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“Work smarter, not harder” has been the mantra I have dedicated myself to as I approached participating in three nonprofit leadership programs concurrently: Public Allies Arizona, the Nonprofit Leadership and Management bachelor’s degree and the Certified Nonprofit Professional credential through the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. Public Allies advises prospective participants to carefully evaluate their other commitments before joining the 10-month program, so planning, planning and more planning has been the only way to make all this work.
Before every semester at ASU, I would sit down with my syllabus and program every single class time, deadline and assignment I could. Then I would schedule everything else around it for the rest of the semester. This can be a challenge, trying to stay on top of deadlines and making sure I am not over-booking myself for important events and tasks. Prioritizing is one of the most important things to master when creating a packed schedule for the year. I used my communication skills and mantra to make sure “first things first” stayed a rule. I decided that my degree program and self-care were main priorities. When I approached potential Partner Organizations and Public Allies, I made sure to thoroughly communicate priorities and make sure that none of the critical dates for the different programs crossed in ways that would be detrimental to completing expectations of all the programs. MIKID was well aware that education and self-care were priorities and worked around my class schedule when creating my position.
I also communicated my needs around self-care and how I could create a space to be most productive. During the first half of my 10-month service with Public Allies, I took 16 college credits at ASU with one of those credits counting for my participation in the Nonprofit Professional credential program. Some studies say the average student spends around 2-3 hours studying a week per credit hour so with a 16-credit-hour caseload, you are looking at a possible 40+ hours a week spent on school. The Public Allies program hours averages out to about 43+ hours a week to get the 1,700-hour total for the 10-month service term. Planning for a possible average 100+ hours of work a week is daunting, but applying my “smarter, not harder” mantra reminds me to be creative, thinking critically about the work at hand and what opportunities are available to be flexible.
One way I accomplished this was by looking over my job description and class assignments to see if they crossed paths. I mean, they all are nonprofit programs and what better way to learn than to apply my class assignments to my placement objectives. I was delighted, and more than a little lucky, to realize I could directly apply some of my class assignments to my placement at MIKID.
For example, I took NLM 430 and found that we needed to develop a program or new nonprofit model for the final senior project. At my placement, I was assigned the task of developing the transitional-age youth leadership program. I was able to use the tools from class and immediately apply them to my work to create something that was put into practice right away – and count my hours spent working on that class assignment for hours at placement because I was essentially doing my job.
Another excellent example of this was during my evaluation class where we had to create an evaluation for an organization. In order to create transitional-age youth programming, and to improve the certified peer-support training, I needed to do a lot of observing and analyzing. I needed to make sure that what I was creating and possibly imposing on the organization was a good fit that met the needs and culture of the organization. My NLM 402 class gave me the tools to do this much more efficiently then I would have without the coursework, and again I was able to count the time working on my course assignment as placement hours.
It is important to note that most assignments I could not count for hours because the assignments did not directly align with my placement objectives. However, I was still able to use and apply many of the theories and teachings on a regular basis. I mimicked the way the instructor of the Certified Nonprofit Professional program plays more of a supporting role that empowers the cohort to take charge of their education and make it what they want, as opposed to creating more of a lecture or dictating how or what we should be learning. I used this style of empowering leadership when developing the youth leadership group, and now the youth partner co-creates group activities with peer supports that teach life skills in the areas of professional development, healthy relationships, healthy bodies and life hacks.
Public Allies allows some room for additional training opportunities so I was incredibly grateful to find out that I could count my trip to Kansas City for the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance annual conference towards my 1,700 hours of service needed to graduate from the Public Allies program. I have to put the emphasis on communication and my gratefulness for MIKID’s support for this one because MIKID and Public Allies did not have to let me take time away from placement to go to the conference or let me count it for training hours. However, because I asked months in advance and was able to write out why and how this conference was helping me accomplish the goals of the Public Allies program and how it would help me at placement with MIKID, I was thoroughly supported.
My degree and certificate program have made the world of difference in my ability to accomplish my objectives innovatively during my term of national service.
In my next blog, I will be discussing how Public Allies and ASU expanded my nonprofit leadership toolkit.
Rachelle Wayne is a 2018 Alumna, ASU BS in Nonprofit Leadership & Management. Wayne was also a part of Public Allies' Class 12. She was placed as a Youth Peer Support Provider at Mentally Ill Kids in Distress (MIKID.) Public Allies Arizona is a 10-month apprenticeship program designed to develop the next generation of civic leaders.