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Anne Cohn Donnelly (left), clinical professor in social enterprise at Kellogg, with Elizabeth Stoxreiter Seifert ‘08 at the Board Fellows Transition Breakfast on May 28 at the Kellogg School’s downtown Chicago campus

Prof. Anne Cohn Donnely

Kellogg experiential learning initiative builds governance skills

Nonprofits tap Board Fellows Program for Kellogg talent to fill permanent leadership roles

By Amy Trang

12/2/2008 - When Evanston-based nonprofit GlobeMed wanted to add board members to help take the organization to the next level, they looked to the Kellogg School.

Erin Linville
Board Fellow Erin Linville ‘08.
Executive director Victor Roy said he knew that a graduate of the Kellogg Board Fellows Program, an experiential learning initiative that gives Kellogg students exposure to nonprofit boards, would provide beneficial expertise to GlobeMed, a national organization of university students whose mission is to advance global health equity. It has 18 chapters at universities nationwide, including at Northwestern University.

“We are a fairly young board and we were looking for someone who could add some organizational business acumen to the diverse board,” Roy said. “Not only do Kellogg MBAs have that mindset anyway, but through the Board Fellows Program, they have experience with a real nonprofit in Chicago and that appealed to us.”

Board Fellows is a selective program in which Kellogg students serve on nonprofit boards as nonvoting members. Students learn firsthand the challenges and intricacies of being a board member. This year, about 52 students will serve on nonprofit boards in and around Chicago, selected from 146 applicants.

Board Fellows academic director Anne Cohn Donnelly connected GlobeMed with Kellogg Board Fellow Erin Linville ’08 who resides in the Chicago area.

Unique from other business schools who offer a similar program, the Kellogg Board Fellows initiative requires participants to enroll in a class on nonprofit board governance prior to and during board service, learning the basics of nonprofit board governance. Donnelly, also a clinical professor in social enterprise at Kellogg, said the academic curriculum provides a theoretical focus which complements the fellowship’s experiential learning component.

During their fellowship, Board Fellows are expected to attend board meetings and must work on a project that would be of value to the board and that uses the student’s expertise. Students share their board experiences with each other to gain varied perspectives on the array of organizations with which Board Fellows participate.

Linville said that she felt prepared to serve on GlobeMed’s board after her experience as a Board Fellow with Kohl Children’s Museum of Greater Chicago. She said the experiences afforded by the program made her comfortable taking a board position soon after graduating from Kellogg.

“Board Fellows helps you determine what you want in a board experience,” Linville said. “You get to hear the experiences of your peers and understand various organizations and their strategic issues. It also helps you learn how to evaluate an organization so you can figure out if it’s a place where you can add value.”

Linville, who has been on GlobeMed’s board since September, made an impact on the organization immediately and was instrumental in helping the board implement a committee structure, Roy said.

Donnelly said that nonprofits are looking for the managerial and strategic skills that MBAs possess in order to run successful organizations. She also noted that the opportunity for nonprofit boards to connect with Kellogg alumni was an unexpected but welcome result of the Board Fellows Program. She hopes these alumni placements will continue as the program grows.

“Our students and graduates want to give back and can do that through board service while in the corporate world,” Donnelly said. “They see it as a source of fulfillment in their life.”

The Board Fellows Program began in 2003 when three Kellogg students with a shared focus of preparing their peers to be social responsible leaders collaborated with the school’s administration to create the experiential learning initiative.