Hill charges NOW Generation to participate in strategic planning for shaping Institution’s future

NOW Generation Advisory Council Chair Katie Prechtl Cooke talks with Meghan Pry, left, and Erin Schweers Cornelius during a NOW Generation reception at Girls’ Club Sunday, July 2, 2017. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

For several years, members of NOW Generation have come together to kick off the season with their annual President’s Reception. Last Sunday at Girls’ Club, Russell Bermel addressed the group as the incoming chair of the NOW Generation advisory council. Burmel recapped NOW Generation’s progress over previous years, spearheaded by his predecessor, Katie Prechtl Cooke. He also expressed his excitement for the 2018 season.

Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill addressed NOW Generation for the second year in a row with his charge for the organization.

“Last year, my charge to you was to share thoughts and suggestions, and wait and see if we acted on it,” Hill said.

NOW Generation was an instrumental part of the discussions about the addition of Dr. Robert R. Hesse Welcome and Business Center to Chautauqua Institution. This year, Hill wants help and support from NOW Generation to continue conversations and preparation for Chautauqua Institution’s future as it heads toward its 150th birthday in 2024.

“My charge to you this year is not a generic ‘get involved (and) talk to us’ because you’ve proven you can do that, and I’m grateful for that,” Hill said. “My charge this year is that there’s three or four ways for you to participate and get your voices heard.”

Hill sees the members of NOW Generation as the “heirs and future of Chautauqua.” For that reason, he asked the group to engage in the dialogue around the strategic planning process, which concludes at the end of 2018.

“We’re asking the question of ‘What do we want Chautauqua to look like in 2024?’ ” Hill said.

The first way he suggested members of NOW Generation can participate in dialogue about Chautauqua’s future is by attending the strategic planning sessions at 3:30 p.m. every Thursday in the Hall of Christ. Those who participate will have the chance to share their ideas about Chautauqua and what their aspirations are for its future.

For those who want to join the discussions but cannot attend, he also pointed out the online survey,, to provide input. Lastly, he shared information about an open community forum at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 14, to contribute in talks about diversity and inclusion on the grounds.

“We’re having a pretty dynamic conversation on the grounds about diversity, equity and inclusion this year,” Hill said. “It’s still the case that when you look out (from) the Amphitheater stage, … (we’re) still talking to a 97 percent white audience.”

Overall, Hill has appreciated NOW Generation’s input and participation in the past, and looks forward to seeing its members develop into future leaders of Chautauqua.

“One thing I’ve appreciated about this group since I’ve been here is they’ve taken that invitation for partnership seriously,” Hill said. “They’ve taken that invitation so seriously and have been talking about it year-round, and they’ve gotten more and more organized and involved (through) setting up ‘CHQ Near You’ and other events and fundraising. They’ve become a pretty great force (at Chautauqua).”

Members of NOW Generation also took the opportunity to reflect on the successes of the previous year and spotlight activities and initiatives in the upcoming season.

Bermel touched on NOW Generation’s initiative to keep members of the organization engaged in the off-season, “CHQ Near You.” Chautauquans throughout the country gathered in their home cities, all on the same date, for community-building activities like picnics, visiting an art museum, organizing a lecture or something else “Chautauqua-like.”

“We had tremendous participation (and) support,” Bermel said. “We’re looking forward to doing (‘CHQ Near You’) again this year, along with a lot of other activities.”

Additional speakers spotlighted upcoming activities and opportunities to look forward to in the 2018 season. First, NOW Generation advisory council member Brian Goehring spoke about a “NOW Gen mixer” Thursday that was hosted in partnership with the Chautauqua Women’s Club. NOW Generation members were invited to mingle with nine different organizations on the grounds to share ideas about volunteer and leadership opportunities.

Advisory council member Carrie Oliver Zachry then shared information about family events NOW Generation hosts throughout the season. She highlighted, among other activities, the annual “Summerfest” held at 10 a.m. on Aug. 4 in the Youth Activities Center, following the Old First Night race. Chautauquans of all ages can join NOW Generation for a morning of food and games to catch up with friends or meet new ones.

NOW Generation volunteers will also host various free activities throughout the season, including weekly playdates or NOW Gen post-lecture pub chats. Many are proud to support the Institution as a whole through gifts of time, talent or treasure.

Vice chair of NOW Generation advisory council Amy Schiller highlighted the importance of fundraising for Chautauqua Institution. Currently, the Edward L. Anderson Jr. Foundation is leveraging an additional $250 for anyone who makes a recurring monthly gift of $25 or more to the Chautauqua Fund. She pointed this opportunity out as a budget-friendly way for Chautauquans to give back to the community.

Aside from monetary donations, Manager of Special Studies and Youth Programs Karen Schiavone discussed the opportunity for young professionals to teach for Special Studies or the Boys’ and Girls’ Club Plus program. Individuals can apply for academic areas in their expertise, or areas they enjoy sharing with others.

Schiller urged her peers to engage in one of the several opportunities presented that evening in an effort to continue support for the community.

“When we fundraise, we fundraise for Chautauqua,” Schiller said. “We are Chautauqua. We are ‘NOW’ at Chautauqua.”

For more information about the ‘NOW’ Generation or to RSVP for upcoming events, visit the Facebook page ( or contact Megan Sorenson, staff liaison, at 716-357-6243 or

Tags : Dr. Robert R. Hesse Welcome and Business CenterNOW GenerationPresident Michael E. Hill

The author Matthew Steinberg

Matthew Steinberg is a rising senior at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, studying communication arts, journalism, and Spanish. He will be copy editing for the Daily this summer, and in his free time enjoys spending way too much money at TJ Maxx, longboarding on roads that he shouldn’t and ranting about politics.