My sister, me, and my mother after my graduation ceremony
On December 13, I participated in the graduation ceremony for my Masters in Nonprofit Administration at University of San Francisco. The 27-month program is designed for people working full time. I, along with my cohort of around 25 people, attended class after work, on Tuesday nights from 6:30-10:30. After 36 units and coursework in a variety of subjects, I completed my Masters.
Participating in the program certainly had its pros and cons. Other aspects of my life were put on hold while I focused on work and school. Living with constant reading, assignments, or papers hanging over my head was certainly exhausting. But all in all, I learned a great deal about a wide variety of subjects that I come across in my day to day work now and certainly will in the future. I had a smart, forward-thinking cohort, and I feel confident in the future of the sector because of them. I’m proud to have been one of them.
While my direct career path is unclear, one thing’s for certain – I will work in or around the nonprofit sector for a very long time. I believe so strongly in the work we do and the change we can and do make every day.
I want to say thank you to everyone who supported me while I was working on this Masters, including friends and family. But that also includes all of you reading this blog post right now, whether or not we’ve ever met. Please know that by reading, you are participating in the ongoing conversation about the nonprofit sector that we will continue. You have an important role to play in making sure the sector continues to get the respect it deserves. And for that, I say thank you!
I’m in the middle of my summer break from grad school (I’m getting my Masters in Nonprofit Administration at University of San Francisco) and it is glorious. I have time to jog, clean the house, and sleep – all things that eluded me when I was in school (OK, OK, I still cleaned the house, but I didn’t keep up with it the way I am now!). But more than allowing me to watch hours of Mad Men, this break has done a lot for me.
Here’s a few reasons why a break from grad school is so important.
- It brings you back to your center. I have to admit that managing full time work and grad school made my inner equilibrium go haywire. There were moments when I found the balance again, but the majority of the time I was off. I was stressed out and finding it difficult to determine priorities. Having more than a week off from school has allowed me to explore a more balanced lifestyle. And while it doesn’t mean I will jump back into the program stress free, it does mean that I am renewed and ready to move forward. I remember what it’s like to be balanced again.
- It allows you time to reflect. Having some time away from the program has caused me to think back on the past year and how the material will impact my professional life in the future. With such a practical program, it’s easy to see how it can be useful in the moment. What will be important is how it will be useful in the future. And without being immersed in learning new material, I can take a step back and evaluate the importance this program will have to my life.
- It builds excitement to start again. While I don’t miss the stress of always having something to do, I do miss the learning aspect of my program. I have really enjoyed being an active participant in understanding the nonprofit sector today and how I can be a part of it and make change (or simply promote something that’s successful). Having this break has given me breathing room to understand grad school’s importance to my life again.
I want to emphasize the importance of having a REAL break, too. I had a break of a comparable size in December/January and yet it didn’t have this effect on me at all. I was running around, preparing for the holidays, and I even got sick for a long period of time. That did not count. I was so distracted with things that I didn’t feel relaxed at all. This break has been great because I’ve been able to really relax and do the things I love (yes, that includes watching Netflix). And it’s been more than wonderful for me. Now, check back with me in a month and remind me of this post!!
Not that anyone but me is keeping track, but it has officially been two weeks and six days since my last post. This past month has been a whirlwind – I moved, started my new job, and went to the kick off for my masters program (I’m doing the Master of Nonprofit Administration program at University of San Francisco). I have been stressed out to say the least! I’ve been working my butt off to impress my new colleagues and boss, continuing to unpack our apartment, and mentally preparing to start school. I’m not going to lie, the last few weeks have been really hard… but I’m happy to say that I’m finally starting to feel positive about things. Here are a few mantras that have helped me keep my head above water.
- At the end of the day, I’m helping people. Being dedicated to the nonprofit field means that the work I do day in and day out changes the world. Even if I don’t get everything crossed off my to do list, or if I feel like I’m not making a good impression on my colleagues, I’m still helping people. And, isn’t that the most important thing in life?
- I know what I’m doing. My skills and knowledge about development and the nonprofit sector have been verified in both my new job and in meeting my cohort for the masters program. Listening to the types of decisions that are being made and the thought process behind them has been enlightening – not necessarily because they are new to me, but because I agree and had the same thoughts. In regards to my masters cohort, I was surprised to learn that there are quite a few people who have not had as much exposure to the sector as I have. My confidence has definitely been boosted.
- One day at a time. In times like this, when things are in chaos (and I hate chaos), each day can look a little bit different than the next. It helps me to remember that no matter how bad today is, tomorrow is a new day, and tomorrow could be great! Every day is a fresh start, which can help when I feel like I continually need one!
I don’t get stressed out easily, which is why I’ve been so surprised that this last month has been so hard on me. But I feel confident that things are turning around and I’m now in the right frame of mind. Just in time for classes to start on Tuesday!! Wish me luck!
Exciting news! I have been accepted into the Masters in Nonprofit Administration program at University of San Francisco. I will be making the move from San Diego up to the Bay Area, where I grew up and where most of my family is. I have lived in San Diego for nine years and have made many great friendships down here, but it is time for me to be closer to my family and truly begin settling down.
There is a big debate about the necessity of grad school for nonprofit professionals right now. There are numerous experts explaining the reasons why nonprofit leaders don’t need graduate level degrees. Because the nonprofit sector is so experience based, instead of skill based as many other fields are (business, law, teaching, etc), people claim that through experience, networking, and confidence one can obtain her dream job.
The hard truth of the matter is that more and more nonprofit employers are hoping for advanced degrees when looking for their next leadership. Of the job postings I look at for leadership positions, almost all recommend a Masters to apply. Now, I completely understand the argument that it’s all about what you’ve done and who you know. Absolutely – that can work for many people. But I would not say that getting a Masters is a waste of time or money. If you get a Masters that is highly specialized for the nonprofit sector, and focuses on practical tips for the working world, I feel that it’s time and money well spent. And that’s exactly what I looked for in my ideal program… and found it in the USF program.
Everyone I spoke to in the nonprofit field recommended working 5-10 years before entering grad school… and I totally agree with that. That’s just long enough to catch the bug and know that you’ll be in this sector forever.