Recent MBA graduate, Lindsey, is very familiar with the business side of higher education. For last several years and throughout her MBA studies, she’s been working as the Assistant Director of Annual Giving at the University of Puget Sound
Currently, she’s navigating the challenge of launching a six-state giving campaign in the midst of COVID. As she shared: “It’s an interesting, delicate time in higher ed and in philanthropy.” Lindsey, who grew up in Bellingham, Washington, studied history as an undergraduate at Lewis and Clark College in Portland. After finishing her undergraduate degree in 2011, she moved out East. As she puts it,
“I wanted to try something different so I ended up living in Washington, DC for about five years. And, that’s where I–like many, many fundraisers–sort of fell into nonprofit fundraising as a happy chance. And it’s funny, because my MBA experience has really solidified this for me, that I am very much a generalist. I am somebody who is much better at taking a lot of different pieces of information and finding their commonalities . . . [and] it’s a discipline where you have to be a little bit of a Renaissance person. You’re asked to do marketing communications, you’re asked to do face-to-face meetings with people, you’re asked to write. So that was great for me.”
As a native Washingtonian, Lindsey eventually decided that DC was not a good long term fit for her. She missed her family, friends and the Pacific Northwest. So, she headed home, where soon after arriving, she landed her current job. She’s been doing philanthropy work in higher education ever since, which is something she is very, very passionate about.
When asked about how she came to Milgard, Lindsey reports “It’s funny, before I even left [DC], I had started thinking about gaining an MBA, because I had talked to people in my professional circles, or who I thought were doing really interesting and cool things, and something that they had in common was an MBA degree.” But her decision wasn’t quite so straightforward, as she reports there is an interesting debate in “non-profit land” whether a Masters degree in Public Administration or an MBA is more valuable. Lindsey ultimately, went for the MBA: “Being a generalist, an MBA seemed vastly more adaptable to me. . . just a broader scope of discipline.”
Two years later, MBA in hand, Lindsey is very satisfied with the degree choice she made, especially in terms of how it’s positioned her to contribute more effectively in her current work. As she explains,
“one of the other reasons I decided to get an MBA is that I had noticed in a lot of organizations a real lack of understanding that a nonprofit is still a business. Just because it does something different with its money doesn’t make it any less of a business. And so, one of my motivations, initially . . . was to help lend a sense of financial literacy to those [organizations]. There’s a lot of mismanagement, that happens, particularly with finances in nonprofits. But there’s a lot of other mismanagement, too. And, it was my hope going into the Milgard program to kind of solve that problem, if you will. And that’s something we talked a lot about in business school–solving problems. And on a personal note, that was when I felt like I could go and do something about it.”
Lindsey highlights that the program has “a really great sort of sweep of all the things you need to know to run a business.”
But, Milgard did more than introduce Lindsey to the tools and training she sought to empower her non-profit work. During her MBA, Lindsey particularly prized those “aha moments” when she was struggling with new material and found that the pieces suddenly fell in to place to generate new understanding. Many of the change management ideas and approaches she learned about were particularly resonant given the current atmosphere in higher education. And, by virtue of the insights and skills she developed in the MBA program, she feels she better equipped to lead and implement collective change in her own organization. In fact, it was the real-time combination of work and study that Lindsey found particularly valuable. As she puts it “there were just so many little moments like that, where you can take what you’re doing and reading and plop it right in and there’s no question of it having value in your workplace pretty much immediately.”
Another important feature of the Milgard’s MBA program that strongly appealed to Lindsey is its focus on in person delivery (the last COVID quarter aside). As she put it, “There’s just another level of discussion and dialogue that you can have in a classroom that unfortunately you do kind of miss a little bit in a virtual space.” Indeed, reflecting back on the highlights of her MBA, it’s the people and the relationships she’s built with them that Lindsey values the most:
“For me, one of the major highlights has definitely been being able to interact with my classmates. It’s a super diverse group of people either professionally, expertise-wise, ethnically, racially, all of it, and I mean age wise too–which is so beautiful, because I truly believe in lifelong learning. And so that has been such a such a highlight. I got very lucky in [our] initial communications class and getting set up [with] the group that I have now worked with throughout the entire experience and getting to a deep place of team building with these extraordinary women has been, just amazing . . . really just a sparkling spot on this experience. And, you know, getting to carry those connections, of a shared experience, forward. I am really looking forward to that, to see what happens . . . these are people you get to meet and you do really cool things with.”
It’s no surprise that she is very much looking forward to growing the connections she’s made.
At the close of our interview, I asked Lindsey what advice she’d give to a new student entering the program. She told me that she would emphasize “This is your learning experience. It is what you what you make of it . . . That is 100% true.” So, to someone who was walking into program simply seeking to add the letters after their last name, she’d suggest to them “this may not really be the place for you. You’re not going to get what you want out of it, unless you put in. The value of it is how hard you work. How hard you struggle with it, that only means you learn more. So . . . it’s really, do it! Do the work! Do all of it! . . . Dig in. Get active. Be communicative with the people that you’re working with. Because it’s just going to be that much more rewarding and you’re going to learn that much more from it.”
And, now that she’s dug in, worked hard, and learned much, Lindsey is looking forward to having the luxury of time. Time to relax. Time to connect with the people she cares about. Time to travel and time to do “the kind of things that we all do in our lives: go to see some live music, check out a bookstore.” She is also ready, once she’s gained a bit of distance from the crush of juggling work and school, to try something new. She plans to spend some time reflecting on where she might take her career next. Whatever that direction ends up being, she aspires to leverage her learning and development in the MBA program to become a better manager and leader:
“Frankly, people spend a lot of their lives at their jobs. It should be a good experience and if I can lend to that in some way, then I’m helping. In the broader scope of things, I’m helping somebody else in their daily existence and, to whatever greater purpose the business, that’s great. But for me, it’s about those sorts of smaller relationships that are so powerful. And so, yeah, the number one thing is to help lead people and be a good manager.”