In Pursuit of the Masters

My main focus since early 2013 has been my graduate work. At this current moment, I have completed 24 credits of the 36 credits in the program. I have maintained a 4.0 GPA the entire time, and completely intend to keep that up for the final third. I will actually earn two credentials when I finish: A Master of Arts in Nonprofit Management, and a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Leadership of Nonprofit Organizations. The latter is actually an 18 credit program, but the way things are working out means I take a required course for both programs in the final semester.

One of the things I’ve greatly appreciated about this program is the real world element to the coursework. Almost every class has incorporated projects or presentations that involved working with actual organizations. I have also made it a point to add a Performing Arts focus to as much of my coursework as possible. The goal, after all, is to become an Arts Management Rock Star.

Some of the highlights of my graduate studies…

Strategic Planning in the Nonprofit Sector (Fall 2013) – The first main project was to do an analysis of the Mission, Vision, and Values statements for an organization. Since this had just come up recently with the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company artist retreat earlier in the year, it was a natural choice. I can’t go into detail, but I can certainly say that CSC constructed a very good set of statements. We also did a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis for The Wise Penny. The final group project was to develop an actual Strategic Plan, and my group had the chance to work with a very spiffy organization in Baltimore called The Book Thing.

Leadership & Organizational Development in Nonprofits (Fall 2013) – One key aspect of this class was exploring the difference between Leadership and Management. The basic summation is that Leaders are concerned with doing the right thing, and Managers are concerned with doing things the right way. For an early class, the professor announced that she was going to show a video of segments that feature charismatic leaders as depicted in the media. Before she hit play, I chimed out that the St. Crispin’s Day speech should be in there, or I would be very disappointed. It was, and this event helped create the situation where I was being referred to as “The Shakespeare Guy”. (I didn’t find this out until my second semester, but was very amused…) I read and analyzed a very nifty paper about Cultural Leadership. This wasn’t one of the official leadership styles or classifications we studied in class, but it is the one that I latched on to as it really resonated with me and is much more applicable to the Performing Arts. It helped define my other projects. I did a presentation that was a profile of Francesca Zambello, the Artistic Director of the Washington National Opera. Our final project and presentation was to profile and analyze a personal nonprofit leader we admire. I ended up thinking a bit outside the box, and my presentation was about Franz Joseph Haydn as a “Great Nonprofit Leader from History”. He really can be considered a nonprofit leader by today’s standards, and this project was a lot of fun. My main point in my presentation was that Haydn was the kind of leader that always stood up for his musicians. Even in cases where they shoot off a pistol and start a fire, or poke out a fellow musician’s eye. (Yes… really happened!)

Board Development and Human Resource Management in Nonprofits (Winter 2014) – As a winter term class, this was rather intense since it happened in such a short period of time. One of my projects was an analysis of the diversity of an interesting organization in Baltimore called The D Center, which was part of a full group project. Another big take-away for this class was some good information on working with volunteers.

Nonprofit Marketing (Spring 2014) – Everyone in the organization is in Marketing! (It’s true…) That’s the pretty key point right there. This time I got to do some work for a group I am connected to, and did a paper and presentation reviewing the marketing efforts of The Baltimore Homeschool Community Center. Up until I started my graduate work, that was the home for my piano studio and I certainly miss my students. But, it was nice to revisit them and throw some good ideas their way. (I think they actually used some of them!) For our final group project, we created a marketing plan for Annapolis Dog Rescue. One of my areas of focus for that was an analysis of the social media efforts, and suggestions for best practices.

Program Evaluation Methods (Spring 2014) – My favorite class so far! I’m clearly fond of the more technical classes like this one and the Strategic Planning class. I developed a program evaluation plan for Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s summer High School Corps program. I’m really excited at the idea of finding a clear way to evaluate organizations and specific programs in the Arts. It requires some creative thinking, since it can sometimes seem a little less clear than something like a program to feed the hungry where you can see and count how many meals you have provided. How do you quantitatively measure the success of a music or theatre camp? There are ways, and I can see myself really enjoying this kind of work!

Government Nonprofit Relations (Summer 2014) – Probably the most dry course so far. However, it was important and had useful information on things like the legislation process, and lobbying regulations. My main paper and presentation was a detailed look at The Wireless Microphone Users Interference Protection Act of 2013 (H.R. 2911), and the potential impact to nonprofit performing arts organizations. (See what I mean about “dry”?)

Data Driven Business Decisions (Fall 2014) – This was one of my electives. Also a very technical, but enjoyable, class. I know I took a statistics class in High School (that I don’t even really remember), but it certainly wasn’t as intense as some of the math for this class. This featured sampling, hypothesis testing, regression analysis, and decision trees. For a while, I was actually a bit worried that I wouldn’t pull out the A in this class.

Web Development (Fall 2014) – My other elective. (My two Fall 2014 electives were online, and this was necessary due to my involvement with the Chesapeake Shakespeare productions.) Since I already had some good experience with web pages and HTML, this class was not hugely challenging. I did learn a lot more about CSS specifically, and that was really quite useful. My final project was to create a new web page for The Venus Theatre Company. At the present moment, the web page I developed has not been adopted. They may end up going a different route with it, and in many ways I think they would be better off using WordPress as a platform.

And here is what is needed to finish…

Nonprofit Law and Ethics (Winter 2015) – I have just started this class. A good chunk of this will be the actual nuts-and-bolts of creating a nonprofit organizations. Plus, some case studies on issues relating to ethics.

Managing Financial Resources in Nonprofits (Spring 2015) – This looks like it will be about accounting, financial reporting & analysis, and budgeting. I’m guessing I will get a lot out of this one, since I’m a numbers guy.

Fundraising and Grant Writing (Fall 2015) – Pretty self-explanatory. Since I needed to take both my electives in Fall of 2014 due to the aforementioned involvement with Chesapeake Shakespeare productions, I actually missed this course that semester. I’ve already gotten permission to take and transfer courses at Goucher College to meet this requirement. At Goucher it will actually be 4 credits since it is a 3 credit class on fundraising, and a 1 credit class specifically on grant writing. I’m actually excited at the idea of taking the classes at Goucher, as they are a part of their Masters in Arts Administration program. I have a feeling the classes at Goucher will be more detailed, and have more of an Arts focus anyway. And fundraising and grant writing is one of the most important things about Nonprofits!

Masters Project Seminar (Fall 2015) – This will be the capstone project. I have a pretty good idea of what I want to do, and I actually have the secondary goal of looking to get it published after. So, for that reason, I won’t go into huge detail. It will have a focus relating to music organizations.

So, I am on track to finish all my coursework at the end of this year!

Looking beyond the Master’s…

I have actually been scoping out possible Doctorate programs. In many ways, I think it would be completely insane to continue. However, I have been so successful with this that it is also worthy of consideration. A few that look interesting or promising are: Doctor of Public Administration from University of Baltimore (I like the idea of staying local), Doctor of Philosophy in Strategic Leadership from James Madison University (based on the fact that the more technical and analytical classes have the greater appeal for me), or one of the several Arts Administration PhD programs I have found.

Up next in the January 2015 series of reflections… The artistic and creative efforts!

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