Non-profit organization are growing. According to the Nonprofit Quarterly, “The nonprofit sector is the third-largest workforce in the United States, behind retail and manufacturing.”
With this rate of growth in mind, business professor Tom J. Sanders is currently teaching a course on nonprofit organizations. “I started off the course limited to 20 students,” Sanders said, “It filled up the first day, so I doubled it to 40, and even after that I’ve had to turn down at least six students hoping to join.”
He is amazed by the amount of interest and pleased that his students are from a variety of majors. Sanders, who worked in the nonprofit sector for 30 years before becoming a professor, is now working to take this enthusiasm about the class and transform it into a full-fledged minor.
“I’ve made a proposal to the dean about starting a nonprofit studies minor,” he said. Sanders would like for it to be under interdisciplinary studies and modeled after the environmental studies minor.
He said there would be three required courses and three electives from related content areas. Sanders is most excited for the prospective minor opening doors for a wide range of students.
Alyssa Jenkins, a senior majoring in art with a psychology minor is currently enrolled in the nonprofit course. She has past work as a traveling representative for Liberty in North Korea.
“The organization works towards redirecting the politics of North Korea to the people, rescuing and resettling North Korean refugees and also researching what problems are going on now,” said Jenkins. “So that they can not only put a Band-Aid on the issue but also help it in the long run.”
Her time spent improving others’ lives also made her reflect upon her own. “I found that I had a true passion for nonprofit organizations,” she recalled. “I also figured out that I wasn’t completely happy with my future and that I wanted to help people more than anything.”
Jenkins said she hopes to eventually become a clinical counselor in the nonprofit field, with a special interest in assisting refugees and defectors.
Another student with extensive nonprofit experience is Lydia Clements. She is a junior with a double major in psychology and social work and could very well see herself working in the nonprofit sector. She currently works at the Crisis Center of Birmingham as an over the phone counselor.
“The Center is a program through United Way. It has multiple branches that incorporate different ways of helping people,” she said. “The one I’ve worked with the most is the Crisis Line, which provides free counseling to those living in Alabama 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”
Through her work, Clements has not only enjoyed assisting others, but also feels it helped her grow as a person. “Volunteering has helped me be less judgmental than those who are different from me,“ she said.
“When you work the crisis line, you never know who you’re going to have on the other end of the phone. It has opened me up to a level of empathy that I don’t think I would have had if I hadn’t listened to those people.”
For students interested in a nonprofit career, Sanders suggests that they follow their passion while choosing a major and consider adding the in the works nonprofit minor as a basis for connecting with an organization. He also recommends that an emphasis be put on experience.
Sanders said he is hoping to make a service learning internship required for the minor, giving students first-hand interaction with nonprofits and helping them to build a network in the sector.
Professors from across campus will soon be meeting to discuss which disciplines might be interested in participating in the new minor. Although it is still a work in progress, Montevallo students can look forward to the upcoming minor and the opportunities that come with it.