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Kellogg Board Fellows receive formal classroom instruction on nonprofit board governance while serving as non-voting board members at Chicago-based nonprofits.

Kellogg Board Fellows receive formal classroom instruction on nonprofit board governance while serving as non-voting board members at Chicago-based nonprofits.

‘A centerpiece of your career’

Through the Kellogg Board Fellows program, students develop practical skills while contributing to the well-being of a nonprofit

By Rachel Farrell

9/23/2010 - Like many Kellogg students, Jessica Issacs ’11 joined Kellogg Board Fellows last year because she wanted to make a meaningful contribution to a nonprofit organization.

But through her fellowship with the Chicago Arts Partnership in Education, Issacs discovered that the program offers an added benefit: training in practical business skills, ranging from marketing to finance to management. Those kinds of skills, Issacs notes, are applicable to virtually any career — whether in the nonprofit or for-profit world.

“Learning how to relate to a diverse group of people with a wide range of backgrounds on a board teaches you communications skills that can help you in any kind of job,” explains Issacs, who was recently appointed president of Kellogg Board Fellows. By serving on a board, students “learn about the challenges that different organizations face and how people approach those challenges, whether at a start-up company or an established company.”

Unlike other board fellows programs, Kellogg Board Fellows has a two-pronged approach: Students receive formal classroom instruction on nonprofit board governance while serving as non-voting board members at Chicago-based nonprofits. Kellogg Board Fellows is the only program in the country with an academic component, which is one of the reasons why students find the program so valuable to their career training.
 
“The educational component of Kellogg’s program really prepares fellows to be successful in their fellowships and, afterwards, serve as stewards of best practices within board governance,” says Erin Linville ’08, director of youth programs at the Howard Area Community Center, who served on the board of the Kohl’s Children’s Museum in Glenview while she was a student at Kellogg. The experience, Linville says, taught her about “organizational dynamics, structuring board meetings and leading a meeting with clear to-dos” — all skills that have come in handy as she currently serves as chair of the board of GlobeMed, an organization that aims to improve the health of impoverished people worldwide.

Anne Cohn Donnelly, academic director of Kellogg Board Fellows and senior lecturer of social enterprise, asserts that this is a common experience for fellows. “The skills that fellows learn depend on the state of the organization,” Donnelly says. “Some students learn about the financing of nonprofits; some learn about fundraising; some learn about strategic planning; some learn about having to market an organization to the general project.”

She notes that, while most fellows don’t end up pursuing a full-time career in nonprofit work after graduation, the “vast majority” continue to be involved in the nonprofit world in some capacity, oftentimes by serving on a board. And that bodes well for their long-term success.

“Working on a nonprofit board is a centerpiece of your career,” Donnelly says. “It enhances your ability to be a leader in the corporate world in all kinds of ways. It allows you to better understand the world that you’re serving.”