A student-led experiential program at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, titled the Board Fellows Program, has partnered with one of the leading educational nonprofit organizations in the Chicago area, Communities in Schools of Chicago (CISC) to help shape and improve its approach to board development.
CISC helps connect more than 60,000 Chicago public school students from low income families with free programs and services that address these students' unmet needs; the organization has been partnering with the Kellogg School in a variety of areas and recruiting students from several programs and initiatives within the school that aim to match Kellogg participants with nonprofits or social entrepreneurs in the area who may be looking for assistance in dealing with a specific business problem.
The Board Fellows Program, in particular, admits 50 Fellows each year through a competitive admissions process. Fellows come to the program with work experience and an abiding interest in nonprofit board governance work; each of them is then given a chance to work as a non-voting member of a Chicago-area nonprofit board of directors for 15 months, beginning at the end of his first year at Kellogg and continuing through June of their second year. Thus, it combines academic training in corporate board governance with experiential learning through the service.
In the case of CISC, the participant created and implemented a board development survey that enabled the organization to help understand the needs of its board members better and also led to significant improvements in the way it addressed certain issues of strategic planning, communications and financial oversight. In an interview on the Kellogg website, Jane Mentzinger, Executive Director of CISC says, The survey helped us think differently about how we share some of our financial information. For example, we learned that our directors wanted to have more in-depth discussions around strategic planning. As a result, we extended the time of our board meeting to have further conversation about this topic.
While business school education a decade back was associated with the quest among executives for more glamorous profiles, mostly in consulting and finance, and huge bonus components, there is definitely a slow and sure change happening in that. Blogs, media reports and employment statistics released by schools all point to a growing inclination among MBAs to build an eventual career in the social or nonprofit sector. Initiatives such as the above constitute one more indication of the growing realization of the particular trend.