Thursday, July 19, 2007

Choosing a Nonprofit Focused PhD Program

In the last 10 years nonprofit education programs have sprouted up across the country. When I started my Masters program I was planning to earn an MBA and a Certificate in Nonprofit Management, however that quickly changed when the Masters of Management in Nonprofit Administration (MMNA) degree was implemented at my University. I immediately switched programs and was the first person to earn that degree at my University in 2003! Due to its popularity, North Park now offers an online MMNA degree!

During my time at North Park University, I was inspired by so many of my professors who spoke about their real world experiences as nonprofit managers and consultants. At a certain point during my program, I determined I wanted emulate my professors and pursue a profession teaching nonprofit managers how to run effective nonprofit organizations.

Since the majority of nonprofit masters programs across the country were very new at the time I earned my Masters degree, I really didn't know what, or if any universities had nonprofit focused PhD programs. So, I started my search to find the right program for me.

After my husband and I moved back to California, I learned about the Academy of Management' Public and Nonprofit Division's Doctoral Student Consortium through the Association of Research of Nonprofit and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) listserv. ARNOVA is the association for nonprofit professors and researchers. I was very nervous when I attended the Doctoral Student Consortium because this was my first nonprofit academic conference and I was meeting professors who I deeply admired from reading their published articles and books! However, the professors and students were all very nice to me and provided me helpful information about their individual programs. Many of the PhD students chose Public Administration doctoral programs or they developed their own sort of nonprofit focus in Public Policy, Sociology, Social Work or other PhD programs. I learned there are very few schools with a cohort of nonprofit focused PhD students.

I also learned about Dr. Roseanne M. Mirabella's list of nonprofit management education programs and I went to each school's website to learn about their programs. I received various advice from people throughout my search process, like, "pick a specific professor you want to study under," or "know what you want to research before you get into your program."

It's been a long road, but during that time I earned great deal of real world nonprofit management experience. Plus, every time I attend a nonprofit academic conference I got to know professors and students in individual programs which brought me one step closer to applying to a program. Last fall I had so much fun volunteering at the ARNOVA conference in Chicago and reconnecting with my former North Park professors and current North Park students.

I chose a PhD program that is right for me. I really connected with the students and professors at the University of San Diego. And I am excited that I will be studying and doing research with 5 other nonprofit focused doctoral students.


Loreena said...

Thanks so much for your blog!

I am currently working for Special Olympics and I love working in a non-profit. Right now, I am working towards my MBA in non-profit management with the University of Dallas online MBA program.

You blog has helped me to make decisions about my professional education!



Spencer Werking said...

I really enjoyed this entry, and you opened my eyes to University of San Deigo's Leadership program. Now I've chosen to make that the goal. I hope you continue to write entries.

Chris Flood said...

Thanks for sharing your experience. I'm also looking into PhD programs for non-profit management. What were your reasons for not trying to pursue a PhD at a business school? How has your experience in San Diego been so far?