We are committed to...
  • encouraging diverse points of view.
  • continuous reflection and on-going improvement.
  • collegial relationships and ethical leadership.
  • independent education options for families.
  • promoting the independence of our schools.
  • quality standards without standardization.
  • assisting schools in fulfilling their missions.

Pathways to Leadership

The next cohort will begin Fall of 2023.

Applications will be open beginning in March and will remain open through April.

Pathways to Leadership is a two-year cohort-based program to support and develop female-identified senior leaders who are interested in becoming a Head of School in the next 3-5 years. As a participant, you will work with an assigned mentor and engage in a number of activities to support your professional growth. Pathways to Leadership will use the framework of the NWAIS standards to build your competencies in areas such as governance, school finance and leadership.

"The interaction with other women with similar interests and ambitions has been invaluable. It has provided me the confidence to reach outside of my comfort zone." - Previous Pathways To Leadership Participant

Why Should You Consider Participation?

Having completed two, two-year cycles, Pathways to Leadership is looking for its next group of female-identified leaders to take on the challenge of moving into independent school headship.

Previous participants have experienced tremendous success, with over 25% being named to headships. Many also serve in senior leadership roles such as Associate Heads and Principals and everyone has emerged with stronger networks and skills.

Many participants have shared that the network, the coaching and content have increased their confidence that they are ready to take on this challenging role.

"The cohort has been a great source of knowledge and networking." - Previous Pathways To Leadership Participant

2021-2023 Faculty

NWAIS Heads of School, Briel Schmitz, Joan Beauregard, Liz Swift, Mo Copeland and Sunita Pailoor will mentor and support the third cohort of Pathways participants.

"This has been a wonderful professional development opportunity in so many ways--professional connections with colleagues and mentors, the way our time has been spent together, the outside speakers and resources--all of it." - Previous Pathways To Leadership Participant


Pathways to Leadership will serve approximately 16 participants, applying in Spring of 2023. The program will run from August 2023-June 2025. NWAIS is seeking a diverse and inclusive cohort and strongly encourages those from underrepresented groups to apply.

If you are not sure you are ready for the Pathways to Leadership program, consider applying for the Emerging Leaders Institute, a one-year, cohort based program for leaders looking to take the next step on their leadership journey, but not yet considering headship.

"Thank-you for offering this and to all of the Heads of School for offering your time and expertise to this process. It has been invaluable for me. I very much appreciate that this was offered to women in independent schools. It has influenced me at a deep level." - Previous Pathways To Leadership Participant

Application Components

  1. Resume
  2. Cover Letter Addressing: (no more than 500 words )
    • Why you are choosing to apply for this program
    • Your vision for your career journey in the next 3-5 years
    • How you see yourself contributing to the richness of your cohort
    • Areas you see the most potential for growth
    • Questions you hope the program will engage in around diversity and equity.
  3. Recommendation from current Head of School

Application Timeline

  • Applications will open March 1 and close May 1
  • Decisions will be announced June 1
  • Opening retreat will take place August 2023 (Exact dates TBD)
  • The two-year program will run August 2023-June 2025

"Great mentorship and the opportunity to meet other females at similar stages of their careers." - Previous Pathways To Leadership Participant


Over the course of the two years participants will:

  • Attend two, annual, full-day retreats (August 2023 and August 2024)
  • Work with a mentor to self assess, develop and carry out a professional growth plan for the duration of the program
  • Meet monthly via video conference
  • Attend NWAIS Conferences Including:
    • Institutional Leadership Seminar for Heads and Trustees (November 2023 and 2024)
    • Fall Educators Conference (October 2023)
    • Business Officers Conference (April 2024)
    • Leadership Institute (June 2025)
    • Building Wise Boards Workshop (Several throughout the academic year)
  • Meet with thought leaders such as: NWAIS Legal Team, CPA firms, sitting heads, trustees, and search consultants
  • Networking events
  • Serve on an accreditation team (as space allows)

The overall time investment will include monthly meetings over the course of the year, which would include experiences with mentors as well as the participation in the conferences. Some will take place in person and others digitally.


While the fees have not been published for the next round at this time, here are the past rates for reference.

The total cost of participating in the 21-23 program was $4500 ($6250 for participants from non-member schools) and is inclusive of all registration fees as well as lodging when necessary.

Experiences Included in Price:

  • Monthly Meetings via Zoom
  • All Materials
  • Two Cohort Socials
  • Opening Retreats (August 2021 and 2022)
  • Fall Educators Conference Registration and Lodging (October 2021 and 2022)
  • Institutional Leadership Seminar Registration (November 2021 and 2022)
  • Business Officers Conference Registration and Lodging (April 2022)
  • Leadership Institute Registration and Lodging (June 2022)
  • Building Wise Boards Workshop Registration (2021-22)
  • Closing Retreat (May 2021)

For those from member schools flying in for events, you are also eligible to defray a portion of your flights with the NWAIS Travel Reimbursement Program

We recognize that this is a significant investment for individuals and schools, and would like to make it accessible by spreading out the cost over the two years.

The following was the 2021-23 schedule of fees:

  • Member Rate
    • August 1, 2021: $2250
    • August 1, 2022 : $2250
  • Non-Member Rate
    • August 1, 2021: $3125
    • August 1, 2022 : $3125

NWAIS offers a discount of 5% if you are able to pay for the entire course upon enrollment

Cancellation / Withdrawl Policy

View the cancellation policy.

  • Guiding
  • Inspiring
  • Advancing
Northwest Association of Independent Schools
5001 California Ave. SW, Suite 112
Seattle, Washington 98136
T: 206.323.6137 • info@nwais.org
powered by finalsite