The Monarch Center for Women's Leadership
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About the Monarch Center

The Monarch Center for Women’s Leadership is the gateway for women who aspire to leadership.  Although data indicate that women in leadership roles are increasing, women still remain underrepresented in top positions and gender differences exist in compensation and the types of top leadership positions that women attain. 

The Monarch Center helps women help themselves acquire the confidence, learning and skills for influencing and inspiring others.  We achieve this through personal coaching, dynamic and innovative retreats, symposia,  workshops, and a collaborative learning community and network of women leaders. 

The Center focuses on best leadership practices and providing insights and actionable strategies that  help women face current gender-based challenges that may be a significant barrier to their advancement.

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The Monarch Center Mission

Through personal coaching, leadership development opportunities, and a collaborative learning community, The Monarch Center's mission is to help women help themselves to leverage their strengths to  fulfill their life, leadership and economic potential and create a better world by influencing, inspiring, and leading others through ethical practice.


The Monarch Center for Women's Leadership Metaphor

The Center's Name:
A metaphor for adaptability, change and transformation


About Dr. Merida Johns, founder of The Monarch Center

Merida Johns, PhD - Women's Leadership CoachMerida L. Johns, PhD, is a nationally recognized educator, author, and consultant.  She has over 30 years experience in healthcare information systems on national and international levels.  She is a published author and has written extensively in the healthcare and educational fields.

Dr. Johns received a B.A. degree in history and a B.S. degree in health information systems from Seattle University.  She holds a master’s degree in Community Services Administration from Alfred University (New York) and a PhD from The Ohio State University.

Dr. Johns began her career in healthcare, working in management capacities in acute care hospitals.  Later, she moved to academia and was a tenured faculty member at The Ohio State University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.  She is the founding director of the graduate program in Health Informatics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and was the director of the master’s program in Information Systems Management, School of Business, Loyola University Chicago.

The impetus for the Monarch Center is fueled from Dr. Johns’ observations of  the difficultly that many women experience in making it to executive leadership positions. Part of this difficulty has been due to structural barriers, the lack of policy prescriptions, and support systems.  Opportunities for leadership development that focus not only on exemplary leadership practices, but also reconcile the personal qualities of women in “making it” in today’s current business environment have been particularly scarce.

Dr. Johns’ desire is to take her experiences in leadership and share them with other women by establishing a Center that is a gateway to opportunities in leadership knowledge, learning and development for women who aspire to guide and influence others for the common good.

My Story......

After a life-threatening illness gave me a new perspective, I traded in my career in rush-mode for a B&B with a mission.

Prior to 2004, I was best known as Professor Johns, who had spent almost thirty years building a distinguished career in health information systems.  My professional journey had started at Seattle University where I received by bachelor’s degree in health information systems in 1973 and began working in management capacities in hospitals.  Later I earned more degrees and established myself as an academic, becoming a tenured faculty member at The Ohio State University and later at The University of Alabama at Birmingham.  In 1999 I joined the faculty in the School of Business at Loyola University Chicago and became director of the School’s Master of Science Program in Information Systems Management.

In February 2003, while at a health informatics conference in San Diego, I landed in the Emergency Room of a local hospital with acute abdominal pain.  The doctors there diagnosed food poisoning, but my symptoms continued.  When I returned home to Chicago, I continued to be symptomatic.  I saw more doctors, had more tests, but there was no definitive diagnosis.  Seven weeks after the onset of my illness, I felt like I was dying.  In desperation I went to see my doctor yet another time and told him I wasn’t leaving until he had a plan.  I was immediately admitted to the hospital, where after four days of tests, I was scheduled for surgery.

Before surgery, I had asked to see the hospital chaplain.  The chaplain on duty that night was Rabbi Mike.  Rabbi Mike and I connected!  He asked me about myself, my life, and my work. I told him that I had done just about everything I had wanted to do, except one thing which was to own and operate a bed and breakfast.  “So why haven’t you done that?” he asked.  I gave him the usual reasons and when I was done he looked at me and said, “Those aren’t good enough.”

I had first learned about bed and breakfasts in 1982 when I was arranging accommodations for a group of career women who were enrolled in an intensive summer program at The Ohio State University.  I had discovered a lovely Victorian bed and breakfast located a few blocks from the campus that made the ideal residence for our group of professional women.  For the next ten years we housed students for our intensive program at this charming bed and breakfast.  I knew that at some point I would own and operate a B&B and that it would serve as an avenue more than a business……but under what circumstances this would occur I didn’t know.

During my operation, the surgeons found that the culprit of my illness was a ruptured appendix that had occurred seven weeks earlier and subsequently developed into widespread and serious infection.  I knew from my medical background that I was fortunate to be alive and that Rabbi Mike was correct… reasons for not pursuing my dream were “not good enough.”

After I recuperated sufficiently from my surgery, my husband and I began the search for a bed and breakfast.  But the search wasn’t long.  We had once stayed at The Bundling Board Inn in 1999 on our way to a Boxer Rescue organization to adopt our two boxers, Max and Casey Maybelline.  We liked the bed and breakfast and its location in the charming town of Woodstock, IL , located just 50 miles from Chicago.  To our surprise the Bundling Board Inn was up for sale!  So we sold our home in the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago and on August 28th, five months to the day after my surgery, we closed on the Inn. 

The bed and breakfast had been more than I ever would have expected.  Moving away from the intense academic and business worlds gave me a different perspective and the gift of time for reflection, writing, and renewal.  It also provided me the opportunity to engage in community volunteer activities and to work with small business owners who are the spirit and the foundation of a community. 

For 14-years the B&B served as part of the Center.  Having sold the B&B in April 2017 and having undergone yet another life-threatening challenge in 2017, I continue my journey devoting my energy to women's leadership and helping others in  their every day lives through my work as a leadership coach, author, professional speaker, and workshop leader.