Svetlana Krasynska, Jennifer A. Jones, and Mary Jo Schumann
University of San Diego’s Nonprofit Leadership and Management (NLM) master’s degree program places a special focus on experiential learning, requiring students to complete multiple applied projects as part of the program’s curriculum. Applied projects give students various opportunities to work in teams to provide real-world consulting services to nonprofit and philanthropic organizations. In developing this curriculum, the NLM program serves both the students who are given these real-world consulting opportunities, as well as the client organizations who benefit from the services provided by the students.
In Fall 2010, the University of San Diego’s NLM program initiated an Applied Projects Evaluation to better understand and continuously track the effectiveness of these applied student projects, as perceived by the nonprofit and philanthropic client organizations. Thus, the Applied Projects Evaluation serves as a client-feedback mechanism for monitoring how well the client organizations feel the applied projects program is functioning overall. This ongoing evaluation study is designed and managed by The Caster Center for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Research at the University of San Diego. This Organizational Impact Report summarizes the results of the past five semesters (Spring 2011 to Spring 2013), in which 131 applied projects were completed. Online surveys were sent to the client representative from each of the 131 participating organizations approximately four to six months following the completion of the applied project. A cumulative total of 82 organizations responded, representing a cumulative response rate of 63%.
Caster Family Center for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Research, University of San Diego
In order to assess the value of applied projects completed by NPLM students for client nonprofit organizations, evaluation surveys are sent biannually. The statistics below demonstrate key findings from 69 responses to surveys administered during both the spring and fall of 2011 and 2012. The quotations included here are from the most recent survey conducted in the fall of 2012.
Heather Carpenter and Holly Hoffman
In fall 2010, the Caster Center for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Research administered a survey to explore the impact of student-led applied projects on client organizations and the local community. The survey is the second part of a community impact study of the Masters of Arts in Nonprofit Leadership and Management (NLM) at the University of San Diego. The survey was distributed to client organizations during the 2010-2011 academic year to assess client organization satisfaction and successful use of the projects. The survey investigated whether applied projects had an impact on the organization’s operations or the community, and if so, to assess the type and duration of that impact.
Heather Carpenter and Paula Krist
Student learning outcomes and student satisfaction of nonprofit management graduate degree programs have received much attention recently from researchers. However, little research examines the community impact of such programs.
This paper reports findings from a community impact study of the Masters of Arts in Nonprofit Leadership and Management at the University of San Diego. An extensive qualitative study was conducted to determine whether student-led applied projects conducted for nonprofit organizations had an impact on those organizations, and if so, to assess the type and duration of that impact. A key finding was that all organizations that were interviewed for the study used the student-created project in some capacity. In addition, it was found that although some organizations may not have fully used the project, they benefitted from the project recommendations. Students employed by their own organizations completed the most successful projects. This was because students chose a project precisely when it was needed by the organization.
Report findings contain recommendations for future research and for future students engaging in projects. The future student recommendations range from improving communication between students and organizations to improving the timing and duration of student projects. Nonprofit graduate program directors can utilize these results and recommendations when creating and/or managing the experiential learning components within their programs.
Linda Seifert and Heather Carpenter
In Spring 2008 the Caster Family Center for Nonprofit Research, along with the SOLES Director of Assessment, completed an alumni survey. The survey focused on how well the Nonprofit Leadership and Management program learning outcomes prepared the alumni for their professional roles, how those roles may have changed as a result of their preparation, their level of satisfaction with the various components of the program, and their perspectives on their current involvement with the program. All 65 alumni of the program were invited to participate in the survey.