Desiree Del-Zio

MA in Nonprofit Leadership and Management

What do you hope to do with your degree?

My intention is to apply the knowledge and education that the Nonprofit Leadership and Management (NPLM) program affords me to propel my career further into the social services leadership arena of the nonprofit industry. As a Quality Assurance Manager for MAAC, a very large and exceptionally successful local Nonprofit, I am charged with the honor of ensuring alignment between program practices and regulatory requirements. My professional development coupled with the learning opportunity that USD is providing empowers me with a commanding skill set that offers a unique lens in which to support the healthy growth and development of any Nonprofit organization.

How did you hear about SOLES, and why did you choose to enroll? 

Among many other blessings in my life I have had the incredible fortune of working for an organization that strongly supports the NPLM program within USD SOLES. My direct supervisor, colleagues and my CEO are all alumni of the program and enthusiastically support this amazing program.  

Tell us about any research you have done at SOLES.  

I am currently putting together a team to conduct a performance audit of the governance systems within a local Nonprofit, serving as consultants to the effective changes and growth within the organization. I anticipate completion of the project at the end of the Fall 2013 semester.

Tell us about any internships, graduate assistantships, student teaching, practicum or fieldwork you have done through SOLES. 

As a student of the Nonprofit Leadership and Management Program I have participated in the process of updating and revising bylaws for my current employer, MAAC and have also served in the creation of a Board Orientation Manual for Mt. Erie Community Partners. Both projects were professionally engaging, academically beneficial and personally enlightening. Working on a major project for my current place of employment allowed me to work directly with board members and executive level staff members. Moreover, I was afforded the opportunity to learn more about the challenges that an organization is presented with when seeking to effectively govern on such a large scale.

My work with Mt. Erie Community Partners was far more personal as I was able to work directly with a founding board that was in its infancy. Such an experience enabled me to apply scholarly research to an organization that was only beginning to take flight. In this way I was able to supply them with powerful tools for effective leadership from the moment of conception. The process was empowering for the organization I worked with while being a very humbling experience for me as I watched a group of people bring a dream to fruition. During both projects I worked with a team which provided me with insight into my own professional mannerisms, areas for improvement and opportunities to engage in effective communication. Each challenge offered the prospect of personal growth and self-discovery - which are the cornerstones of effective leadership and management. 

Tell us about any research or independent study you have done at SOLES.

My research thus far at SOLES has been focused on leadership at the personal and organizational levels. I have participated in an extensive review of transformational leadership as discussed by Warren Bennis and individuals and groups beneath the surface as discussed by Lionel Stapley. Although many other leadership theorists discuss these concepts I have looked deeply at the work of these two theorists in particular. My research has emboldened me with a strong understanding of the incredible opportunities available to us as leaders of groups but more importantly of the value of self-awareness. Leadership is a fascinating field of study as it is truly a science. The ability to research those who have looked carefully at the variables within an individual and within the organization and how these affect our ability to lead has piqued my interest in the field. The University of San Diego offers its students the prospect of both becoming a leader and understanding what may prevent one from becoming a leader. One of the many things my research has revealed to me is that a true change maker is aware of both. 

Have you completed an international experience?

I have not completed an international experience but intend to study Nonprofits in Civil Societies in Guatemala.

How has your SOLES education impacted your career? 

My education with SOLES has offered me the opportunity to work directly with the governance systems of my own nonprofit as well as the future opportunity to work with others within the community. Moreover, I am gaining a healthy understanding of the humble beginnings of the industry, its development, its current status in the world and the future of the work we do. This is providing me with a strong knowledge base and the holistic professional development that enhances my visibility within the local nonprofit sector. My goals of working in the roles of leadership and assisting in quality service delivery coupled with creative problem solving are being realized as a result of my work with this SOLES program.

Which class has impacted you the most?

The University of San Diego and SOLES provide tremendous opportunity for self-growth and awareness through the reflective process. Each of my classes possesses an element of these powerful life lessons that go beyond the pages of text and much deeper in the consciousness. I value each of these opportunities and with each semester grow more aware of my role in my life’s work and my personal development. Leadership 559 – Leadership and Organizational change has been among the most powerful in creating awareness of self and other. Dr. Zachary Green teaches the class in a unique and innovative manner that affords students the opportunity to truly understand the choices they make and how this affects the organization. It was a powerful experience that has indeed changed me as a person, a student and a professional. 

Are there specific SOLES faculty, staff or administrators you feel have contributed significantly to your success?

In addition to Dr. Green, who has been and will remain a great change maker in my life, I have also been supported significantly by Pat Libby. Pat was my professor in Nonprofit Leadership and Fundamentals and is also my advisor. Pat guides her students with honesty and a commitment to their growth. I have sought her support on many occasions for both academic advice and personal encouragement both of which have been forth coming and incredibly helpful, caring and reassuring. Both Dr. Green and Professor Libby have served to inspire me and provide me with a new perspective for my professional life and personal development.

What is your dream job? 

My dream is to found a social services nonprofit organization that serves the impoverished through programs dedicated to skill building, educational development, healthy lifestyle choices and personal growth. My daughters are 14 and 11 and they both speak of working with people in the community that are in need and being pillars of change. Whatever I do in this life it will be to serve, to make those two beautiful girls in my life proud and to leave behind of legacy of dedication to the community that will endure well beyond my days of service.

Is there anything else you would like to share with prospective students? 

If you are remotely considering pursuing a degree from SOLES at USD all I can say is DO IT! This program is changing my life every day. The information I am exposed to, the people that have enhanced my network, the passion that is electrified on the campus and the great work that we are all participating in is life altering and expanding. I work full time, I am a single mother and am taking a full course load and I cannot stress enough how incredibly doable it is to have it all! Not only will you be afforded the opportunity to study at one of the most prestigious collegiate environments in the world, you will also be working with and for some of the most powerful change agents in the country.