As of February 2023, when Cohort 19 of the NWA Leadership Academy ends their term, NWA will be pausing our Leadership Academy while we re-strategize around professional development needs for WIC staff.

Please look out for updates in NWA's Monday Updates or here on this site.


The NWA Leadership Academy is a customized, online learning experience for building tomorrow’s WIC leaders today. The vision of the academy is to support WIC staff in developing their leadership potential.

The NWA Leadership Academy is a customized program designed to:

  1. assist WIC organizations in developing leadership skills and attributes for selected new leaders, and
  2. update the skills of current leaders.

Additionally, the NWA Leadership Academy will enable WIC organizations to clarify, communicate and execute their vision, mission, goals and strategic initiatives.

WIC personnel completing the NWA Leadership Academy will possess the leadership skills and attributes necessary to

  • think and act strategically,
  • exhibit critical-thinking skills, and
  • manage results-oriented teams.

For more information, please contact us at

more about the nwa leadership academy

The NWA Leadership Academy Certificate Program is comprised of four (4) courses – each one is 8 weeks in length: 

Course 1 -  What it Means to be a WIC Leader Course 2 -  Managing the WIC Mission Course 3 -  Results-Oriented WIC Leadership Course 4 -  Mission Critical WIC Initiatives

Distance Learning

The four (4) courses are offered via a simple-to-access website featuring a new Learning Management System. The course materials are presented in a weekly fashion and participants will complete their assignments via the web. At this time, each course must be taken consecutively in order to receive the certificate.

Course Structure

Each course consists of eight (8) weekly assignments. The weekly assignments will take approximately 2 hours per week to complete. Participants will need to complete the assignment within a one-week timeframe and will then go on to complete the next week’s assignment until the course is completed in the eight-week period.

Each weekly assignment includes the following materials:

  • Mini-lecture that includes a downloadable pdf file.
  • Reading assignment that includes one or more downloadable pdf file(s) of relevant articles.
  • Discussion questions –Participants will respond to the discussion questions via the link that takes them to the Discussion Questions page.
  • Two (2) projects, which are generally 3-4 pages in length and are based on a set of special readings. The projects focus on practical applications of the curriculum on issues that participants would confront routinely.
  • A Case Analysis is due at the end of each 8-week course. 

Credit Hours

NWA offers a total of twelve (12) CPE (Continuing Professional Education) credits from the Commission on Dietetic Registration, the credentialing agency for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for the Leadership Academy (each course is 3 CPEs).

What People Are Saying

“The content and coursework were relevant to my role within WIC, and I found that this course strengthened my ability to be a strong leader within this program. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity!”

“Learning about the depth of NWA's resources and advocacy tools helps me to better advocate for the WIC program.”

“This course allowed the students to grow and learn from the experiences that were shared by the entire class. It was an important reminder of the passionate people who make this program so amazing for our WIC participants.” Anon.

“The weekly reading assignments were perfect. Short and sweet, but deep and meaningful.” Lori Dotolo

nwa leadership academy faculty





Patti Hauser, MPA, RD, CD Consultant, NWA Leadership Academy, Academic Supervisor 

Patti Hauser is a registered dietitian, receiving her Bachelors in Dietetics from the University of Wisconsin (UW) – Stevens Point, and a Master’s in Public Administration from UW – Oshkosh. Patti worked in public health, specifically the WIC Program, for over 30 years. She started a county WIC project in Wisconsin in 1979, when she paid the WIC grocery stores from her own checking account. Patti retired from her position as WIC Program Director and Chief of the Nutrition and Physical Activity Section with the Wisconsin Division of Public Health in 2013. She had been the State WIC Director since 1991.

Ms. Hauser was an active member of the National WIC Association, serving in many capacities over the years; as Midwest Region Directors representative and on many committees and task forces. These include income documentation, immunization collaboration, disaster planning and response, obesity prevention, the food package implementation, and the separation of duties. Each of these has provided a rich variety of experiences and friendships within the Association and USDA-FNS. They also provided the opportunity to learn from others and to bring the many years of local and state perspectives to the table. Patti also had the privilege to serve the NWA Board of Directors as Chair-elect, Chair, and Chair Emeritus.

In Wisconsin, Ms. Hauser managed a mid-size WIC Program of over 120,000 participants monthly. At the state level, she collaborated with several other health programs to enhance the services provided to WIC families, such as immunization, blood lead screening, and dental health. She had a reputation of trying to find the “win-win” in the program collaboration, while protecting WIC Program funds, and integrity of the WIC Program’s nutrition goals.

Patti lives on a lovely farm outside of Wisconsin Dells with her husband, Kurt.  




Margaret Saunders, RDN, LDN, MS

Margaret started her career with WIC as a Nutritionist, accepted new opportunities, and advanced to the position of Local Agency WIC Director and has been in that position for nearly 30 years.  The CEDA WIC Program in Chicago and suburban Cook County is part a non-profit Community Action Agency that provides services to over 43,000 moms and babies.  Margaret is a RDN, LDN with a Master's in Clinical Dietetics.  She has had the honor of learning and growing with NWA and served as Illinois Local Agency Representative, Midwest Regional Representative, Chair of the Local Agency Section, selected as NWA Treasurer, and elected to President of the NWA Board of Directors.  Margaret has also served on several committees including the Calendar Committee.

Margaret and her life partner, Wayne have raised two children, both of whom have chosen public services for their careers.  Her interests away from WIC and family (and with family) include a variety of outdoor activities including hiking, kayaking, cross country skiing, birding, traveling and also plays the ukulele (poorly, but with great enthusiasm).  Her personal motto is be brave enough to fail at something new. 

Margaret has served as faculty with the Leadership Academy since its inception in 2011 and is ready to help you reach your leadership goals.  






Debra L. Keyes, MA, RD Faculty Ms. Debra Keyes has nearly 40 years of experience working in private non-profit organizations; as well as, in hospitals, community clinics, and universities.  Her career has progressed from being a registered dietitian who worked in direct program services and patient care to program management and administration. She has been successful in orchestrating major program changes and enhancements throughout her entire career. Additional experience and expertise include, but is not limited to; public speaking, leadership training and college level teaching on a national, state and/or local level.

Ms. Keyes’ work in Los Angeles, California, included administrator for a federal grant program; as well as administrative lead on several smaller state and private funded programs affiliated with Watts Healthcare Corporation (WHCC), a Federally Qualified Community Health Center.  She served as the Director of the Women’s Infants and Children’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program (WIC) and Maternal and Child Health Department (MCH), and effectively displayed strengths of being a prudent and productive executive; as well as a company resource.  She served on the Executive Leadership team to assist senior administrators in the management, supervision, planning and evaluation of health services.

Ms. Keyes held the position with the Department of Public Health (DPH), as the Georgia State Director for the WIC program, funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition section (FNS).  As the State Director, she was responsible for providing the overall vision, leadership and strategic direction of the program. Ms. Keyes facilitated a successful transformation of the Georgia WIC Program. She had overall responsibility for the Georgia WIC State Office staff who ensured compliance with Federal regulations and operations of over 200 WIC Centers serving more than 230,000 WIC Participants and partnering with over 1,400 Vendors (grocers) throughout the State of Georgia.

Ms. Keyes’ WIC programs, whether local or state were always an active member of the National WIC Association (NWA).  Ms. Keyes served as a Representative of the South Region for the State Directors Section of the Board of Directors 2015-2017.  She is currently an individual member of the NWA and is serving as faculty with the NWA Leadership Academy.

Ms. Keyes thoroughly enjoys her work in the field of Women, Infants, children and families. She brings years of hands on, real life, experience working with the WIC family populations. Ms. Keyes’ knowledge base brings a huge advantage and a fresh perspective on issues concerning the needs and services the WIC Program provides to the moms and babies in this nation.  In addition she enjoys providing mentorship to WIC Program employees and is excited and honored to have been assisting NWA Leadership Academy for the past two years grow new leaders in the WIC Program.

tuition and payment

NWA’s Leadership Academy Certificate Program is comprised of four (4) courses – each 8 weeks in length. At this time, each course must be taken consecutively in order to receive the certificate.

The full tuition for the Leadership Academy Certificate is $2,000 ($500 per course) for NWA Members and $2,400 ($600 per course) for non-members. To be officially registered for a course and placed in a cohort, balances must be paid in full at least three weeks prior to the start of the class*. (*If you need flexibility on this payment deadline, please contact us at

At this time the Leadership Academy is unable to offer scholarships. We are in the process of developing sponsorship opportunities. Updates on scholarships will be posted as soon as they become available.

Methods accepted for payment include American Express, Discover, MasterCard, and VISA, money order, check, cashier’s check, or purchase order. There is a $25 processing fee for returned checks.

If you have any questions about the tuition and payment, please contact Emily Gilcher at Please allow one business day to receive a response.

Refunds All refund requests must be submitted in writing by e-mail or fax to the National WIC Association at 202-387-5281. The cancellation and/or refund request date will be the date the e-mail or fax was received by the NWA Leadership Academy. Please allow up to 30 days to receive a partial refund based on the following criteria:

  • 80% if refund request is received on or before the first day (Sunday) of week 1
  • 70% if refund request is received on or before the first day (Sunday) of week 2 
  • No refund after the start of week 3

coursework completion

Extensions NWA’s Leadership Academy is designed to support your learning and growth as a leader and is committed to everyone completing the academy and feeling good about their experience. We understand that our students are busy, full-time professionals with competing priorities. It is important to keep up on coursework assignments. However, if you find that you are having a hard time keeping up with your academy workload, please communicate this with your instructor in writing as soon as possible. Your instructor can work with you to offer alternative timelines to help you get back on track.

A Note about the Weekly Discussions: Since the weekly discussions are heavily dependent on timely engagement, NWA cannot grant extensions in the area of weekly discussions.  The course materials and discussion questions are available to you at the beginning of the course.  If you cannot keep up on everything, please make certain to prioritize these interactive experiences. This is a key part of the leadership academy and other students depend on your interaction for their learning experience.  Please contact your instructor as soon as possible if any barrier to your participation arises (vacation, illness, etc.). They will help you work out a plan. 

Incompletes The course instructors are here to help you succeed.  However, if you are unable to complete a course, the NWA staff will review your options with you and determine whether you are eligible to join a future cohort. Tuition can be applied to the future cohort if you restart an incomplete course in a new Cohort, within one year of your original start date. You may only transfer your tuition to a new Cohort once.

Exceptions for major hardships will be considered.