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International professional uses a certificate in nonprofit management as a stepping stone to a master’s degree

International professional uses a certificate in nonprofit management as a stepping stone to a master’s degree

With a clear vision of his future, Mark Donahue chose to enroll in the UGA Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management and Leadership to help propel his career and impact as a nonprofit leader. Having grown up in Zimbabwe to parents who worked in the international development sector, Donahue witnessed his father serve an important role in one of the largest international nonprofits in the world. “Working in this sector was always what I wanted to do with my life,” said Donahue.

Mark Donahue, Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management and LeadershipDonahue followed in his father’s footsteps after attending Clark University in Massachusetts where he studied Economics. His passion for nonprofit work lead him to spend a year working at a small church funded school for immigrant farmhands in Harare Zimbabwe, then two years working at a small rural school in The Gambia for the US Peace Corps, and a year working for the Malaria prevention program at Catholic Relief Services in The Gambia. He currently coordinates and onboards tutors for Reading Partners in Dallas, Texas to help elementary students advance their reading skills to grade level.

Donahue made what he described as an easy decision to attend UGA after being offered acceptance to numerous schools offering similar certificate programs. “I was attracted to Georgia because it’s one of just a few big-name schools offering this very particular program that I was interested in” said Donahue who intends to carry the credits from the certificate program towards a full degree. 

“The cost of this course is a great value that allows me to dip my toe into the content all the while knowing that pending my success, UGA has a MA in Nonprofit Management & Leadership I could later apply to, so I wouldn’t have to readjust to a different school.” 

Donahue also noted the wide selection of elective courses that he could pair with the required courses. “I can really tailor my certificate to exactly the content that I believe will be most applicable to my career,” Donahue said. “I intended to take these classes from West Africa with a time zone 6-7 hrs ahead of EST, so the A-synchronous model was a big attractor/factor for me which was not offered at all schools,” Donahue added.

There were two main reasons Donahue selected a certificate program over seeking a master’s degree. “This program gives me the opportunity to try the online classes to see if they work for me without the obligation of a master’s program.” Donahue explains the second reason saying “I was not as good of an undergraduate student as I would have liked to be, so this certificate program gave me the opportunity to demonstrate to UGA that I’m ready to be enrolled in a full graduate program.”

When asked what advice Donahue would give to other online students he shared “The student-to-student interaction is an underrated aspect of the online learning experience, at least the way that it’s done here in the Nonprofit Management & Leadership program at UGA. Rather than breaking into discussion groups where what you gain is totally dependent on who you’re grouped with, I can pick up interesting perspectives from every single member of the class when I choose to read their discussion thread comments and input. I read and respond to it when my brain is the freshest, and they write their comments/questions when their brain is the freshest. That time delay allows for everyone to convey their most relevant input in the most concise and articulate form. This is compared to coming up with something tangentially related to add to a group discussion on the spot in a “live” classroom environment when I was an undergraduate student.”

Donahue expects to graduate in the Summer of 2021 but is already seeing the program benefits in his current role. “The insights I learn in class are instantly incorporated into the way I view and perform my job every single day. I understand the industry in a way I never did and interact more effectively with my volunteers than I ever have,” said Donahue. “Beyond education, I trust this certificate will make me more competitive in the nonprofit world and equip me with the tools to follow my dream of working for a large global nonprofit in the international development sector,” Donahue said.

In the next 3 years, Donahue would like to finish this certificate program, learn French, acquire a master’s degree, gain one more year of international work experience, and get a job working at a global international development nonprofit organization.