Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Friday, October 21, 2011

Grad students to serve on nonprofit boards through Board Fellowship Program

Selected U-M graduate students in business, public policy, and social work convened with executive directors, board members, and other leaders of nonprofit organizations on Thursday for the launch of the Nonprofit and Public Management Center's (NPM) Board Fellowship Program.

After a highly competitive process, NPM's Board Fellows are placed on nonprofit governing boards for the academic year, where they participate as non-voting board members and lead high-level strategic projects. The fellowship is designed to create a cadre of professionals ready to take on future board roles and become active civic and community leaders.

"The Board Fellowship Program is one of our major community investment projects in Southeast Michigan," says Rishi Moudgil, associate director of NPM. "Our graduate students complete board-level projects that are critical to the local community, and they get a meaningful opportunity to participate in the governance of a nonprofit organization. This is a very unique hands-on management experience and a great way for students to gain exposure to professionals in the field."

Board Fellows are assigned a board mentor and are expected to fully participate in governing the organization. They agree upon a high-priority project that touches upon funding, governance, marketing, policy, or other significant areas. Past projects have included constructing performance measurement systems, developing plans on diversifying revenue strategies, instituting controls for board governance, and researching and identifying methods to best serve an evolving target population.

This year, 35 students have been matched with 22 organizations across Southeast Michigan, including The Salvation Army of Southeast Michigan, Ann Arbor Public Schools Foundation, Neighborhood Service Organization, and Ann Arbor SPARK.

Bob Blumenfeld, senior vice president of Orchard's Children's Services, has worked with NPM Board Fellows for several years to provide quality services to children and families. "Our partnership with the U-M Board Fellowship Program has opened up new ways of thinking, created meaningful dialogue and insight into organizational challenges, and added value to our governance, planning and marketing initiatives," he says.

The effects of the Board Fellowship go beyond skill development and student involvement in the community.

"As a Board Fellow with The Salvation Army, Eastern Michigan Division, I had an opportunity to help advance the leadership of an organization doing phenomenal work for those in most in need in Southeast Michigan," said Tammie Jones, a 2008 U-M graduate and recent Skillman Foundation Public Policy Fellow. "This experience not only equipped me with a deeper understanding of the nonprofit sector, but allowed me to grow as a leader in my community. Now that I've made Detroit my home, I continue my board service with The Salvation Army and seek to play an active role in the revitalization of the city."

At Thursday's event, fellows met their board counterparts, heard from past fellows and organization leaders, and participated in brief orientation training. Many students will move directly into their board service with board meetings already scheduled for the upcoming week.