GVSU offers new graduate program

gabriella patti

Grand Valley State University’s School of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration (SPNHA) will offer a new graduate degree program in philanthropy and nonprofit leadership beginning this fall.

“The program will prepare students to professionally manage in a nonprofit and philanthropic environment by building competencies in finance, fund development, human resources, advocacy, board governance and program evaluation,” said Mark Hoffman, associate professor of public administration and the director of the SPNHA.

The SPNHA offers two other management degrees: public administration and health administration. In all, GVSU currently offers 34 other graduate programs.

The 36-credit master’s program in philanthropy and nonprofit leadership is over four years in the making. The program is designed to be hands-on and to have a future oriented focus. It’s intended for people with three years of experience with a nonprofit organization, business or government agency as a manager.

Salvatore Alaimo, professor of nonprofit management and program director for the new master’s degree, is hopeful that at least 15 students will apply for the program during its premiere this fall.

“I think what makes it different from other programs is we have been very diligent to include courses that are not only going to help (the students) learn things they need to know now, but also project into the future and think about what will a leader need,” Alaimo said.

Alaimo acknowledges that this sector is important to the community of West Michigan and that accountability and certification in this area is becoming crucial.

“What we are seeing in this sector is it is becoming more professionalized,” Alaimo said. “Those who hold resources for what nonprofits need are asking for more efficient-ness, effectiveness and accountability.”

Heather Carpenter, assistant professor of nonprofit management, believes that this program will allow students the opportunity to work toward the public good.

“This program helps students to understand how to do good in all sectors in public, nonprofit and business,” Carpenter said.

West Michigan is the second most philanthropic region in the country per capita, Carpenter said, and nonprofits account for 11 percent of the Michigan workforce.

Hoffman said that the community should lead by example when it comes to well-managed nonprofit and philanthropic organizations.

“If West Michigan nonprofit organizations and philanthropic foundations operate with high effectiveness and efficiency, donors’ money and volunteers’ time will more effectively achieve the desired goals,” Hoffman said. “The best way to achieve this is to have knowledgeable and innovative leaders on the staff and boards of our local organizations. I believe our program will train and inspire our students, who will be the leaders of the future.”

Carpenter said that 40 percent of the students in the SPNHA are already nonprofit focused. This may lead to further interest in the new master’s program.

Alaimo added that many students have come to realize that nonprofit and philanthropic work can be done as a career.

“There is so much awareness building that we need to engage in and allow young people to realize that this is a career choice,” Alaimo said. “I hope that undergrads look to this program as a way to engage in this field.”

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