Last updated: August 05. 2014 5:10PM - 1305 Views
Asia Ashley aashley@civitasmedia.com

Tom Thomsen, director of the Philanthropy and Development Master of Arts program and one of its professors, speaks to the class during the first summer cohort of the program.
Tom Thomsen, director of the Philanthropy and Development Master of Arts program and one of its professors, speaks to the class during the first summer cohort of the program.
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What better way for a college to follow through with its vision and mission than creating a major dedicated to fulfilling its purpose.

LaGrange College, known for its commitment to philanthropy and service, did just that when the school started the new Philanthropy and Development Master of Arts Program this year.

“The program is the brain child of President Dan McAlexander and Will Jones,” said Jeff Lukken, director of graduate and degree completion programs. “Among most of the nation’s programs, the LaGrange College master’s degree is unique in that our students are awarded credit hours for their professional experience in the field of philanthropy, which may save a student time and money as they earn their degree. The program also allows the students to study and research their particular area of interest to help provide solutions and immediate applications to their own professional field or workplace.”

As part of the college’s strategic planning, Will Jones, LC vice president for external relations, said the staff identified a need for more graduate programs and a need for a Philanthropy and Development program in the Southeast.

“As we thought about additional programs, all (Philanthropy and Development) were embedded in the college’s mission and vision statement,” said Will Jones. “Philanthropy and Development is an outgrowth of that mission statement.”

The Philanthropy and Development major at LC is the only degree of its kind in the Southeast, with only about five other schools in the country offering program. The program is designed to prepare leaders and administrators in the fields of major gifts, campaigns, planned giving, annual fund, and utilization of new and social media in fundraising. The program includes contemporary and historical philanthropic issues, ethics, research and leadership courses that should prepare students for non-profit fundraising.

The 25-month program combines two-week immersion experiences on campus for three summers with the flexibility of online coursework to be completed in the fall and spring semesters.

Jones said the program is also unique from similar programs around the country because of the school’s affiliation with the United Methodist Church and students can receive academic credit based on their work experience, while networking with other professionals.

“They’ll have the opportunity to network with some of the most successful and best minds that our fundraising world has to offer,” Jones said. “…. A line-up of extraordinary people who have led milti-billion dollar efforts. They gain practical knowledge on how to do it better.”

Twelve students, four from out of state, finished the first round of the on-campus summer classes last week.

Elizabeth Ponder, a student from Birmingham, Alabama, said the location of the degree program shaped her decision to enroll.

“LaGrange was geographically close to me and family members and I thought it was a great way to advance my career,” said Ponder. “I like that it specializes in development rather than just a nonprofit degree. And the fact that it was designed for working professionals is good for those who live in other states.”

The college’s head men’s basketball coach Kendal Wallace is enrolled in the program and said he hopes to it will imprint on his philanthropic views and further his future and career in development.

“I felt like this was the next step for me in my profession,” said Wallace. “As a basketball coach you always want to try to strengthen yourself and not allow yourself to gain a weakness in your professional life and especially not your program. Development is always going to be be a large part of what we do in athletics and I wanted to gain more knowledge in the areas and ways you can gain money and develop money and funds for your program.”

With LC being one of very few colleges in the country that offer the program, Wallace said he hopes it will give him more exclusivity if he were to apply for a “Director” position and leave college athletics.

Other students commented on the ability to network with other professionals in the program.

Director of Philanthropy and Development Tom Thomsen, one of the program’s four professors, said he wanted to bring knowledge and application to the students so they can use it in their current and future jobs and careers.

Jones expects to have 60 plus students from all over the country on the campus every summer for the program. The program expects to have three cohorts with about 20 students in each every summer.

LaGrange College mission statement:

LaGrange College challenges the minds and inspires the souls of its students. Founded in 1831 and committed to its relationship with the United Methodist Church and its Wesleyan and liberal arts traditions, the college supports students in their search for truth. An ethical and caring community valuing civility, diversity, service and excellence, LaGrange College prepares students to become successful, responsible citizens who aspire to lives of integrity and moral courage.

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