Here’s What We See: Competency-Based Education Can Solve the Nonprofit Disciplinary Conundrum
Dorothy Norris-Tirrell and Susan Tomlinson Schmidt
Journal of Nonprofit Education and Leadership, October 2023
Multiple disciplines and numerous theoretical foundations built the basis for study of nonprofit organizations. This article explores the disciplinary debate with data from the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance about the majors of students earning the Certified Nonprofit Professional (CNP) credential over the last 10 years. Our analysis suggests that with a focus on the competencies needed for practice, nonprofit education works in any discipline. Embedding a competency-based, applied pedagogy allows many disciplines to ensure successful outcomes for students.
Dorothy Norris-Tirrell, Ph.D., is the Vice President of Programs and Research for the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance – a national network of 50 universities and national nonprofit partners working to create a talented and prepared nonprofit workforce. In this position, Dr. Norris-Tirrell facilitates the development of programs to develop strong nonprofit leaders. Her previous experience includes over twenty years as a faculty member and administrator at the University of Memphis and the University of Central Florida. Dr. Norris-Tirrell’s teaching and research focused on nonprofit organization leadership, governance and resilience, volunteerism, and cross-sector collaboration. Her research is published in the book, Strategic Collaboration in Public and Nonprofit Administration, and in book chapters and journals including the Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Policy Studies Journal, American Review of Public Administration, International Journal of Public Administration, and the Journal of Health and Human Services Administration. Dr. Norris-Tirrell has extensive experience as an agency manager, board member, consultant, and volunteer for a wide range of nonprofit organizations.
For her work in connecting student learning, nonprofit agency needs, and academic knowledge, Dr. Norris-Tirrell received the 2009 University of Memphis Excellence in Engaged Scholarship Award, and the 2014 Don Pugliese Award from the Southeastern Conference for Public Administration. She received a Ph.D. in Public Administration from Florida International University.
Susan Tomlinson Schmidt has spent more than 30 years of her career advancing the missions of a variety of service organizations, by focusing on building capacity through partnerships with universities and their local communities.
Currently, Schmidt is a senior advisor to the Executive Director of the Early Childhood Innovation Center (ECIC) at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. ECIC is part of the Institute for Human Development. The Center supports a range of community-based programs that lift the quality of the early childhood workforce across the State of Missouri.
Previously, Schmidt was President of the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance, a national network of professionals, nonprofit organizations, and universities building capacity in the nonprofit workforce. While there, she successfully introduced several key initiatives, Leaderosity, a robust, virtual professional development platform. Leaderosity trains as many 15,000 nonprofit professionals annually reaching across the globe to provide targeted training in nonprofit leadership. Schmidt’s leadership in converting the Certified Nonprofit Professional (CNP) program from an analog, B2B model to an innovative, virtual, B2C model increased access and affordability to earning the nationally recognized workforce credential.
She received her master’s in public administration from the University of Memphis and is an Advanced Certified Nonprofit Professional.