First-year executive MBA student Tim Goodwin, a program director at Yapstone in San Francisco, has always been involved in volunteer work. So when he heard about Wharton’s Nonprofit Board Leadership Program (NBLP), which selects and trains Wharton MBA students to serve on the boards of directors of nonprofit organizations for one year, he wanted to participate.
“I see this as a springboard to contributing to nonprofits in a deeper way,” he says, noting that he’s particularly interested in organizations that focus on breaking cycles of poverty and in improving the human condition. “This program will be extremely valuable. I’ll get to see the challenges and problems faced by a nonprofit and use my education and skills to help them find solutions.”
While the students won’t have voting rights, they will attend all board meetings as observers, contributing their knowledge in areas such as accounting, finance, and marketing. Launched in Philadelphia in 2005, the NBLP expanded to Wharton | San Francisco in 2009 and is currently run by first-year EMBA students Wendy Guthrie, Abhishek Agarwal, and Raghavan Anand. The co-chairs are expecting 10-12 nonprofits in the San Francisco area to participate this year.
As for juggling the demands of work, school and board meetings, Goodwin says that he is up for the challenge. “The coursework is demanding, but the kind of people in this program just aren’t daunted by that and ask for –and do – much more beyond that. There is a lot going on not specifically related to coursework at Wharton,” says Goodwin, who recently went through training for the NBLP with a dozen other first-year Executive MBA students in San Francisco.
One of his fellow students at the training was Eunsoo Chung, a CPA in the Bay Area. Like Goodwin, volunteer work has always been a part of her life. “I’ve done accounting assistance for various organizations, but I want to get more directly involved with people. I want to find an organization that shares my passion for fighting financial illiteracy and become deeply involved on a leadership level,” she says.
Chung says she was impressed by her fellow students in the program. “They all have some kind of experience with nonprofits and a desire to participate. They are dedicated to carving out a part of their lives to participate in this program and be part of the community.”
Being part of the community, she notes, is a big motivation for many students to come to Wharton. “Unlike some part-time MBA programs where you go to school every week for one or two classes and then go home, Wharton does a great job creating a community feeling through activities like the NBLP and networking opportunities. The NBLP will really complete my Wharton experience since I’m here not only to learn, but to advance my leadership skills and really get involved.”