TAIS New & Emerging Leaders Institute 2023-2024
TAIS Member Schools Only
$1,900 per person
Applications for 2023-2024 are now closed. Please be in touch if you have questions about the institute.


Our eight-month cohort-based program, comprised of interactive workshops, mentorship, school shadowing visits, keynote sessions, and networking, will provide fundamental leadership training specifically designed for new and potential leaders in independent schools. Major topics include leadership styles and competencies, community engagement, intercultural competence, and challenges specific to independent schools. The curriculum develops the personal and interpersonal leadership skills of new and potential leaders so they can effectively engage the full range of stakeholders in an independent school community while deepening their understanding of the unique qualities, challenges, opportunities, and constituents in independent schools. 

An intentionally small cohort, nominated by their Heads of School, will meet together in person four times during the school year and twice virtually. Additionally, participants will work on their own and with a mentor as they complete the two modules related to a shadowing experience. Those in the cohort must be able to attend all scheduled dates. 

Dates for 2023-2024: (Times are Central Time, In-Person Meetings are in Nashville)
Segments 1 and 2: September 8, 6:00 - 9:00 pm; September 9, 8:15 am - 3:30 pm -- in person
Segment 3: October 18, 3:30 - 4:45 pm -- Virtual
Segment 4: December 9, 10:00 am - 4:00 pm  -- in person
Segment 5 and 6: February 2, 6:00 - 9:00 pm; February 3, 10:00 am - 4:00 pm -- in person
Segment 7: Visit to Mentor's School by April 1st
Segment 8: Mid-April, 30-minute individual meeting -- Virtual check-in 
Segment 9: April 20, 1:30 - 6:00 pm -- in person

NELI 2023-2024 Application
Head of School Recommendation


Curricular Overview     

  • Developing Trust, Communicating Effectively, Mentoring, Self-Reflecting, and Listening
  • Independent School Challenges and Opportunities 
  • Data-based Decision Making for School Leaders
  • Culturally Competent Leadership
  • Leadership Styles, Skills, and Competencies 
  • Independent School Finance
  • Legal Issues in Independent Schools
  • Shadowing Experience, pre and post Mentoring

Recent Institute Faculty     

Carrie Grimes, Director of Independent School Leadership, Vanderbilt University

Mark CannonAssociate Professor of Leadership & Organizations, Vanderbilt University

Stacey Floyd-ThomasAssociate Professor of Ethics and Society, Vanderbilt University

Jennifer Hillen, Chief Learning Officer, NBOA

Kristina Kalb, Associate Director, TAIS; NELI Co-Director 

Matthew ShawAssistant Professor of Law, Vanderbilt Law School and Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Education, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations

Andrew Van SchaackPrincipal Senior Lecturer, Vanderbilt University 

Sarah WilsonExecutive Director, TAIS; NELI Co-Director 


 Who should participate?   

Teachers, Department Chairs, early career Division Heads, Administrators from any aspect of independent school life, aspiring Administrators

Requirements for attendees   
A minimum of five years of experience as a teacher or administrator in an independent school

Who can register for the Institute?   

Heads of School can select up to two people from their school to attend. There are only 20 openings in the Institute, and they will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis.  The Head of School should give permission to participate and complete the Head of School Recommendation form. The applicant should complete the online registration form.

All mentors are Heads at TAIS member schools and work at schools in all areas of the state.  Each member of the cohort will have a mentor, and mentors will have one or two mentees. 

Want More Information?
Feel free to email or call Kristina and Sarah. They can talk in-depth about NELI and connect you to a NELI graduate who can share first-hand details about the experience.  

Testimonials from Participants     
  • The curriculum covers a wide range of topics relevant to educational leadership, focusing on the thread of being a successful independent school. NELI also provides opportunities for me to engage in group discussions and receive feedback from experienced educators and leaders while providing me with access to a network of educational leaders, both within the program and beyond. (Amanda Asbell, St. George's Independent School)

  • The NELI experience has been an answer to prayer! As I have sought wisdom over the last several years regarding my future goals as an educator, this program has provided the clarity, challenge, and insight I needed to confirm my desire to grow in Independent School leadership. Learning from the professors at Vanderbilt, the self-reflection encouraged through our meetings and assignments, and the mentor experience are invaluable opportunities. The cohort model creates a beautiful opportunity to not only network but build friendships with other wonderful dedicated professionals.  (Gabrielle Capurso, Providence Christian Academy) 

  • The NELI program was a fantastic opportunity! I was able to learn with peers in meaningful and robust ways, and the presenters and seminars were helpful, thought-provoking, and challenged me to think about things from a different angle. I still lean on my cohort for professional questions and networks. What a great experience! (Julie Fortune, Akiva School)

  • As I have come to the crossroads of my personal journey in the world of private education, NELI has provided a wealth of knowledge as I look to potentially advance to an administrative role. Not only has this opportunity instructed me in ways to improve certain necessary skills to do so, it has also given me a support system of similar educators to lean on and learn from as I move forward. Thank you, NELI! (Bill Greene, The Bright School)

  • I had the privilege of being part of this program, and I must say, it has been a truly rewarding experience. NELI has given me valuable insight into independent school systems, theory, and best practices. It has been the best PD I have ever had, fostering my professional growth and expanding my horizons. The thought-provoking activities and inspiring discussions taught me more effective ways to communicate and collaborate. The team of expert speakers was both knowledgeable and encouraging, which really contributed to my learning. I've made "teacher friends" across the state during our meetings, building connections for my personal growth and for professional sharing opportunities. I'm very grateful for the chance to participate in this program, and I can confidently say it will continue to shape my professional life for the better. (Michelle Nelson, Franklin Road Academy)
  • I am so grateful I had the opportunity to be a part of the NELI program with TAIS and Vanderbilt. I loved collaborating with other independent school leaders who navigate the same challenges at their schools. I made strong connections with others that still come in handy today. (Margaret Richards, St. Bernard Academy)

  • The NELI program was very beneficial for me. It opened my eyes to all the different types of leadership roles there are at schools. (Jesse Robinson, Brainerd Baptist School)

  • The NELI program is an incredible experience that offers new connections, a deeper dive into understanding the larger picture of independent school leadership, and authentic experiences. The mentor program set up through NELI profoundly impacted me; spending a day in professional development discussing leadership in various positions at a paired school offered rich insight into different leadership roles. Everything from the well-planned class sessions, the guest speakers, specific reading materials, and the mentor visit experience were all valuable and exciting learning experiences. The NELI program was something I looked forward to attending each month, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who has the desire to learn more about leadership specific to the Independent School culture. (Cindy Thornton, Franklin Road Academy)

  • Participating in NELI provided me with the opportunity to expand beyond the gates of my campus and learn from leaders across a wide variety of independent school settings. Every time we gathered, I was challenged to reflect on my beliefs about what it means to be a leader in today's educational environment. I am thankful for the opportunity to learn from members of my cohort, as well as the amazing faculty and mentors. (Jeremy Womack, Boyd Buchanan School)

Testimonials from TAIS Heads
  • I believe it is the responsibility of school leaders to invest in the next generation of educators who will be leading our schools in the future. The NELI program provides a practical and affordable way for schools to invest in our faculty with the incredible resources of TAIS. We have had multiple teachers go through the program, and it has allowed them to gain a better understanding of what independent school leadership looks like as they move into administrative roles. (Sean Corcoran, Brainerd Baptist School)

  • We always want our teachers to grow and develop their leadership skills during their time here. The NELI program has helped our teachers expand their toolkit and come back into our community with a fuller appreciation of the many hats a school leader must wear. Having more people on our team who understand the larger picture enhances the strength of our faculty and our program. (Jess Hill, Harpeth Hall)

  • I believe all independent schools benefit when a larger number of faculty and staff think institutionally. I have been impressed with how the NELI experience expands the capacity and thinking of participants. Growing leaders is critical, and this program meets an important need for TAIS schools. (Kristen Ring, Hutchison School)

  • The NELI program is both unique and impactful because it focuses on its participants learning the particular skills and dispositions of a leader in the independent school sector.  By specifically honing in on those most important characteristics and duties of leadership, the NELI program prepares high-quality individuals for the rigors and rewards of school leadership. (Katherine Koonce, The Covenant School)

Apply Here! 
Head of School Recommendation