Carleton University is located on unceded Algonquin territory between the Rideau River and the UNESCO World Heritage Rideau Canal, minutes from downtown Ottawa.

Why Carleton University

The origins of Carleton’s Master (MPNL) and Diploma (DPNL) of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership mirror the University’s roots in community. Carleton was created by a group of community leaders who in the early 1940s recognized the need to educate professionals for a growing public service, and for the country as a whole. The study of public administration was central to the new institution, and officially became Canada’s first School of Public Policy and Administration (SPPA) in 1953. With an interest in leadership for public good and a long history of working with community, SPPA began to incubate the idea of a Masters program tailored to philanthropy and the nonprofit sector in 2007, leading to another first for the country.

From the beginning, we have been committed to four key principles. First, the program content would be tailored to the distinctive needs of the philanthropic and nonprofit sector (and those who work closely with it), including skills related to engaging public policy, business planning, governance, and communication. Second, the degree would have its own name that would become a path into leadership positions in this sector — the equivalent of an MBA to a career in business or MPPA for the public sector. Third, it would be accessible to a national audience and working professionals who could not relocate. Fourth, it would be an unparalleled experience for students that would be professionally relevant and engaged with the community.

The History

Extensive research, consultations, and environmental scans were undertaken both domestically and internationally to ensure the resulting program would meet demand and be compatible with the highest professional and education standards. When a group of senior executives in the philanthropic sector, referring to themselves as Canada Advancing Philanthropy, issued a call in 2010 for proposals from Canadian universities to create a Master of Philanthropy, SPPA was well prepared, and was successful in getting the endorsement — and continuing guidance — of this group. Refining curriculum and the accreditation process by the Ontario Universities Council on Quality Assurance took two more years. Finally, in 2013 the MPNL, and shorter DPNL were launched. Carleton University invested heavily in the program, hiring three new faculty and contract instructors who bring valuable professional experience as well as providing substantial scholarships to students.

The MPNL and DPNL have been a success from the start, full to capacity with remarkable people — both experienced professionals and those recently graduated from undergraduate degrees — who learn from and mentor each other.  And, who now benefit from a substantial alumni network across Canada and internationally.

The Program

The curriculum and pedagogy reflect our dedication to engaging with practical issues and educating both younger, aspiring and highly experienced, working professionals.  The MPNL and DPNL are also designed to be accessible to students who will not relocate to Ottawa with a diversified approach of intensive, executive-style residential sessions and online learning.

The programs begin with an intensive two-week Summer Institute in July in Carleton’s riverside Richcraft Hall. This experience introduces students to rich course material and professional practice by hearing from a wide range of nonprofit, government, and business leaders, philanthropists, and other changemakers. The Summer Institute brings students together at the beginning to deepen the learning that will follow. It challenges students individually, and as a cohort, to think innovatively in confronting some of the most pressing challenges facing this sector and its government and business collaborators. It encourages peer-to-peer learning and builds a strong cohort that graduates carry with them into their careers. It may be hard to believe that this would work with such diverse people, but it does.

Engaged, online courses as well as intensive one-week sessions follow, with a second Summer Institute the following summer. For students living in the National Capital Region, regular, in-person courses are also available.

The Philosophy and Practice

The practical orientation of the MPNL/DPNL is reflected in the opportunity to do a practicum and in the final capstone project. By joining teams of students with community partners to work on an issue of relevance to the organization or sector as a whole, the capstone project offers experience to students as well as the opportunity to give back to the community, where the roots of the program still lie.

Unique in Canada, the program is a platform on which we have built applied research and public conversations with the aim of informing professional practice and public policy. We bring new ideas to the Canadian context and have built an international reputation, regularly host visiting scholars and becoming a member of the American-based Nonprofit Academic Centres Council (NACC).