The first and only in Canada, even after seven years, the Master of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership (MPNL) provides a pathway into leadership careers in the large and growing nonprofit sector. As the only degree of its kind in the country, the MPNL (and shorter Graduate Diploma) attracts students from across the country, a mix of recent graduates from a diversity of undergraduate programs and experienced working professionals. The delivery is designed so that people do not need to relocate to Ottawa, although a number of the full-time students choose to do so. The program starts with an intensive two-week Summer Institute in July, then a mix of online courses and one-week intensives, and back for a second Summer Institute.

What an experience to have 60 aspiring and current leaders in the philanthropic and nonprofit sector on the Carleton campus at the same time, about 30 from each of the incoming and returning cohorts. Our commitment to students is that the Summer Institute will be a ‘wow’ experience, filled with vibrant discussions, peer-to-peer learning, controversial cases and simulations, and the opportunity to engage with leading practitioners and policy makers.

The incoming cohort alternated mornings and afternoons with Professor Calum Carmichael in ‘Foundations of Philanthropy’ and Professor Susan Phillips in ‘The Policy and Legal Environment.’ This 7th cohort was greatly enriched by the participation over the entire two weeks of two guests: Dr. Beth Breeze, Director of the Centre for Philanthropy, University of Kent (UK); and Bob Wyatt, Executive Director of the Muttart Foundation (based in Edmonton). Dr. Breeze, who is a leading scholar on fundraising and spent a month in the School as our 2019 International Scholar in Residence, added a UK perspective on issues in Calum’s course. As a leader in advancing charity regulatory reform for more than two decades, Bob Wyatt provided ‘war stories’ known to few others, and delivered in a way that only Bob can, in Susan’s course. Students also benefited from the ‘Ottawa Advantage,’ with guest presentations from Tony Manconi, Director of the Charities Directorate, Mike Belthius, Policy Analyst working on the new federal Social Finance and Innovation Fund, Francine Whiteduck, a member of the Steering Group that advised on the social finance strategy, Khalil Sharif, CEO of the Aga Khan Canada Foundation, and so many more.

The returning MPNL students spent the first week with Professor Paloma Raggo in the Governance and Leadership course in which they explored their personal leadership styles, approaches to collaborative leadership and working with a governing board, as all charities and nonprofits must do. The second week focused on strategic and change management led by Dr. Caitlin McMullin, an expert on co-production between governments and nonprofits. Judging from the buzz of group discussions, case work and simulations that came from the classroom – and glowing reports from students – both courses easily produced a wow factor.

The PNL program is committed to real-world, experiential learning and contributing value to the nonprofit sector. This occurs in many aspects of the program, notably the capstone in which students work in teams on a project of strategic value for a community partner. Experiential learning is also embedded in the Summer Institute with an afternoon session in which two cohorts work on a ‘living case:’ this time to develop a policy strategy for the sector for the October 2019 election and present it to political strategists aligned with each of the three major parties and to Professors Paul Wilson and Jennifer Robson (PhD Public Policy alumna) from Carleton’s unique Master of Political Management. Students took tough, blunt critiques of their proposals – all with some humour thrown in – and took away valuable ideas about effective communication.

A highlight of the Summer Institute is the public ‘Celebrating Philanthropy’ event on the second Thursday evening. Professor Beth Breeze gave a very thoughtful presentation that both defended and recognized the shortcomings of philanthropy, followed by a lively discussion of the Canadian context with Paul Nazareth (VP Education and Development, Canadian Association of Gift Planners), Fahad Ahmad (SPPA PhD Public Policy candidate); Board Chair, Thousand Currents), and Jennifer Conley (Chief Advancement Officer, Carleton University). Then, we celebrated this amazing group of students, and the joy of having them as part of our School.