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GVSU introduces philanthropy and nonprofit leadership degree

June 30, 2014

West Michigan is good at philanthropy. Grand Valley State University will try to make it better.

Responding to increased interest and continued market growth, GVSU is introducing a new graduate program for working professionals in the nonprofit sector — a master’s degree of philanthropy and nonprofit leadership — beginning this fall at the university’s downtown Grand Rapids campus.

The new 36-credit-hour program requires students to have three years of full-time experience in management or employment in the nonprofit industry before enrolling. The new degree is designed to teach students how to ethically and effectively lead and manage nonprofit organizations.

The curriculum incorporates coursework, applied research, a workshop series, professional development and field experience for students looking to start a career or advance in the nonprofit industry.

Students can choose an emphasis in mission advancement, nonprofit health care or community impact. Some of the classes integrated into the graduate program include financial management, human resource management, leadership courses, nonprofit management and philanthropy.

Salvatore Alaimo, a professor in the School of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration at GVSU, said the new graduate program resulted from a need recognized about five years ago.

“Enrollment in our nonprofit concentration was steadily going up,” said Alaimo. “Students kept expressing interest for more of a stand-alone degree.”

With growth in the national nonprofit sector, Alaimo said not only are more organizations being established, but also there is a need to look at social issues in a different manner.

“There has been a growth in this area and I think this growth is indicative of our student enrollment,” said Alaimo. “The new ways that people are trying to deal with these social issues, new ways of working with government, new ways of partnering with businesses … it is a combination of sheer growth in volume, but also a need for new, innovative ways to try to tackle these things.”

According to the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan economic and social policy research organization located in Washington, D.C., the nonprofit sector increased 25 percent from 2001 to 2011 in terms of organizations established. The 2012 Nonprofit Almanac from the National Center for Charitable Statistics reported a 17 percent change in employment in the industry from 2000 to 2010, while businesses saw a decline of 6 percent in the same period.

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