As a board member for the Salvation Army’s Eastern Michigan Division, University alum Tammie Jones has the opportunity to contribute to strategic company decisions.
Jones attends meetings, works on projects and offers her views on issues for the regional branch of the national organization. However, unlike many of the other board members, Jones earned her first position on the board as a Board Fellow while pursuing her MBA at the University. Jones served with a group of fellow graduate students who participated in the competitive Board Fellowship program offered through the University’s Nonprofit and Public Management Center.
For nine years, the program has given graduate students the opportunity to serve as active members on the boards of various local nonprofit organizations, according to Rishi Moudgil, associate director of the University’s Nonprofit and Public Management Center. Initially, the program was only for students pursuing an MBA in the Ross School of Business, but it has since expanded to include those earning master’s degrees in the School of Social Work and the Ford School of Public Policy.
According to Moudgil, a student in the Board Fellows program receives a mentor who guides them during their time on the board. Students in the program can become involved with anything from financial planning to working on developing strategy and surveying, as Jones did for the Salvation Army.
Moudgil said the Board Fellows program is a way for graduate students — who often are not on campus as long as undergraduate students — to immerse themselves in the community.
“One of the really positive feedback we get from (the participants) is that this is their opportunity to really engage with the broader community and learn about Ann Arbor, Southeast Michigan, what people are doing (in the area) and have a real experience to apply their skills,” Moudgil said.
After students apply for the fellowship, they are selected for interviews with the Nonprofit and Public Management Center staff and the participating organizations. The groups then submit criteria for a candidate, and the center matches the applicants with the organizations.
This year the program selected 35 students from 75 applicants — the most it has ever received in one year, Moudgil said. The fellows have been paired with 22 participating nonprofit organizations and have already started their work. It is expected that board members contribute about eight hours per month to their positions.
Rackham student Katherine Valle, who is pursuing her master’s degree in Public Policy, is serving as a Board Fellow this year for Girls on the Run of Southeastern Michigan, a nonprofit organization that encourages healthy living among preteen girls through running. She will create their strategic plan during her time working with the organization.
Valle said she is enthusiastic about her placement. Though she has yet to attend a formal board meeting, she has already been in contact with different members and has started working.
“I felt honored to have received (the fellowship) and honored to also work for an organization that I feel like my personal mission for my life goes hand in hand with, and I believe the work that they’re doing is great,” Valle said.
Valle, who has already worked on strategic planning internationally, said she hopes her service as a Board Fellow will give her the chance to leave her mark.
“(The Board Fellowship) for me will give me an opportunity to do something with some sort of an impact in a grander scale than what I have done, here in the U.S.,” Valle said.
When Jones served as a Board Fellow, the position was extended from its original duration of one academic year, allowing her to serve during her entire time at the University. As soon as she graduated the board offered her an official position as a board member, and she has continued to serve since 2009.
Jones said that while the program was difficult, it pushed her out of her comfort zone, which helped in her future endeavors.
“If you want to have a great experience, you have to put in a lot of time and energy into it, but it pays off in huge brings and masses,” Jones said. “It was certainly a lot more work than I expected in a lot of ways but I loved every minute of it.”
Moudgil said Jones’s story is a model for success within the program that is still shared at events for the Board Fellows. As she has continued to serve as a board member, Jones said she learned that many of her past experiences were helpful in the work she did on the board with the Salvation Army division.
“You wear that brand wherever you go as a representative,” Jones said. “In my case it’s the Salvation Army, and being able to own that and use those opportunities you come into in your day to day interactions can really benefit the organization.”