With the start of the 2023-2024 academic year at Michigan State University, the new Nonprofit Leadership, Global Cultures, and Social Enterprise M.A. and Graduate Certificate Programs are welcoming their first cohort of graduate students. Five students are enrolled in the master’s degree program, while three students are in the graduate certificate program. Both programs are fully online and asynchronous.
According to Dr. Jennifer Marcy, Director of the Global Nonprofit Leadership Programs, the new offerings are the result of several years of discussions among faculty in the Department of Religious Studies, which offers a minor in nonprofit leadership for undergraduate students. The Religious Studies faculty recognized a growing need to provide graduate students with coursework in nonprofit skills.
“What’s unique about this program is that it merges cultural and structural knowledge,” Marcy said. “It’s a great combination of religious thought and ethical leadership, in addition to learning about how global cultures shape community development and nonprofit work. We also focus on building strong skillsets in grant writing, marketing, and fundraising as well as understanding nonprofit governance and nonprofit law.”
The first cohort of students consists of mostly seasoned nonprofit workers several of whom have been engaged in ministry work or have been working for a religious-based non-governmental organization.
“I looked at several degree programs that were either nonprofit or public administration, but none of them had the components I was looking for,” said JoAnn Bastien, a pastor who is enrolled in the master’s degree program. “The Global Cultures and Social Enterprise aspects of this degree will give me the tools to be relevant and effective in the nonprofit sector.”
“What’s unique about this program is that it merges cultural and structural knowledge. It’s a great combination of religious thought and ethical leadership, in addition to learning about how global cultures shape community development and nonprofit work.”Dr. Jennifer Marcy
There also are some students who recently received their undergraduate degrees and are looking to build upon their skills so they can better serve their communities.
“I had an internship at a nonprofit organization in Michigan during my junior year at Michigan State, which confirmed my future career plan,” said Marissa Ogea, who graduated from MSU in May 2023 with a B.A. in Humanities-Prelaw and is now enrolled in the Nonprofit Leadership, Global Cultures, and Social Enterprise M.A. program. “I was planning on applying to law school to continue my studies but instead wanted to engage more in this passion of nonprofit leadership. When I discovered the Nonprofit Leadership, Global Cultures, and Social Enterprise M.A. program, I knew this was an incredible path to gain more knowledge on how I can make a positive impact with the goals I am setting for my future in this sector.”
Students in the Nonprofit Leadership, Global Cultures, and Social Enterprise programs study values and ethics in applied leadership, how to support cross-cultural dialogue and collaboration, religious literacy for nonprofits, grant writing, nonprofits and the legal environment, marketing, fundraising, and social entrepreneurship.
Marcy says her goal is to double enrollment each year and to use student feedback to help grow and develop the program. Part of her role is to recruit students and to attend recruiting events, such as the Mid-Michigan Symposium for Undergraduate Research, which she participated in this past summer to talk to prospective graduate students.
“The Global Cultures and Social Enterprise aspects of this degree will give me the tools to be relevant and effective in the nonprofit sector.”JoAnn Bastien, graduate student
“Right now, we’re building the program,” Marcy said. “We have an intentionally small cohort. That way we can provide a lot of one-on-one mentorship and development as we build our programming. We have designed our first classes and are launching our new curriculum. We are marketing the program and building to the long-term goal of sustainable cohorts each year.”
Marcy has a doctorate in higher education administration from MSU and nearly 20 years of experience working in the nonprofit and higher education sectors. Her international work has taken her to Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America. She says her position as Director of the Global Nonprofit Leadership Programs merges her experience and background in nonprofits with her research interest of studying the impacts of international nonprofits on community building.
A trend that has also captured her attention is the impact of stress on nonprofit workers.
“Besides nurses and doctors, nonprofits were often the first responders during the pandemic,” Marcy said. “Nonprofit work can often require long hours, which leads to a great deal of stress. It’s just the nature of nonprofit work, where you’re working so closely with communities that it can often lead to burnout. How to thrive, both personally and professionally as a nonprofit worker, is something we incorporate in our program.”
While students seemingly have endless career options to pick from, many of which are undoubtedly more lucrative in the for-profit world, Marcy says nonprofits offer strong growth opportunities and the kind of personal fulfillment that comes from helping to make the world a better place.
“Of course, you’re not going to make as much money as if you’re a trader on Wall Street, but I’ve always seen strong job potential and transferable skills within the nonprofit sector,” Marcy said. “Our students and our potential students have the passion to serve communities. We also see some people who even want to start their own nonprofits.”
For more information on the M.A. and Graduate certificate programs, visit the Nonprofit Leadership, Global Cultures, and Social Enterprise web page.
(Written by Lynn Waldsmith)