Northwestern College launches Center for Innovation and Leadership

Northwestern College has announced the establishment of a new Center for Innovation and Leadership. The center seeks to connect students’ ingenuity and organizational leaders’ insight to create shared opportunities that serve Christ’s kingdom and the common good.

“We are excited to launch the Center for Innovation and Leadership,” says Greg Christy, Northwestern’s president. “The center will invest in communities, organizations and initiatives through collaborative, innovative, Christ-centered leadership development, and problem-solving services and opportunities—under the extremely capable direction of Erica Vonk, with the assistance of a proven innovative businessperson in Josh Van Es.”

The Center for Innovation and Leadership features five launch programs:

Accelerate Siouxland: a regional leadership development program focused on linking community members, college students and resources for the common good
Learner to Leader: curriculum and mentoring programs that connect visionary students and organizational employees with innovative role models
Research & Consultancy: access to the opinions, ideas and imaginations of college students for research, assessment, and product or service development
Entrepreneur/Business Leader in Residence: bringing experienced and emerging leaders together both in the classroom and community
Innovation Sandbox: an inspiring space for collaboration, creative thinking, and problem solving for both students, alums and regional organizations.

“We seek to create experiences that are win-wins for both the Northwestern community and our regional organizations and communities,” says Vonk. “I’m looking forward to creating a shared space to enable students, staff, faculty, alumni and area organizations to come together and start dreaming about things.”

Vonk, a Northwestern business professor since 2015, played a role in developing the college’s interdisciplinary entrepreneurship minor and has connected students with Siouxland organizations through her courses in leadership, organizational behavior and entrepreneurship. She also has experience in agricultural finance and management as well as economic and community development. Her community contributions have included serving as a foster parent, a member of her church’s leadership team, and a board member and volunteer with the Seahawks Swim Team. A 2000 Northwestern alumna, she holds an MBA from the University of South Dakota and is earning a doctorate in organizational leadership from Concordia University Chicago.

Van Es, a 2009 Northwestern graduate who owns Orange City’s Ben Franklin-Crafts Central, serves as the center’s assistant director and program coordinator for Accelerate Siouxland. He has 11 years of management experience with Walmart in Sioux Center and Storm Lake.

Several area leaders played important advisory roles as the Center for Innovation and Leadership was being envisioned. Mark Gaul, Orange City’s community development director, says he is excited about the assistance the center can provide to business and industry across northwest Iowa. “There’s a lot of innovation that happens around here, and we believe this group of students can help take that to the next level. Also, we believe the center can help to develop the next group of leaders for our communities, as students learn what’s available in this area and the opportunities to get involved.”

Steve Roesner, president of Vogel Traffic Services and EZ-Liner, believes the center can contribute in a significant way to Northwestern’s mission of empowering students to pursue God’s redeeming work in the world. “One of the things needed for changing this world is extremely competent leaders. Once you have competency, you earn the right to lead and you can begin to influence the culture of organizations. I’m excited about this effort by Northwestern to help produce and nurture competent, character-filled leaders.”

More information about the center is at To indicate a desire to collaborate with the center, email Donations are being accepted online at Designate “other” and indicate you would like your gift to go to the Center for Innovation and Leadership.