WMU News

New program trains future nonprofit professionals

April 11, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- Nonprofit organizations looking for trained entry-level professionals will get a hand in that effort from a new certificate program being offered by Western Michigan University beginning this fall.

The American Humanics program, which is affiliated with the national organization of the same name, is designed to prepare students to work in the nonprofit sector by giving them background and skills in how those organizations operate.

"Many of our graduates don't want to work in business, they want to be in the public sector, but there's no program that prepares them for working in nonprofits. They simply don't know how these organizations work," says Dr. James A. Gilchrist, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. "The American Humanics program will give them what they need to succeed in that arena."

WMU's program, which will be housed in the University's School of Public Affairs and Administration, is being structured in accordance with competencies outlined by American Humanics Inc., a national alliance of colleges, universities and nonprofit organizations. Headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., American Humanics is the only national nonprofit organization that prepares students for entry-level professional positions in the nonprofit sector. The organization, which has established partnerships with more than 15 national youth and human services organizations, provides curriculum structure for the program, as well as leadership opportunities, internships and financial aid. Among its partners are the American Red Cross, United Way of America, YWCA, YMCA, National Urban League and Habitat for Humanity International.

With the program's inception at WMU, the University will join more than 70 other colleges and universities affiliated with an American Humanics program. Western Michigan University is the only higher education institution in the state to offer the program. WMU also offers a certificate program in nonprofit leadership and administration at the graduate level.

"With more than 11,000 new entry-level professional job vacancies reported annually by the nonprofit partners of American Humanics, the employment potential for these students is very good," Gilchrist says, noting that employment at Michigan nonprofits has more than tripled since 1986. "American Humanics directors elsewhere report that their students have little trouble finding employment."

Students in the American Humanics program will combine coursework in their major with several classes on concepts unique to the nonprofit sector, including the historical and philosophical foundations of nonprofit organizations, youth and adult development, nonprofit board and committee development, and fund-raising principles and practices. In addition, students will be required to complete an internship of 300 hours with a nonprofit organization. Upon completion of these requirements, students will receive a certificate from American Humanics Inc.

During the initial stages of development for the program, University officials approached nonprofit leaders in Kalamazoo, Calhoun and Kent counties and were met with support and enthusiasm for the effort.

"I think this program is very important," says Janet Barker, executive director of the Girl Scouts of Glowing Embers Council and a member of the curriculum committee for the WMU program. "Working with a board-governed agency that is not income generating is a new concept for a lot of people. This program will give students knowledge of nonprofits' way of being. It also will link WMU closer to the community at large, especially to the nonprofit agencies."

This link to the community's nonprofit agencies also will be important in teaching the program's classes, says Gilchrist.

"The input of executive directors of United Way agencies in Kalamazoo, Calhoun and Kent counties truly helped shape the curriculum," he explains. "Not only will many of their agencies provide internships and learning experiences for our students, but we will be relying on these nonprofit professionals to help us teach the program as well."

Media contact: Marie Lee, 616 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu

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