Ashley Rodriguez Thompson
M.A. in Nonprofit Leadership and Management
I grew up in San Francisco, California and moved to Portland for a short time before settling in Folsom, California for high school. I ventured to San Diego to attend San Diego State University where I graduated with a degree in International Security and Conflict Resolution with a double minor in Women’s Studies and Spanish. In my fourth year at SDSU I started working at KPBS, the local PBS/NPR outlet, and have been here for over four years. I volunteered extensively in high school and at SDSU with the American Cancer Society coordinating Relay for Life events on campus.
Are you currently working?
I work full-time at KPBS as the Diversity, Engagement and Grants Coordinator. I coordinate the full scope of grant projects from writing proposals, monitoring budgets and completing interim and final reports. I also implement outreach activities based on our programming in the community, with a particular focus on collaborating with diverse communities and organizations. In addition, I work with Latino Public Broadcasting to implement engagement activities across the U.S., and with a media production organization called City Projects on social media engagement.
Why did you choose to enroll in this program?
I researched a lot of areas of study such as Urban Planning/Policy and MBAs with a nonprofit emphasis. When I discovered there were actual nonprofit management programs across the U.S., there was none more appealing than USD’s. The mix of theory and practicum work is really what attracted me to this program; its hands-on approach and networking along the way is quite unique and extremely beneficial. Also, I appreciated the program's foresight to not require a thesis. Instead, students create a portfolio that demonstrates professional skills and capacities. Employers love that!
What do you hope to do with your degree?
I want to help create a more equitable society, and one in which companies, nonprofits and the government work together more efficiently to support the diverse country we have become. After beginning classes, I’m particularly interested in advocacy and lobbying. I’m also gaining interest in working as an intermediary between corporations and nonprofits to create programs and initiatives that support a like-minded missions with a profound impact on communities.
How has your SOLES education impacted your career?
I’ve already experienced how the program content relates to my everyday responsibilities at work. Every day I observe how a group dynamic, legal issue or grant making process relates to something I’ve learned, and it’s only been three weeks [since I started the program]! With so many classes that have opportunities for practicum projects, I’ve also been able to deepen my connections and rapport with leaders in my organization and partner organizations to discuss how my education and projects could help boost our efforts.
Have you completed an international experience?
Not yet, but I will be taking the trip to Mondragon and would also like to take the bi-national border class to learn more about working with organizations in Mexico and along the border. There are many other opportunities for study abroad offered by other programs that I would like to explore as well.
Which class has impacted you the most?
So far, the NP Fundamentals course has impacted me most professionally and the Leadership Theory course has made the most impact personally. I never imagined that so much of the program's content would resonate with me and truly evolve me as a person within a matter of weeks. I feel blessed to be part of this program because I can already tell it will impact me beyond advancing my career. Equally as important, it promotes finding a sense of self that will help to focus my decisions and goals as I maneuver the many turns that undoubtedly make up any career.
Are there specific SOLES faculty, staff or administrators you feel have contributed significantly to your success?
Pat Libby is potentially the most amazing person I’ve met. She has an aura about her that that inspires you to learn, to think critically, and to apply what you’re learning. Her understanding of the nonprofit sector (locally, nationally and internationally) and desire for her students to effectuate change permeates through every reading and class discussion.
That said, I cannot leave out the entire SOLES staff who are extremely kind, helpful, and personable. It never takes me long to get a question answered and they constantly remind you there is no shame in asking for help. The SOLES librarian is beyond gracious, and the personalized attention and assistance she provides is almost incomparable.
What are your plans for after graduation?
When I started this program my dream job was to become the Station Manager of KPBS. That is still my aim, but I’m beginning to consider other paths for myself such as working as an intermediary between nonprofit organizations and corporations to further initiatives that benefit both parties. Also, my Advocacy class is inspiring me to become an active participant in educating the community on a grassroots level and affect legislation, etc. The beauty of this program (and a huge reason why I applied) is that I know I will gain so much experience and insight in the many fields that make up the nonprofit sector. My goal from this program is to find my passion and prepare me to succeed in whatever roles I take on.
Is there anything else you would like to share with prospective students?
Don’t let money hold you back. USD is an expensive school, but there are scholarships, loans and grants available. This is in addition to the practitioner scholarship that is just unheard of anywhere else. The time and effort you spend applying for those scholarships will be ten-fold worth it once you begin the program. The students and professors in this program have encouraged, challenged, and stimulated me on a new level. SOLES students are so proud to be part of the program, and so willing to help each other. We are all unique, but we all have shared experiences and it’s amazing to be amongst such phenomenal people.