The WILMA Leadership Institute is part of WILMA’s Women to Watch Leadership Initiative. Members of this group will go through intensive leadership training, serve as each other’s personal board of directors and have exposure to experienced leaders in the area.

Click here to meet WILMA’s 2023 Leadership Institute class

The group will meet once a month from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. between April-December, except the April session which will be a full-day session.

Individuals can apply themselves, and companies are encouraged to nominate high-potential leaders in their organizations. Up to 40 women will be selected to be part of the class.

Applications for the 2024 Leadership Institute will open in December 2023.

The program is geared toward those from New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties. Women from a range of backgrounds including large companies, small businesses, nonprofits, government agencies, educational fields, and others are encouraged to apply.

A panel of judges will review all of the submitted applications. If selected as a finalist, the applicant will be notified early in February to schedule a virtual interview with the selection committee, which will choose the final class.

If the applicant is accepted, the cost for the nine-month program is $2,500. The cost includes program fee, course materials and assessments.

The Leadership Institute has some scholarships, which are underwritten by our sponsors. If you work for a nonprofit or own a small business (5 employees or fewer) that affects your organization’s ability to cover the tuition costs, you will have the opportunity to provide details during the application process. (If from a nonprofit you must include confirmation that you have already checked with your employer to see if they are willing to cover the tuition.) Payment is due by April 14.

The Institute is part of WILMA’s Women to Watch Leadership Initiative, which has a mission to help develop more women leaders in the Wilmington area.

WILMA’s Women to Watch Leadership Initiative Co-Directors,
Maggi Apel, WILMA/Greater Wilmington Business Journal Senior Marketing Consultant and Vicky Janowski, WILMA/Greater Wilmington Business Journal Editor


  • April 19 (Orientation)
  • May 17
  • June 21
  • July 19
  • August 16
  • September 20
  • October 18
  • November 15
  • December 19 (Graduation)

All sessions run from 8am-1pm, other than Orientation (8am-5pm) and Graduation (9:30am-1pm)


  • Understanding Communication Styles
  • Public Speaking
  • Thinking Strategically
  • Motivating Teams & Managing Conflict
  • Negotiating Techniques
  • Building Resilience & Leading Through Challenging Times
  • Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace


  • Natalie English, Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, President & CEO
  • Michele Holbrook, Corning Inc., Capital Program Manager
  • Lisa Leath, Vantaca, Chief People Officer
  • Chip Mahan, Live Oak Bank, Chairman & CEO
  • Stephanie Mann, Live Oak Bank, EVP-Corporate Development and Strategy
  • Tracey Newkirk, Genesis Block, Co-founder
  • Sheri Shaw, UNCW CHHS, Assistant Dean for Student Success
  • Ruth Smith, RR Smith Strategic Solutions (R2S3), Owner
  • Linda Thompson, New Hanover County, Chief Diversity & Equity Officer

Learn about WILMA Leadership Institute’s impact from several of its recent graduates:

Vera Newkirk, Compliance and Privacy Officer for New Hanover Regional Medical Center

Katie Gloe, Product Line Manufacturing Engineer for Corning Inc.

April England, Supervisor of Work Management Support for Duke Energy