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MS in Nonprofit Administration Grad Lori Dickinson Turns Coursework Into Lifework

LSUS MS Nonprofit Administration graduate Lori with her parents

Lori at graduation with parents Janice and Gilbert Herriage

It was time for a change.

Lori Dickinson had been working in the nonprofit sector for several years, but feeling underemployed and underutilized, she decided  to make a career pivot.

Dickinson started the Louisiana State University Shreveport (LSUS) online Master of Science in Nonprofit Administration program, which recently received accreditation from the Nonprofit Academic Centers Council (NACC), once her research assured her it was the right school and the right program to help her meet her goals.

"All the research I did indicated it was one of the best nonprofit programs online," said Dickinson, a Fort Worth, Texas, resident. "The pricing was a big thing, and it was close enough that I could take the courses online and still be able to make it to graduation without a big financial commitment."

Choosing the best program to meet her specific needs, Dickinson knew she would be able to gain the skills required to match her ambition.

"I really felt that it would help me in my career, and help me to be able to move forward," she said. "It helped to prepare me for a position that I was more suited to than just a general administrative position."

Completing the program in a year's time, Dickinson immediately saw the practical application of the skills she learned in the program, and she is excited to see just where they will lead.

It's Not Schoolwork. It's Lifework.

Some people feel that the work they are doing in class may just be for the class, but Dickinson was able to transform her coursework into an actual grant proposal summary in the search for a new job.

"I didn't have the real-world experience yet with grant writing, so I thought this program would help prepare me for that and give me those skills I needed," she said. "And it has!

"I went in for an interview on a job that was a really good match, but with stiff competition," she remembered. "When they called to set up the second interview, they asked for a writing sample of a grant proposal summary. I said, 'Sure, no problem,' but when I got off the phone, I was almost in a full-blown panic attack thinking, 'Oh my God, what am I going to do?'"

Then Dickinson remembered the work she had completed for the Nonprofit Administration Research Methods course (NPA 706) taught by Stacey Hargis. Because Dickinson had saved all of her work, she was able to transform class assignments into job application materials.

"I was able to go in and pick about three or four of the worksheets that I thought were most applicable, and refill them out with pertinent information related to the nonprofit that I was talking with," she said. "This one class set me up in a great position for that job, demonstrating to me that my entire education, financial investment, time investment, everything related to what I had done in obtaining that degree, had been justified in that one request."

Knowing that the skills she developed in the program do in fact have real-world application, Dickinson looks forward to taking on a mid- to upper-management position in the near future and one day starting her own nonprofit consultancy focused on family services.

How to Fix Social Ills

Everyone wishes they could change the world for the better, and Dickinson believes that the best way to accomplish this goal is by starting with the family unit.

"I feel like one of the quickest ways to address one of the social ills that we have is to get to the nuts and bolts and the roots of the family and to help give families skills and the resources that they need to be able to be successful," she said. "Then that will help make a bigger impact across a broader spectrum."

She wants her future nonprofit consultancy to equip low-income families with the skill sets and resources they need to improve their lives through money management, effective parenting and career development.

This is a lofty goal, but one that Dickinson feels better equipped to achieve with her new education.

"The board development classes were very informative for me," she said. "I have worked with boards before, but I never quite understood just how critical they are.

"There are standards that boards need to meet, and you have to know how to keep a more diversified board so it can be more successful."

Based on her experience, Dickinson believes online learning takes a lot of commitment.

"Be prepared and committed," she said. "Read the assignments. There's no point in buying these books and signing up to take these classes if you're not going to actually do the work that's giving you the education you need … especially in an online environment."

She said LSUS makes it easy for students who are ready to make that commitment and do the work.

"I can genuinely say that I did not have one negative experience through this whole process," she said. "The whole pursuit is just great: getting signed up for classes, registration, the classes … everything was so easy and straightforward."

She added that those who feel unsure of their computer skills for online coursework have nothing to fear.

"Never was there confusion or issue of having to try to figure out how the online program works or anything," she said. "Everything was so well laid out and so well done. I was really impressed with it."

Learn more about the LSUS online MS in Nonprofit Administration program.

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