WMU News

Kellogg Foundation award to support Calhoun youth agencies

April 9, 1998

KALAMAZOO -- A $400,000 award from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek to Western Michigan University will support both non-profit management education and the goals of Calhoun County's youth-serving agencies.

The five-year effort, which will focus on expanding the capacities of organizations that serve youth, is one of 18 projects in the nation funded through a new foundation initiative, "Building Bridges Between Practice and Knowledge in Non-profit Management Education."

Dr. James C. Petersen, associate dean of WMU's College of Arts and Sciences, is the WMU project director. He says the grant activities will be a cooperative effort that will benefit both University-based programs that teach non-profit management and agencies that actually practice such management in the community.

"The project seeks to link both so that the University may be informed by lessons learned in a community setting and the non-profit community can benefit from University-based concepts and theories." he says. "We're going to develop and test a new approach to non-profit management education."

Petersen says the WMU project's focus on youth-serving agencies promotes the goals of America's Promise, a multi-year nationwide initiative in which the Kellogg Foundation is involved. The initiative spells out five critical resources that the nation should provide for America's youth. They are: caring adults and mentors; safe places and structured activities; a healthy start and healthy future; effective education for marketable skills; and the opportunity to engage in community service.

Working with three to six organizations per year, Petersen says, there should be substantial involvement with what he calls "Calhoun County's rich array of non-profit agencies" over the five-year period. He expects the first group of organizations involved in the project to be identified by this summer.

The agencies will decide the direction of their interaction with WMU personnel by identifying the areas on which each would like to focus. Petersen says that could range from support for learning accounting procedures to the task of helping those agencies build evaluation techniques into their daily operations.

"Non-profit agencies are being asked to do more and more and are under increasing pressure from their funding sources to demonstrate the effectiveness of what they do," Petersen says. "They are being asked to show how their goals have been met and how peoples' lives have been changed. One thing I expect many of the agencies to request is help in building their ability to conduct outcomes-based evaluations."

Whatever the training requests of the non-profit agencies, Petersen says, they will be addressed by WMU faculty/student teams that are tailored to the needs of the agency.

For the University, Petersen sees an opportunity for faculty members to increase their interaction with practitioners and improve their understanding of the issues affecting non-profits. A "practitioner-in-residence" program and professional development activities for faculty members also are part of grant activities.

Directing the project with Petersen will be a leadership team comprised of Dr. Susan B. Hannah, associate professor in the School of Public Affairs and Administration; Dr. Tracey Mabrey, associate director of the School of Social Work; Dr. James R. Sanders, professor of educational leadership and associate director of the Evaluation Center; and Dr. Janet E. Stillwell, associate dean of the College of Fine Arts.

Once a year, the Kellogg Foundation will bring together principals in the 18 similar national projects for meetings to share the results of their work and to get technical assistance. The results of the WMU project also will be published and disseminated nationally in an attempt to identify best practices for use by non-profit agencies and to serve as a model for educational institutions involved in non-profit management education at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

"We're piloting an organization-based approach to such education," Petersen says. "By taking time to establish trust and rapport, we hope to develop some different approaches to long-term problem solving."

WMU recently has launched a graduate certificate program in non-profit management and is developing an undergraduate program in the field as well as research and service activities in that area.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation was established in 1930 "to help people help themselves through the practical application of knowledge and resources to improve their quality of life and that of future generations." To achieve the greatest impact, the foundation targets its grants toward specific areas. These include: health; food systems and rural development; youth and education, and higher education; and philanthropy and volunteerism. Within those areas, funding also is provided for leadership; information systems/technology; efforts to capitalize on diversity; and family, neighborhood and community development programming. Grants are concentrated in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, and southern Africa.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland; cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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