Hayley Collins, '14G
"The master’s program provides an incredible opportunity to focus academic efforts on a topic that engages the student and supports direct benefits to the community – I gained critical knowledge of strategic planning, project planning, communications, marketing, collaboration, and leadership."
Please describe your background prior to enrolling in the Master in Community Development program:
I graduated from Whitman College with a Bachelor of Arts in Politics in 2006. Thereafter, I pursued a brief career in the for-profit sector before pivoting into a career in nonprofit management.
What were the key features of the Master in Community Development degree program that attracted you to it?
Just after paying off my undergraduate student loans, I was working full-time and had little interest in transplanting my life again to attend graduate school. I began searching for an online graduate program that truly captured my professional and academic interests, and the Master in Community Development degree was the best-suited master’s degree in nonprofit management that fit my needs: low-residency, affordable, small class sizes, only 14 months, professors who work in the field, and fellow students who are already in the field.
What was your capstone project focus and how did it serve your community?
My capstone project was titled Strategic Planning to Alleviate Food Insecurity in North Lake Tahoe/Truckee, California. In identifying a capstone project, I wanted to choose a focus that would fulfill a current need for my non-profit employer. My supervisor and Executive Director at the time indicated that a comprehensive 3-year strategic plan would offer enormous value.
I began by conducting a community-needs assessment, which included gathering the thoughts on the key stakeholders of the organization. Upon completing my Master in Community Development at the Carsey School, I had developed a 3-year strategic plan with outcomes, activities, and outputs. In addition to leaving a legacy in my community, I gained critical knowledge of strategic planning, project planning, communications, marketing, collaboration, and leadership. Throughout my project, I was well supported by the faculty, staff, fellow students, and alumni.
How has what you learned in your master’s program helped you in your nonprofit management career?
As the Executive Director of Juliette’s House, a small non-profit organization in Oregon, I oversaw administration and operations to ensure the community was served effectively. Juliette’s House’s mission is to provide compassionate intervention through prevention, assessment, and support for children and families who may have been impacted by abuse.
It was while at Juliette's House that I saw and experienced a huge need for greater support for women leaders in the nonprofit and for-profit spaces. As a result, I founded my current executive coaching business.
How did this master’s degree help you succeed as a nonprofit manager?
The advertisement for my position with Juliette's House required a master’s degree in nonprofit leadership or a related field. In addition to the master’s level credential, this master’s program curriculum focused on nonprofit management and strategic planning, both of which were enormously helpful to me at Juliette's House and in my current career as a leadership coach.
What aspects of the master’s program did you enjoy most?
The Master in Community Development program provides an incredible opportunity to focus academic efforts on a topic that engages the student and supports direct benefits to the community where the applied project is completed. The lasting positive return to my community and professional value of a strategic planning exercise made the applied project the most enriching aspect of the program.
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