Student Outcomes

Master of Arts in Nonprofit Leadership and Management

Department of Leadership Studies

Learning Outcomes

Outcome 1: Students will be able to accurately describe at least two theories or models that have implications for leadership in the nonprofit sector and indicate how knowledge of these theories has influenced their practice. 

Outcome 2: Students will produce professional or scholarly written products.

Outcome 3: Students will produce applied products or research papers that are useful to nonprofit organizations.

Outcome 4: Students will demonstrate an understanding of and ability to apply exemplary models and tools.

Outcome 5: Students will produce a written reflection that analyzes the applicable leadership dimensions of the project from different perspectives (e.g., team dynamics and client relations).

Outcome 6: Students will demonstrate leadership in the creative solution of problems.

Outcome 7: Students will synthesize and transfer knowledge and skills to new situations.

Current Students

Our current master's students are employed by a wide variety of organizations, including:

  • AmeriCorps
  • Catholic Charities
  • County Montessori School of Poway
  • Feeding America San Diego
  • Fundacion Maradentro
  • Hillell of San Diego at UCSD
  • International Community Foundation
  • Japanese Friendship Garden
  • Just in Time Foster Youth
  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
  • Lamb's Players Theatre
  • Museum of Photographic Arts
  • Peace Resource Center of San Diego
  • Point Loma Nazerene University
  • Price Charities
  • Rady Children's Hospital
  • Reuben H. Fleet Science Center
  • San Diego Center for Children
  • San Diego Church of Christ
  • San Diego Natural History Museum
  • San Diego Symphony
  • St. Madeleine Sophie's Center
  • Surfrider Foundation San Diego Chapter
  • The International Rescue Committee
  • The San Diego Foundation
  • Tony Hawk Foundation
  • United Way of San Diego
  • University of San Diego
  • Voice of San Diego
  • Voices for Children
  • YMCA Childcare Resource Service
  • YWCA Becky's House Emergency Shelter
  • Zoological Society of San Diego

"It's incredible how amazing my classmates and instructors are - together they teach me more about the nonprofit sector and myself than any book available." 
Carrie Leising '07, Development Coordinator, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary

Alumni Perspectives

"I am extremely impressed with my experience in the NPLM program. Each class has offered insight and information that I have immediately applied to my work at the San Diego Hunger Coalition. The theoretical knowledge from coursework, coupled with real-world projects and interactions with classmates and faculty (all of whom are leaders in their field) provided a well-rounded experience. I continue to use my learning and network connections to further the mission of our organization to end hunger."

- Jennifer Tracy '12, Executive Director, San Diego Hunger Coalition

"Learning about leadership theory and then immediately being able to practice leadership in new ways within my organization has increased my knowledge and skills, for certain. More importantly, it has impacted the way Polar Bears International engages with their stakeholders. PBI is better at informing and inspiring others to take action to protect polar bears."

- Kathy Myers '12, Independent Consultant and Freelance Writer

"One of the best experiences of the MA program was the Research and Design class. Our team developed an environmental education program designed to increase children's connection to the natural world. This project resulted in a $100,000 grant over 5 years which brought children of color (and their families) to the outdoors to learn and play. The grantor saw the value in the program because the YMCA could demonstrate through a strong program evaluation that we were positively impacting attitudes. We continue to use the results to demonstrate the importance of people connecting to nature."

- Mark Thompson '08, Executive Manager, YMCA Camp Surf

"When I was accepted into the Nonprofit Leadership and Management (NLM) program at the University of San Diego, I knew good things were going to happen to me. However, I never knew it would lead to me to realizing a lifelong dream and lead me to a job that enables others to follow that same dream. Achieving my masters in NLM finally gave me the confidence to quit my job and start volunteering around the world, because I knew when I needed to work again, I would not have any problems finding a job. I had my masters from a phenomenal school and program, a portfolio and resume demonstrating my skills, and a network of people that are always willing to help. While traveling, my multi-cultural training came into effect. In Japan with All Hands Volunteers, I was able to help coordinate one of the most motivated workforces a CEO could ever wish for even with the challenge of being from 62 different countries, living in and helping a culture different than our own.

In Cambodia, I was able to create a series of manuals for an orphanage modeled after best practices I had learned at USD. In Nepal and Thailand I was able to provide council to those wanting to better their organization. When it was time to find a job, All Hands was hiring, and I was their first choice for a newly created position. Not only was I a past volunteer with a great resume, I understood the dynamics of international fundraising because of the Understanding Bi- National Nonprofits course I took as part of the NLM program. Call it fate, call it serendipity, call it what you want, all I know is I owe a deep amount of gratitude to Pat and all the people with the NLM program for helping me to realize my lifelong dream and to help others do the same."

- Terri Wetterberg '11, Development Associate, All Hands Volunteer

"I am extremely impressed with my experience in the NPLM program. Each class has offered insight and information that I have immediately applied to my work... I have gained insight not only via the coursework, but also through interactions with classmates and faculty, all of whom are leaders in their field and bring a wealth of experience. While the projects can be challenging, the knowledge gained is worth the effort. I look forward to continuing my career in the nonprofit field, thanks in large part to this program."

- Jennifer Tracy '12, Executive Director, San Diego Hunger Coalition

"This is the way that education should be done. The program is truly centered on the integration of theory, best practice methodology, and class discussion to our applied projects and in our day jobs. Every applied project has provided rich learning on several levels- the kind of learning that undoubtedly will go with me in future endeavors. My classmates have become a special network of emerging professionals from a wide range of nonprofit sub sectors bringing value and integrity to society. When I think of the skills and fields of knowledge that I strive for as a manager and educator - they are all right here in the program and we are learning how to apply them and become agents of positive change."

- Brian Becker '12, Director of International Ministries, Point Loma Nazarene University

"The program creates an outstanding learning environment by combining students from a large cross-section of the nonprofit sector in a classroom with professors who are proven experts. This combination creates the opportunity for students to learn from their professors and peers through theoretical and experiential learning as well as applied projects." 

- Mike Osoff, Associate Executive Director, School & Community Enrichment, YMCA of San Diego County-YMCA Youth & Family Servicess, class of 2010

"The Nonprofit Leadership and Management Program at USD meets and exceeds my expectations. It combines theory and practice at the highest level, while cultivating an atmosphere of camaraderie and mutual support. The program is rigorous and coursework is demanding, yet there is no sense of competitiveness between and among students. The professors are among the brightest I have ever encountered, yet remain accessible. Most importantly, the program has afforded me a unique opportunity to explore and deepen my understanding of the sector as a whole while maintaining a private consulting practice. I literally take NLMP theory and practice to work with me on a daily basis. I have no doubt that the effects of this program reach well beyond the student and into the community at large."

- Nicole Miller-Coleman '12, Nonprofit Business Management Consultant; Founder, CommonLab

"The Nonprofit Leadership and Management Program at USD is top-notch! The program provides a unique approach of foundational and in-depth theoretical knowledge, and applied learning projects. The courses are academically rigorous, the support system is outstanding, my cohorts are incredible, and the generosity of USD and donors is very humbling. Anyone who enjoys an academic challenge and wants to gain a deeper understanding of the nonprofit sector needs to be in this program."

- Lina Park '11, Membership Director, San Diego Asian Film Foundation

"This program seems like it was designed just for me. It is exactly what I was looking for in every way. I never knew I would be able to use the new knowledge and skills so immediately! Everything I have learned has made an impact in my career. I apply my new knowledge and it has made me a better employee, student, and leader."

- Melinda Wilkes '11, Director of Volunteer Engagement, Jewish Family Service

"I seriously considered tweaking an MBA program to satisfy my search for a Master’s level, nonprofit education. Although it is easy to describe this degree as an MBA for the nonprofit sector I am walking away with so much more. This program makes an enormous impact, not only upon my professional development but in the value and efficacy of the entire nonprofit sector."

- Maureen Guarcello '10, Doctoral Graduate Assistant and current Ph.D. student, University of San Diego

"My experience in USD's Nonprofit Leadership & Management (NPLM) program was one of the most formative of my adult life. The education I attained opened doors to my professional career that never would have existed before. USD provided me an extraordinary environment to develop both academically and professionally. From the beauty of the campus, to the engaging intellect of my fellow students, to the world-class quality of the NPLM program faculty, USD offers a tremendous opportunity to develop present and future nonprofit leaders. I challenge anyone to find a comparable program anywhere in the nation."

- John Bolthouse '08, Executive Director, San Diego Water Conservation Garden

"USD's Nonprofit Leadership and Management program has empowered me to transition from being a good to great manager. I am now able to look at my work in a new light and incorporate the most up-to-date practices that enhance not only my organization, but the nonprofit sector as a whole. This program has clearly demonstrated that the work of a nonprofit executive is one that has its rewards if all resources are utilized well."

- Simi Rush '10, Program Manager, Cuyamaca College, Continuing Education and Workforce Training Department

"Nonprofits leaders are increasingly challenged by a rapidly changing global environment. The USD Nonprofit Leadership and Management program is teaching us to find solutions through the integration of cultural, socioeconomic, organizational, and strategic thought. The diversity of our class cohorts and the professors move us out of our professional comfort zones and encourage us to work creatively with our class colleagues, to create real life solutions for organizations in our greater San Diego community. My consciousness of larger societal issues and what we can do collectively to shape our world has never been so heightened as it is now through our class work, discussions, projects, and travel."

- Rose Baxter '11, RN Manager, Rady Children’s Hospital & Health Center

"What really surprised me about the Nonprofit Leadership and Management MA program was how immediately useful the learning was. I was able to apply ideas, strategies and concepts from class directly to my work at the San Diego Natural History Museum. A few months after I completed the program, I became the Executive Director of WalkSanDiego. USD really made the difference in preparing me to lead one of San Diego’s core environmental organizations. What would I tell prospective students? I’d say—you don’t have to wait until you’ve earned your diploma to reap real benefits from this wonderful program. The learning starts on day one."

- Jim Stone '10, Executive Director, Walk San Diego

"The standard of excellence of the Nonprofit Leadership & Management Program can been seen in every aspect of the coursework; the professors are knowledgeable, dedicated, experienced, and always willing to meet with students to ensure the highest quality of education; the program structure is thoughtful and purposefully interwoven to provide an ideal balance between the theoretical and practical; the fact that the program's students work in such a wide breadth of nonprofits allows for learning about the nonprofit sector not only from the classes, but from the other cohorts as well. I am constantly amazed at the immediate applicability of the coursework and learning in the independent school sector."

- Barbara Ostos '07, Middle School Dean of Students, Francis Parker School

"I always thought I was going to obtain a Nonprofit MBA. When I began examining numerous programs, something just didn't feel right about them. Then I was introduced to the Nonprofit Leadership & Management Program at USD. This is one of the greatest things to happen to me. Not only did I learn about financial issues, I learned about strategic planning, leadership, consensus organizing and numerous other topics that supported my growth and development. This program enhanced my knowledge of the nonprofit sector and helped position me to become a highly marketable and desirable nonprofit manager. Besides the classroom knowledge, I am proud to be part of a program where all the students look out for each other. It is about working together to help each other and to promote the greater good of the nonprofit sector. I am glad that I chose this program over the nonprofit MBA programs I had considered and am proud to be included in this prestigious program."

- Seth Rosenzweig '07, Assistant Director of Resource Development, Temple Beth Am

"I am in constant awe at the quality of the individuals that are in the program. I am not only honored to be part of the group; I realize that we are the future of the nonprofit sector in San Diego. I constantly feel that my knowledge and capacity has grown a thousand fold. We as a new generation of nonprofit leaders have big shoes to fill. Yet under this program I know that we, as the NPLM students and alums, are prepared to perform, produce and succeed as the next generation of our nonprofit sector leaders."

- Ileana Ovalle '06, Director of Government Relations, Cox Communications

"I recently had the privilege of facilitating a strategic planning process for a national organization as a consultant. In the span of two days of rigorous planning, the organization achieved incredible results. It redefined its mission and direction, revamped all of its programs, clarified the roles and responsibilities of the Board, formed working committees, reviewed and amended bylaws, adopted a Board manual and created a resource development plan involving collaborative partnerships and various fundraising strategies. We would never have been able to accomplish this without the training I received at USD. The strategic planning course I took taught me the necessary research, analysis and facilitation techniques, which helped me lead the planning process constructively. Besides, this process involved knowledge and reference materials that I gained from all classes in this MA program: nonprofit fundamentals, legal issues, research and evaluation, finance, resource development, public speaking, consensus organizing, leadership and change, among others. (And I wish I could have taken all of the other electives!) In sum, I believe the best accolades that this program can receive are the results which are achieved by its students and alumni in their dedication to “making this world a better place” through their extraordinary work in the nonprofit sector."