Want effective employees tomorrow? Think interdisciplinary studies today.

Let me preface by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed my undergraduate experience. I was fortunate to be involved in the founding years of a nonprofit studies minor program at my university (as a participant and also a paid employee). I saw firsthand how hard staff and faculty worked to create a collaborative program across the university’s college of humanities and social sciences, and learned invaluable lessons from my service learning experiences.

Even so, I graduated and got my first full-time paying position with a nonprofit with no coursework in accounting, budgeting, grant writing, or program evaluation. My job was a temporary position, and I knew that I would be heading back to school to get my MPA degree. In my admissions essay, one of the main reasons I cited for my desire to get an advanced degree was my lack of training in these areas that are so crucial for effective 501c3 administration.

I am excited to see that the number of nonprofit administration undergraduate degrees is growing. This is a positive step towards training students who will otherwise be compelled to learn via crash course when they are out in the working world. I have worked in the university setting enough to understand that it is easier said than done to ask for programs to be created than span departments and schools. Still, it is crucial that universities help to make their students as marketable and as a prepared as possible. If participation from business faculty is not possible within a nonprofit administration program of study, consider bringing in adjunct faculty to teach special courses or guest lecturers.

The nonprofit sector is growing rapidly, and we need young leaders who are both passionate and prepared.

Katie O’Connor Sirakos
MPA, 2011


One thought on “Want effective employees tomorrow? Think interdisciplinary studies today.

  1. I absolutely agree that interdisciplinary approaches to problems are, and will continue to be needed. In fact, I was recently in a research course in which the instructor raised the question as to whether or not universities should stop orienting work around individual disciplines, but should instead be built upon problems or approaches. For instance, might it make better sense to have a College of Human Outcomes or a College of Environmental Studies? A lively discussion ensued. William O. Wilson’s book Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (1999) makes this same claim that in the new century we will have to work across our disciplines to solve the most pervasive human problems. I couldn’t agree with you more.


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