Will HoutsPhD Student, Civil Society and Community Research


Through his pastoral work with seven Christian congregations over the past decade, Will Houts has seen the challenges attributed to effective leadership in organizations.  Now, as a Ph.D. student in the Civil Society and Community Research program since 2015, Will is engaging the theory and practice of leadership in non-profit organizations for community transformation.  Will is particularly interested in the outcomes that effective vision sharing and communication by leaders has on the implementation of programs designed for community change.

Education and Relevant Experience

Will has followed a circuitous route to the program in Human Ecology: Civil Society and Community Research. Following the attainment of Bachelor’s degrees in Landscape Architecture (1999) and Ornamental Horticulture (2000) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Will attended seminary at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY.  There Will received a Masters of Divinity (2004) and completed the requirements for ordination as a Minister of the Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA).   Since then, Will has served a number of congregations in southeastern Wisconsin as pastor, associate pastor, and interim pastor with a special emphasis on congregational transition and transformation.  In addition, Will served two three-year terms as Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Milwaukee, the chief parliamentary officer for the regional governing body.  Currently, Will is the teaching assistant for a course focused on strategic planning for nonprofits.

Awards and Recognition

Through his work in congregations, Will has developed a broad range of skills focusing primarily on organizational effectiveness and change.  He has spent significant time studying family systems theory in relationship to congregational life, the theory of change and how to lead change, and how to use congregational and denominational structures to assist in creating healthy congregations.  Will has presented at the Academy of Religious Leadership and had an article published in the Fall 2012 edition of the Journal of Religious Leadership on the pedagogy of religious leadership.

Degree Program

  • Civil Society & Community Research