  • Wayne Middleton, Bankers Trust
  • Devon Moody, Confluence
  • Anna Nalean, Delta Dental of Iowa
  • Dave O'Loughlin, AECOM
  • Josh Palik, Felsburg Holt & Ullevig
  • Missy Reams, Bidwell Riverside Center - Hawthorn Hill
  • Maria Robinson, Community Champion
  • Kelly Royal, Lead DSM
  • John Ryan, Ryan Companies US, Inc.
  • Cara Shindler, Gilbert & Cook
  • Rachel Summers, Blank Park Zoo
  • Anna Sunstrom, Everybody Wins! Iowa
  • Adrianne Towe, Waukee Community Schools Foundation
  • Anh Tran, Chevron Renewable Energy Group
  • Jake Unruh, Commerce Bank
  • Dan Warfel, GDM Habitat for Humanity
  • Risha Weber, Nationwide Insurance

Class of 2024 Nomination and Application Schedule

  • February 1 - March 10: Nominations for the Class of 2024 are now closed.
  • March 2, 4:00 - 5:30: Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute Informational Session. Watch the recording!
  • Mid-March - April: Invitations to apply extended (all who are nominated are invited to apply).
  • June: Class selection and invitations to participate in the class extended.
  • August - May: Program takes place.

Participants and Selection

Each year, leaders from the private, public and non-profit sectors of the community are selected to participate in this transformational program. Ideal candidates have demonstrated some level of community leadership experience and are committed to community engagement.

All nominated candidates will be invited to apply. When completing the application, careful, thorough responses are encouraged in order to ensure the Selection Committee has enough information on which to judge fit for the program and dedication to community leadership development. The long-standing Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute is highly competitive and many candidates apply more than once.


The curriculum includes leadership development training and exposure to community issues through experiential learning, expert presentations, and class discussions. The three pillars of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute include:

Class Projects

The Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute prepares leaders from across Greater Des Moines to be effective stewards for our community’s future. Class members increase their awareness of local issues and develop leadership skills. They apply design thinking to develop solutions for their class project.

Design thinking is a problem-solving framework that facilitates innovation by keeping humans at the center. The five, non-linear phases of design thinking are empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. The first three phases involve the class project teams using experiences shared by living experts and stakeholders to inform the direction of their possible solutions. They then develop prototypes to test with those individuals, using input to refine, or sometimes reimagine, their possible solutions.

Participant Expectations

Active class member participation ensures a rich experience for the individual as well as for the group. For that reason, participants are held to a strict attendance policy. A program schedule will be provided to those who are nominated for the program, so they may ensure they are able to participate. To receive the most benefit from the class experience and to fully complete program expectations, participants should expect a significant time commitment over the nine-month program. Class members will participate in*:

  • 10 partial-day classes held every two to three weeks.
  • 1 evening orientation, 1 two-day opening retreat, and 1 full-day mid-year retreat.
  • Preparation between sessions.
  • Class project work includes meetings (often weekly) outside of regular sessions plus additional meetings and tasks to accomplish project goals outside of class. This time may be significant, so please consider that before applying.
  • Full-day commencement.

*Subject to change.


The cost to participate in the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute is $3,250*. It is important that cost not be a barrier to any qualified candidate's participation. Those accepted into the program will have an opportunity to apply for financial assistance, including full and partial scholarships.

*Subject to change.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute



The Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute is generously supported by:

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