ALIGN prepares emerging community leaders for a sustainable, high-impact career in the mission-driven sector by helping them clarify personal purpose, develop practices to support work/life integration, form a supportive community of practice, and better align their work with their strengths and passions.

“I was impacted in a very big way by ALIGN—gaining incredible clarity about my own strengths, uncovering hidden passions, and building enormous self-confidence. I was then able to see very clearly how I was positively transforming my organization and its future."



Marlboro College’s Advanced Leadership Institute for Growing Nonprofits (ALIGN) is designed to help people working for the greater good. ALIGN participants will learn practical strategies to increase day-to-day success, grow as leaders, and thrive in their lives. People working to make a positive difference in the world often feel like they are spread thin, not getting to spend the time on what they most love doing and not necessarily making the impact they know they can. To remain energized and effective on the front lines of positive community transformation, mission-driven leaders need the space, skills, and support to feed their spark.

  • Are you really clear about your own vision of success or do you sometimes feel like it’s all you can do to just try to get through an overwhelming to-do list?
  • Are you spending most of your time on the activities that matter most to you?
  • Are you at a moment of transition?
  • Do you have a method of decision-making that consistently works well for you?
  • Are you trying to figure out if it might be time to look for another job?
  • Are you clear about what the ONE question is that you need to answer NEXT in your life? That’s where we begin to prepare you for lift-off.

Let us help you ready up and take flight.  ALIGN offers an innovative approach to leadership training and engagement that integrates organizational effectiveness, personal well-being, and sustainable service.


ALIGN is offered by Marlboro College in partnership with the Sparks Center of Ithaca, New York, and provides structured and unstructured opportunities for mission-driven leaders to renew their sense of purpose and engagement. The three-month program includes:

  • Three overnight retreats in inspiring natural settings with simple, comfortable B&B style accommodations
  • Creative, bountiful, slow-cooked meals prepared by chefs devoted to the use of food to facilitate community
  • Ongoing, personal, developmental leadership coaching  (one-on-one and group)
  • Facilitated peer support processes within the full cohort and with a partner
  • Skill-building, particularly around time/energy management, goal-setting and prioritization
  • Ample opportunities for reflection, quiet and solo time on the land

A key aspect of ALIGN is personal storytelling. ALIGN participants learn how to create the experience of meaning and coherence in their lives through a narrative practice we call “Story of the Week.”   By relating our essential stories, sharing our small and great gifts, and coming together in beautiful spaces for reflection and meaningful conversation, we gradually build a sense of individual purpose and community connection that outlasts the formal program.

The two-day retreats typically begin at 10 am on Day 1 and conclude by 4 pm on Day 2. The middle retreat is three days and will conclude by 4 pm on Day 3.

In addition to full attendance at the three retreats, we ask participants to commit 2-3 hours a week during the program to maintain a reflective practice, connect with cohort peers, engage in planning/prioritization work, and participate in the weekly writing forum.


While other leadership training initiatives tend to focus on conveying technical skills, ALIGN will help you establish the strongest possible personal foundation for effective leadership. We’ve found that by helping individuals become more clear, self-aware, and balanced in their own lives, they are much more effective in their work and, not surprisingly, a lot happier doing it.

ALIGN is about energizing yourself enough to be able to make the necessary changes at work and in your life outside of work so that you can experience more satisfaction, lead more effectively, and generate more positive impact. We want to support you so that you can thrive in your current role and throughout your career.


ALIGNers learn how to engage and re-engage in meaningful work with purpose and clarity.  They learn tips, tools, and practices for how to live a joyful, balanced life, including the development of practices and habits that make it easier to rekindle their spark when it begins to falter.

ALIGN participants report that the program helped them grow in significant ways that will make them more effective leaders. Alumni cite an increase in their ability to develop practices and habits for sustainable leadership, including developing work/life balance, identifying priorities in life and work, and setting goals.

By helping leaders rediscover their spark, ALIGN also inspires positive organizational development and promotes a healthy, energized organizational culture. 


  • "I now look at all my work as an opportunity to find creativity and joy."
  • “I am taking my position to the next level, surrounding myself with passionate individuals that will support me and the organization, and allow me to flourish as a leader and a trailblazer in my line of work."
  • "Not only do I feel better about every aspect of my life, but I am spending more time doing what I love."
  • “While previous coaches encouraged me to get clear on a personal mission statement, Jeff went further and taught me how to develop and utilize specific, quantifiable tools that helped me get concrete about what activities I want to spend my time doing and what meaning and experiences in my life I want to create.”
  • “My action project was [about] figuring out how to get more personally energizing and high priority activities into my work. At the same time, I did so in a way that very much helps my organization. If I am engaged in activities that are important and energize me, my organization is heading in the direction it should be, and pursuing higher-level partnerships and strategies.” 
  • “Working with Jeff in ALIGN helped me realize that I wasn’t really enjoying my job and inspired me to negotiate a new employment agreement that I enjoy much more and in which my talents are unleashed to achieve optimal social impact. My new role has freed my energy to pursue other projects, which I am much more excited about.”
  • "ALIGN really helped me to keep my life going in a direction and manner that helps me thrive, and be my fully ALIGNED self."
  • “[Through ALIGN,] I made my position work for me. I let go of the parts of my job that were killing me inside, and I have pursued equally important parts of my job that really inspire and energize me.”


ALIGN serves community leaders with a genuine spark and an ability to inspire. We seek outstanding changemakers from across the northeast, regardless of title or organizational position, with a particular emphasis on individuals who are coming into their own as leaders and are seeking support in that transition.  This is a great opportunity for students or alums in our Graduate or Certificate programs to add a personal leadership component to the technical skills they’re learning in our programs.  Each year we strive to build a diverse cohort of 8-12 participants, representing a range of ages and a range of mission areas, from urban gardens to rural arts. 


Applications are no longer being accepted for the 2018 cohort.

Our application process is designed to ensure a good fit between applicant and program, and to build a strong and diverse cohort. We recommend that prospective applicants begin a brief conversation with an ALIGN team member, then move to the online application. Between 8 and 12 applicants will be accepted each year. 


September 15 to December 1, with an ongoing discussion forum and three face-to-face retreats. Retreats will take place in beautiful spots around Vermont.

  • August 10: Early Bird Application Deadline
  • September 10: Final Application Deadline
  • September 15-28: Prework
  • Sept. 28-29: Opening Retreat in Lincoln, Vermont
  • Oct. 26-28: Middle Retreat 
  • Nov. 30-Dec. 1: Closing Retreat 


Jeff Bercuvitz, CEO (Creator of Extraordinary Occasions) at the Sparks Center, is the animating force of ALIGN.  He believes “To be an effective leader and spark others, your own spark has to be strong!”Over the past 25 years, Jeff has served as a leadership coach for thousands of change-makers around the globe. Jeff inspires creativity, passion and action by helping people find practical ways to build a joyful, sustainable life that can support them in their work to build a better world.

Kate Jellema, director of Marlboro’s Center for New Leadership, is a behind-the-scenes operator who likes to help create transformative learning experiences. “The best education sets positive change in motion – internally and in the world,” she says.


The full fee for participation is $2000. This includes all accommmodations, meals, materials, and leadership coaching. We are committed to building the strongest possible cohort, regardless of the ability to pay. We make several substantial scholarships available each year to allow the participation of exceptional community leaders with a genuine spark and the ability to inspire others. ALIGNers are also encouraged to seek support from their community or organization.

In addition, some participants may also be eligible for:

To be considered for financial aid from the Center for New Leadership, please first complete your application to the program, then complete the request for financial support


In partnership with Marlboro College Graduate & Professional Studies, we are able to offer graduate credit in conjunction with the ALIGN learning experience. Contact Kate Jellema to learn more: 


If you are interested in ALIGN or have questions, please complete this quick form! We’d happy to talk with you!