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MSNM Commencement 2013

MSNM Commencement 2013

Spertus Confers Master of Science in Nonprofit Management
Degrees at 2013 Commencement Ceremony

“Intelligence, thoughtfulness, and
generosity are what really count”

by Brian Zimmerman for
Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership

(CHICAGO) In front of a cheering audience of family members, friends, and colleagues, degrees were awarded on Sunday, August 25, 2013, to 42 students from Spertus Institute’s Master of Science in Nonprofit Management program, a program that has been training nonprofit leaders since 1982.

The growth of the nonprofit sector has fueled demand for exactly the skills students gain from the Spertus Nonprofit Management program: leadership theory, organizational management, budgeting, fundraising, and grantwriting. Through course modules taught by professional practitioners in a variety of nonprofit fields, the program provides an in-depth academic experience with practical applications for nonprofit professionals and the organizations and communities they serve.

Prior to the ceremony, Spertus President Dr. Hal M. Lewis offered a few remarks to the soon-to-be graduates as they prepared to take the stage.

“This graduation speaks volumes about the kind of individuals you are, and the commitment you made to the nonprofit sector,” he said. “You deserve enormous gratitude.”

The 35 graduates in attendance then filed into the theater, accompanied by the sounds of Pomp and Circumstance. Spertus faculty member Laura Mannion — a certified fundraising executive who serves as director of development for the Franciscan Alliance Foundation in Northwest Indiana and teaches Revenue Development for Nonprofit Organizations in the Spertus program — introduced the class to the full-house of 400 audience members. Dr. Lewis then opened his address with a quote from Ashton Kutcher’s Kid’s Choice Awards acceptance speech, which he acknowledged was an unexpected source of words of wisdom.

“Ashton said that the sexiest thing in the entire world is being really smart,” said Lewis, eliciting a big laugh from the audience. “The people we celebrate today are women and men who don’t have large salaries, but what they’ve learned here is that intelligence, thoughtfulness, and generosity are what really count.” 

Class of 2013 graduate Ava Toney-Snider performed the National Anthem, which was followed by an invocation by Spertus Dean and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Dean P. Bell.

Student speaker Brenda Palms-Barber, selected by a faculty panel for this honor, then spoke to the crowd. She thanked Spertus faculty for giving her the tools necessary to succeed as a nonprofit leader. A nonprofit leader in her own right, Ms. Palms Barber is founder of the Lawndale-based organization Sweet Beginnings, an innovative jobs program run by the North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN). The program offers transitional jobs for formerly incarcerated individuals through the production of a skin care line called Beeline, with products made from honey from its urban apiary in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood. Sweet Beginnings provides job training for workers who care for bees and hives, harvest honey, produce and package products, and sell at retail outlets and special events. The recidivism rate for former Sweet Beginnings employees is below 4%, compared to an average of 55% in Illinois and 65% nationally.  

Ms. Palms-Barber used an anecdote from Maya Angelou’s book Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now to demonstrate what it takes to be a nonprofit innovator.

“A woman who’s about to embark on a journey takes a step in front of her house,” said Ms. Palms-Barber. “She doesn’t like the path she sees behind her, and she doesn’t like the path she sees ahead of her. So she creates a new path for herself.”

“Embrace your new path, wherever it takes you,” she added.

After Ms. Palms-Barber’s speech, guest speaker Jeffrey Esser took to the podium to deliver the graduation address. Mr. Esser emphasized to the graduates that nonprofit organizations serve the purpose of improving communities in need. He used the example of Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank and co-founder of Partners in Health, to illustrate that leaders in the nonprofit sector can make a difference on a global scale.

“Dr. Kim’s medical program serves 100,000 people in Haiti,” he said. “It helps treat diseases at low cost, curing patients of tuberculosis and improving living conditions in countries all over the world.”

Mr. Esser challenged the graduating students to live up to the rigorous demands of nonprofit work.

“Your generation must dream ambitiously,” he said. “You must deliver where other generations have fallen short. Live life purposefully, pursue your dreams, and find your passion. Each one of you can achieve great things.”

Degrees were then awarded to the 35 graduating students in attendance. As cameras flashed and the crowd applauded, each graduate received a diploma from Spertus President Dr. Hal Lewis. The newly conferred graduates then filed off the stage for a reception with friends and family in the Spertus Institute lobby.

Spertus Institute’s Master of Science in Nonprofit Management program was initiated to further Spertus’ commitment to the community and continues to exemplify that commitment today. It offers a comprehensive core curriculum that addresses all aspects of nonprofit management. Offered in a collaborative cohort learning model, students go through the program as a group and graduate as a group. Cohorts of 10 to 20 students allow for individual attention from skilled faculty working in the field.

Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership offers dynamic learning opportunities, rooted in Jewish wisdom and culture and open to all. These opportunities are designed to enable personal growth, train future leaders, and engage individuals in exploration of Jewish life.

Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership is a partner in serving our community, supported by the JUF/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.

Friday, August 30, 2013