Master of Arts in Nonprofit Leadership and Management

Department of Leadership Studies

Student Testimonials

Our students include professionals from a wide variety of organizations across the nonprofit sector. Click on the profiles below to learn more about why they chose USD.

"I just wanted to take a moment to share with you what a tremendous experience the Nonprofits and Civil Societies Course in Guatemala was for me. I feel that I speak for everyone who attended when I say that over the course of our 10 days in country we met with, witnessed and felt (even if only for a moment) the needs, growth and work being done in this area of Central America.

I am humbled by the tremendous struggle that exists in this country, honored to have been able to hear first-hand the efforts being made to support change and deeply proud of the great work we have accomplished in the United States. This was the first time that I have ever been out of the country and I both my perspective and mind set have been truly changed.

Thank you for making this possible for me. I am grateful beyond words."

- Desiree Del-Zio, Quality Assurance Manager, MAAC

"My first few weeks of my very first semester have been very amazing, and like any new change, also very challenging. The exciting thing is that with each challenge I felt the extension of a staff member or fellow student to offer their hand to help achieve what it was I was attempting to accomplish. Although I feel a little like I’m treading water finding my balance between my professional, personal and school life, I also feel that I have lifeguards at the ready who will not allow my head to slip underwater. This is a great school and beautiful program and I know I will find my footing."

Toni Herndon, Volunteer Coordinator, San Diego Zoo Global

"Choosing to enroll in the University of San Diego Nonprofit Leadership and Management Master's Degree Program was one of the best decisions I have made in my life. I have only been in the program for one semester and I am already using the information that I have learned in this program every single day at the Nonprofit organization where I work. I look forward to the semesters ahead."

Michelle Luellen, Policy Analyst, Grant Writer, Asociacion de Liderazgo Comunitario

"The USD Nonprofit Leadership and Management master's program not only helped enhance my management skills and increase the impact I have in the community but it has also helped me discover who I am as a leader. Through applied projects completed each semester I practiced and refined my skills while gaining real world experience. The final reflection process created a meaningful learning experience. This program is the full package for any nonprofit professional who wants to make a difference in their career and the community."

Sarah Saez, Program Director, United Taxi Workers of San Diego

"The Nonprofit Leadership and Management program at USD is outstanding program. As a student, I have found an incredible balance between a theoretical approach and a practical “hands on” learning opportunity. Within the San Diego community I was able to easily network with multiple nonprofit organizations while completing group based projects with my cohort. I have collaborated directly with actual nonprofits in the San Diego community to develop bylaws and a board manual. In this program you learn by doing and take the classroom experience to the real world. The faculty in the program are the real deal. These are practitioners who bring incredible insight and experience into the coursework. I would highly recommend this program to anyone wanting to tremendously advance their skills and knowledge of nonprofits."

John Godfrey, Residential Life - Assistant Director of Administration, University of San Diego

"As a Nonprofit Practitioner in San Diego I was introduced to the USD Nonprofit Leadership and Management Program through successful and enthusiastic program alumni. Upon acceptance into the program I was elated to have the honor of counting myself among those exposed to the wealth of information captured in the Program’s coursework. Completing my first semester in the program has only reinforced that reality and continues to inspire me to meet and exceed the expectations of myself and those of I serve. The program offers professors with an incredible depth of knowledge, material that is powerfully relevant and an inspiration that I take with me through both my academic and professional development. The decision to enter the program has been one of the most beneficial of my life."

Desiree Del-Zio, Quality Assurance Manager, MAAC

"The Nonprofit Fundamentals course has dramatically enlightened my knowledge and understanding of the nonprofit world in the United States. Being among the very few international students in this course, I had a fear if I could learn enough of all the knowledge and practices in the nonprofit sector in a country that works quite differently from my home country. Now that I reflect on my experience through this course, I feel very fortunate that I could learn, explore and acquire a comprehensive perspective from this field that will always empower me for my future global nonprofit activities."

- Azadeh Davari

"I am so excited to be a first year student in the Nonprofit Management program here at USD! I wanted to further my career by diving into additional training and education and I looked at several different options including certificate and extension programs. None of those options offered what this program can give me. The professionalism, depth of experience, reputation and support of this program makes it the best value."

Christine Mailloux, Staff Attorney, The Utility Reform Network (TURN)

"I am most looking forward to growing intellectually/spiritually with the support of people with like hearts and minds who are totally invested in making the world a better place." 

Andrea Vielma Webster, Executive Director, Coronado SAFE

"I chose the nonprofit management and leadership program because I have no doubt that it will equip me with best practices and tools to effectuate change at state level. Most importantly it will prepare me to exert leadership in a manner that I will be able to mobilize and empower others to make a difference in our country."

Maria Fernanda Torres, Special Projects Coordinator, Inland Empire United Way 

Alumni Testimonials

"The program allowed me to step back and reflect on the theory and practice of my day-to-day work as a nonprofit manager. I developed supportive peer relationships and connected to USD’s network of nonprofit experts and practitioners, many of whom have become important mentors to me. Ultimately, the best practices, inspiration, and focus I gained from the program prepared me for the challenge of leading an impactful mission-driven organization. I am a huge fan."

- Ben McCue '08, Executive Director, Outdoor Outreach

"I owe my competence as a nonprofit leader and changemaker in large part to the USD Nonprofit Leadership and Management Program. I wholeheartedly endorse this program to anyone who wishes to focus not only on professional advancement but also on positive social change."

- Stacie Freasier '09, Acting Director, SHPE Foundation

“I never stop talking about what an incredible experience it was going through the Nonprofit Leadership and Management program at USD. It really changed my life and gave me a whole new perspective on the nonprofit sector. The classes were engaging, fun, and hands-on, and I never actually felt like I was in school – rather participating in an important personal and career development experience. Since graduating, I had the opportunity to be hired as the executive director of a small arts nonprofit, and then later took a job at the San Diego LGBT Community Center – a dynamic organization I always wanted to be a part of. Do consider this program!"

- Ben Cartwright, ’11, Director of Community Outreach at San Diego LGBT Community Center

"This program has always applied to my daily work, but it wasn't until I started working on a strategic plan for my organizations volunteer vision did I really think to myself, "Yup! this is exactly what I went to grad school for!'. I continue to implement all I learned and experienced through every aspect of my career and professional development"

- Adina Veen, '10, Volunteer Engagement Manager, United Way of San Diego County

"During my program at USD, I was given a promotion from a Program Manager to a Director at the San Diego Futures Foundation overseeing the Education and Training Department.  I now have opportunities to incorporate the learning that I was afforded at USD through the Master's in Nonprofit Leadership and Management program.  It's been a wonderful step for my career and I am grateful for the education I received at USD."

Daniel Romero '12, Director, San Diego Futures Foundation, Education and Training Department

"When you are looking for a nonprofit management program, look at USD's Nonprofit Leadership and Management MA. The courses delivered in the program not only develop your practical skills, but enhance your character and leadership abilities. Thanks to the Research, Program Design, and Evaluation course I have enhanced my grant writing and program development skills. I can help the organizations I work with to envision programs that align with their goals and create measurable community impact. Thanks to the Organizational Theory, and Board Management and Leadership classes, I feel I can relate well to and understand how to work with any team or individual I encounter. This learning cannot be replicated in any other setting than at the SOLES program at USD."

- Jana Zawadzki '10, Grant Proposal/Development Associate at La Maestra Family Clinic Inc 

“Not only has my career in the nonprofit sector advanced, but more importantly, the organizations I work for and volunteer with have all benefited from the practical and constructive principles I learned through the program. It has my highest recommendation for those who are called to serve our community.”

 - Kelly Rickon Mitchell '02, Regional Development Director, Point Loma Nazarene University

"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 five 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 Director at Rancho Family YMCA

"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 master's 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

"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 student's applied projects and day jobs. Every applied project provided rich learning on several levels- the kind of learning that has continued with me well past graduation. My cohort members have become a special network of 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 desired as a manager and educator - they were all right there in the program and we learned how to apply them and became agents of positive change."

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

"The Nonprofit Leadership and Management Program at USD exceeded my expectations. It combined theory and practice at the highest level, while cultivating an atmosphere of camaraderie and mutual support. The program was rigorous and the coursework was demanding, yet there was no sense of competitiveness between and among students. The professors were among the brightest I have ever encountered, yet remained accessible. Most importantly, the program 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 took 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 were incredible.  The generosity of USD and donors was 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 '11Partner, ELEVATED Global Executive Search

"This program seemed like it was designed just for me. It was 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 learned has made an impact in my career. By applying the knowledge I gained in this program, I have become a better employee 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 walked away with so much more. This program made 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 empowered me to transition from being a good to great manager. I now 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 clearly demonstrated that the work of a nonprofit executive is one that has its rewards if all resources are utilized well."

Simi Rush '10, Development, United Through Reading

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

"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."

Carrie Leising '07, Cochlear Implant Consumer Specialist, Advanced Bionics