The Leadership Institute at Purdue Northwest has named longtime LaPorte County leader Sheila Brillson Matias executive director. The growing entity, formerly known as the South Shore Leadership Center, presents the most current thinking on crucial topics facing the region, builds skills among emerging leaders, and uses project-based learning as a force for active community engagement.

The Leadership Institute at Purdue Northwest is the region’s leadership resource center. The Institute’s goal is to create a dynamic, collaborative environment with a broad range of resources to enrich the skills of program participants.

Brillson Matias also serves as executive director of the Society of Innovators at Purdue Northwest. Cortney Robinson serves as program manager of The Leadership Institute.

Brillson Matias brings an extensive background in community development, leadership, education and service to her role leading the two organizations at PNW. She is a former two-term Michigan City mayor, city councilperson, co-founder and board chair of the Michigan City Economic Development Corp. and teacher in the Portage Township Schools.

Brillson Matias most recently served as national director of programs for Summer Advantage USA/Entrepreneurial Ventures in Education, where she worked with key community partners across the country to bring learning programs into high-need schools. She also led workforce development and employment programs, veteran job retraining and community health services for regional and statewide operations in the state of Washington. Brillson Matias earned a master’s degree from Valparaiso University and a bachelor’s degree from John Carroll University in Cleveland.

Brillson Matias is actively engaged in the northwest Indiana community as an elected La Porte County Commissioner; she was the co-founder of the Safe Harbor program and has served on the boards of directors of Save the Dunes, Michigan City Salvation Army, Michigan City Zoning Board, Michigan City Plan Commission, and Dune Brook of LaPorte County.

The board of directors of the South Shore Leadership Center had the foresight to vote recently to change the name to The Leadership Institute, reflecting the expanding mission of the organization. The Institute currently is the home of the flagship Leadership Northwest Indiana program; and South Shore Leadership Youth for Community Engagement, or SLYCE, a six-month leadership development program for select young people from area high schools. Future additions are expected to include development of a leadership certificate and graduate-level credits.