Graphic by Elizabeth Wong.

The University of Rhode Island now offers a flexible, nonprofit administration major  geared towards non-traditional college students within the College of Education and Professional Studies.

Peter Nye, one of the program’s professors, said that the program emphasizes four key themes: social innovation, data-driven decision making, leadership processes and ethics. 

Social innovation involves coming up with new and better approaches to addressing important social problems. Data-driven decision making entails working with data analysis to test the progress the organizations are making and using the result for improvement. Leadership and team processes highlight the importance of motivating various volunteers, employees and community members who assist the nonprofit. 

Ethics and the fiduciary responsibility of a nonprofit board is the final theme and one of the most critical for students to  understand, according to Nye. 

“That’s really important because nonprofits get funding from the public and they have very strict fiduciary responsibilities to use those funds in a constructive way as they’ve outlined in their charters,” Nye said.

The core courses students can take range from topics such as the History of Organizational Theory for Nonprofit Institutions (SPC 210) to Finance and Budgeting Policy for Nonprofit Organizations (SPC 383) to Mission-based Marketing: Positioning Nonprofit Institutions for Community Success (SPC 403).

“Our students have specifically and explicitly asked over the summer that if we are able to offer courses in person, they’d greatly prefer that,” said Jonathan Kroll, the director for academic programs of the College of Education & Professional Studies, who helped develop this program. “We wanted to be responsive to their desires.”

Kroll explained that along with the courses being practical and skills-based, most of the students who enrolled in this program for the fall either have full-time jobs or take care of family during the day, so offering mostly night classes made learning most convenient. 

He acknowledged that while the pandemic has hindered the logistics of students doing internships with this program for now, he is still looking to the future. 

“There is a very, very strong foundation that folks before us created,” Kroll said. “The future of the program, I think, will be much more synergistic and have a much more connecting and tight-knit community of learners of our students and will continue to be responsive to the growing and the changing nature of the adult learner population.” 

Kroll hopes that once the pandemic subsides this program will become a hub for nonprofit organizational engagement within Rhode Island and the greater-Providence area.

Nye stressed the importance of nonprofit organizations in the surrounding community, especially in Rhode Island. 

“Many corporations in Rhode Island are very anxious to support nonprofits that have compelling visions,” Nye said.

Kroll expressed similar sentiments and is excited for the opportunity to support vulnerable populations in the state.

“We are ecstatic that we are able to provide a very robust and dynamic and engaging bachelor’s program so that we can better serve the needs of our nonprofit organizations, and more importantly, better serve the needs of our community,” Kroll said.