All posts by Marco Tavanti

Dr. Marco Tavanti is an international development scholar whose experience stretches over 25 years and whose work has taken him to more than 18 countries in Europe, East Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. Dr. Tavanti’s teaching in sustainable development, leadership ethics, intercultural diversity, and NGO management is grounded in Jesuit values and his scholarship is an embodiment of the University’s mission to be of service to humankind. Professor Tavanti is the Nonprofit Administration Program Director.

Leadership Exercises: Jesuit Paradigms for Cura Universalis

Cura Jesuitas
Stain Glasses of the Life of St. Ignatius of Loyola representing three levels of care and conscious value leadership

We Live in an Age with Old Legacies and New Challenges

How do Jesuit practices help us better confront current and future challenges? We live in an uncertain time spanning from  old racial and economic disparities, recurring pandemics, and new emergencies due to climate change. This era requires new paradigms and strategies to develop globally conscious and sustainable values-driven leaders, managers, entrepreneurs and innovators. That is why I have created the Leadership Exercises, a tool to help promote the development of conscious value leaders for global responsibility and the common good.  While started in the MNA ethical leadership courses in 2015, the latest version of the Leadership Exercises was launched on the occasion of the Ignatian Year (2021-2022), commemorating the 500th anniversary of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s conversion which ultimately gave rise to the Ignatian method of discernment known as the Spiritual Exercises.  I is now integrated in value-leadership courses at the University of San Francisco’s School of Management. 

The Need for New Paradigms in Management Education 

How can Jesuit business schools promote new paradigms for educating for the common good and our common future?  Jesuit education is (and should be) teaching that transforms both mindsets through value-leadership discernment and skillsets directed toward a career which transforms the world for sustainability and the common good (Tavanti & Davis, 2018). “It is commendable that the International Association of Jesuit Universities (IAJU) has promoted a Working Group of business education leaders who have advanced new inspirational paradigms for Jesuit business education inspired by the United Nations’s 203o Agenda with its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letters Laudato Si and Fratelli Tutti. “While cognizant of the vulnerable, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) of the fourth industrial revolution and of the urgencies created by the COVID-19 pandemic, they also recognize the moral, social and global responsibility towards a more value-based, sustainable, and inclusive solutions for our communities and stakeholders” (Garanzini,, 2020). The Deans and other Jesuit academic leaders of this working group acknowledge how corporations worldwide are changing the way they do business pushed by new policies and frameworks for sustainability reporting in the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. These are a few paradigm shifts in business practice compelling academia in general and Jesuit business schools in particular to implement a sustainability paradigm shift in their curricula offerings, pedagogical approaches, leadership skills, and stakeholder engagement.” (Tavanti, Sfeir, Wilp, 2021). 

The Leadership Exercises as Tool for the New Paradigms 

An important question to ask is if our teaching methods effectively promote personal and professional capacity for value-driven leadership. In Jesuit schools we talk about Jesuit values,  but how can we better integrate professional capacity with ethical, transformational and globally responsible leadership?  If we recognize the urgency of renewing our education for the challenges of these new times we need to adopt these new paradigms and integrate new tools. The Leadership Exercises are a tool for promoting the values-driven mindsets and conscious discernment skillsets to help make the world a better place through our decisions, priorities and actions. The  Leadership Exercises expand on the Management Exercises, a promising example of integrating Jesuit paradigms for leadership development with principled discernment for personal, social, global and systemic decision-making (Stackman & Connor, 2016). Similar to the 4 steps of the Management Exercises (self, others, organization and society), the 12+ steps of the Leadership Exercises  integrate three levels of discernment as  cura personalis (care for the whole person), cura apostolica (care for the community and society) and cura universalis (care for our common good, common home, and common future).

Cura Universalis as Care for for the Common Good

The notion of Common Good is central in Catholic Social Teaching (CST) and a well-known concept in philosophy, economics and political science. Yet, it finds little exploration in management and business education. The Jesuit paradigms for care for our personal, collective and global well-being can be a powerful pathway to develop common good leadership mindsets. Jesuit educators generally refer to the value of cura personalis, but it may not be enough to address the professional, social, environmental and global challenges of our times. How can we go deeper and wider in the Jesuit education of leaders so that their personal value-awareness is also conscious-competent for our common good and common future?

“Well-done education at a Jesuit university transforms a student and prepares him or her for work that promotes the common good, while allowing that student to discern his or her vocation in life and, in the long run, to flourish as a human being. This is the transforming power of education on a Jesuit campus rightly understood: personal transformation that leads to societal transformation through the ongoing dialectic of personal freedom and social responsibility” (Quinn, 2016).

A hallmark of Jesuit education, cura personalis means “caring for the whole person” as Superior General Wladimir Ledóchowski, S.J. first stated in the 1930s as one of several tools for fostering students’ intellectual, moral, and spiritual development. Cura apostolica has been identified as complementary to cura personalis, as it represents the same intimate knowledge and compassion but extended beyond a single person or interpersonal relations into a collective, organizational, institutional, professional and social responsibility. If cura personalis is about principles and virtues as values in action, cura apostolica is about the practice and mission as ethical discernment and applications of values and virtues into the challenges and complexities of our world.

Cura personalis and cura apostolica are powerful paradigms for educating men and women for others but may be inadequate without an extended perspective for cura universalis propelling our leadership call into new dimensions. An integrated mindset for the common good needs to be more than caring for the whole person or for caring about the work and its mission. It needs to realize its call to love the entire universe Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam Inque Hominum Salute – for the sake of God’s love (unconditional) and the well-being (safety and prosperity) of humanity. The Jesuit realization of its mission for the global common good builds on the CST paradigms that pushed its diverse educational institutions toward a critical role within the Church in favor of social justice and the global common good. These three levels of care represent contexts of action (contempl-action) and a renewed perspective for Ignatian pedagogy for sustainability education and conscious sustainability leadership (Sfeir-Younis & Tavanti, 2020; Tavanti & Wilp, 2021).

The cura universalis is about developing a mindset for conscious sustainability leadership. It is reflected in what Aristotle calls  eudaimonia or true happiness, well-being, prosperity and “blessedness” (Sfeir-Younis & Tavanti, 2020, p. 98). It is here where we appreciate what Lakota Native American people call Mitakuye Oyasin meaning “all my relations,” “we are all related” or “all is related” in the universe and we are part of this interconnectedness.  It is in this sphere that we develop our interconnected consciousness beyond economic systems, social relations, and natural worlds. Here, spiritual intelligence is about a higher level of consciousnesses beyond but not excluded from rational, emotional, social, cultural, executive, and moral intelligence.

The following model summarizes the leadership development. stages and  levels of consciousness that are behind the design of the Leadership Exercises. It is explained in details and borrowed from the study on common good Jesuit education available in Tavanti, M. & Wilp. E. (2021). A Common Good Mindset: An Integrated Model for Sustainability and Leadership Management Education. In Rimanoczy, I. & Ritz, A. (eds.), Sustainability Mindset and Transformative Leadership: A Multidisciplinary Perspective. Palgrave Macmillan. 

Care Common Good
The Levels of Care and Consciousness for the Common Good Leadership Development as in the Leadership Exercises (Tavanti & Wilp, 2021).

Feel free to use the Leadership Exercises for your personal leadership development journey or integrated into your courses (just give credit).  If you would like to know more about the Leadership Exercises and its pedagogical model for business leadership education for the common good, please contact Dr. Marco Tavanti at 


Mural of George Floyd who was brutally murdered by the Minneapolis Police 05/26/2020. Mural and photo by Xena Goldman and other artists. Donate to public art initiatives at

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Amid protests across the United States against the brutal killing of African-American George Floyd by a Minneapolis policeman, a video in which Floyd’s 6-year-old-daughter Gianna is heard saying, “daddy changed the world”, has gone viral on social media. Many of us have gone to the streets of San Francisco and other cities around the US and world to manifest our disdain for such brutal actions and the systemic problems of racism, discrimination and exclusion toward black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC). We need to change the world from here… as we say at University of San Francisco. Now it is time to go deeper in our engagement for social justice and, as President Obama invites us, to make this moment the turning point for real change through both protest and politics.

“There is no democracy with hunger, nor development with poverty, nor justice in inequality.” Pope Francis

The University of San Francisco (USF) and other Jesuit institutions have been promoting social justice following our four century legacy. Those of us who have been working on local and global social justice issues know that “to change the world” we need to promote values, education and capacity building. Catholic Social Teaching (CST) has been the pillar of all our actions and pedagogy enabling us to recognize diversity (see), analyze the complexity of our social structures (judge) and denounce systemic injustices (action). CST has advanced our awareness to work on social justice through human dignity and worker’s rights,  solidarity,  subsidiarity, option for the poor, care for creation, sustainability and the common good. The leadership and management education we offer in the Master of Nonprofit Administration (MNA) at USF centers around these social justice principles and practices to change the world through the promotion of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).  The new generations of nonprofit leaders challenge the notion of white privilege often embedded in philanthropy. The MNA students through their class discussions and analyses want to unpack systemic injustices that exist in out society, politics, justice system, economy, education and health.  DEI is a good tool for starting a dialogue,  but it needs to go deeper into thinking about social justice, systemic racism and the dynamics of power and privilege.

“I think that change happens, typically not because somebody on high decides that it’s going to happen, but rather because at a grassroots level enough people come together that they force the system to change.” President Barack Obama

Chuck Collins, YMCA
YMCA CEO Charles Collins has made a second career of turning around nonprofits (San Francisco Business Times)

On June 3, 2020, in the midst of COVID-19 and the worldwide protests over Mr. Floyd’s death and the numerous marches for Black Lives Matter (BLM), the MNA students reflected on the issue of equity, social change and extreme poverty. We were honored to welcome Chuck Collins, President and CEO of the YMCA in San Francisco and a prominent African-American leader in the the Bay Area. His remarks helped us to read the current events with the historical lenses of systemic racism in America. He also helped us to reflect on our Jesuit education privileges and channel them toward true systemic change and world transformation. Here are some of his inspiring words:

The inconvenient truth of systemic racism

“Dismantling systemic racism is really important […] but the authority upon which the American narrative can speak is really challenged. We fought a civil war and we passed the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments. That was 150 years ago but black lives still don’t matter in this country. We have been marginalized. We have been exploited. It’s uncomfortable even to have a conversation even as a black person because it is always an inconvenient truth.

The American narrative is built on a pack of lies. It’s not justice for all. It’s not freedom for all. It’s not economic justice. It’s not social justice. It’s not educational justice or health justice. This is what this COVID crisis really brings us to see. It’s a stark reality that who is really dying is people of color, and disproportionally is Black people and Latinx people. That’s who’s dying here. It is because the weight of history is on our shoulders without acknowledgment. And that is really tough to bear.”


Illegitimacies of White Narratives

“We are looking at a substantial crisis in this country because of leadership. And I would say that the leadership at 1600 Pensilvania Avenue is just an outcrop of what we have allowed to happen. And this is really the illegitimacy of our narratives. The legitimacy of white supremacy really does not exist. This country is really built on white supremacy. And this is an uncomfortable thing for anybody to say because we do not like to have a conversation around race. And as you know race does not actually exist at all. That is only one race that is the human race. We all know that and everyone here believes that. But we have radicalized and weaponized whiteness in this country. And it has been weaponized against people of color and in particular against black people and in particular against black men.”


Deeper Conversations beyond DEI

“Marco and I have been talking about taking apart the issue of equity. But I would sense to say that lots of that conversation is somehow quantitative and mechanical. We have erected lot of our systems around diversity and inclusion. We call it D&I work. In some way it is just a rearrangement because it does not really going deep enough into the systemic issue we got to talk about. Which is to get rid of white supremacy. And once we get rid of white supremacy we have to look at what else we have to go on as there is a heck of a thing we have to do because all the diversity and inclusion we can actually muster doesn’t change fundamentally the system but it helps us give us more leverage.”


As a leader of an organization I challenge myself on the notion of diversity and inclusion and equity. That lens is very important. It is a lever. It is a tool. But there is something different about systemic racism because it is a different part of the conversation. And as a person who deeply embraces DEI on a global level I know that it has taken us some distance because what it does is that it begins to open a conversation at least and hopefully, with that conversation, comes the opportunity to look at a different level on the things that need to change.”


Jesuit Education Privileges for Social Change

“You are earning a degree from one of the finest universities that is committed to social justice and I sense that each one of you choose to come to USF because of what it stands for. Otherwise you’re going to the series of trade schools but you didn’t choose a trade school.

You chose a school with its emblem that is about social justice, that is what they wake up to do and that’s a privilege and I think that is what we are really kind of looking for if this notion of how do you get in there? how do you create the discussion? How do you lean into that? And how do we not avoid the conversation around what our privilege is how do we use it for a better world. I think that’s who you are as a Don.

I think that’s why you chose to come to USF and not a trade school because you could’ve gone to the school online and you could’ve gotten whatever it is that they would’ve punched out but would not have given you these types of rich collegial relationships or what you mean to each other around this beautiful checkerboard of diversity, you know, that I am looking at right here, that you will become something better because of who you are together.

And so I think that the ability to kind of unpack our privilege puts us in a different position of pain but the sooner you do it, the earlier we begin to really think in that framework the more we can put power behind the intentions and collective efforts behind our will and we will change.”

Chuck Collins’ presentation and dialogue challenges us to go deeper into our realization of white supremacy and systemic change against systemic racism in our societies, our organizations, our sectors and our narratives. We need to go deeper on the issue of with us reflects the University of San Francisco’s core jesuit values for advancing the common good and diversity of perspectives for the education of leaders that helps create a more humane and just world.


We are proud and inspired by many of our friends and collaborators in the University of San Francisco MNA Program who have been recognized by the Association for Nonprofit Professionals (AFP) Golden Gate Chapter during the 2020 National Philanthropy Day. “The National Philanthropy Day is a special celebration to recognize and pay tribute to the great contributions that philanthropy — and those active in our own philanthropic community — make to our lives, communities and world. This year, AFP Golden Gate has joined chapters across the country and around the world virtually to honor individuals, organizations and businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area who generously give their time, talents and resources for the enrichment and benefit of our communities.”

Among this year’s honored recipient was Kay Sprinkel Grace, our MNA Advisor a well recognized author and well-known fundraising professional who was recognized with a lifetime achievement award along with Mary Barbara Schultz, a well-known philanthropist. We are also very proud of Robert (Bob) Glavin, MNA, former MNA Advisor and past Development Director at USF who, along Dr. Chandra Alexandre, our current MNA advisor and past Fundraising course instructor, were the winner of the Spirit of Philanthropy Award.

Philanthropy – as love of humanity – is one of the most noble expressions of our common humanity and needed collective values. Unfortunately, philanthropy has many limits and cannot become the substitute to needed systemic solutions to societal issues such as individualism, inequalities, homelessness, poverty and racism. As Martin Luther King, Jr. stated:

“Philanthropy is commendable… But it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.” (MLK)

Regan Pritzker, co-founder of Kataly Foundation and representative of one of the wealthiest families in the United States of America, was this year’s recipient of the Outstanding Philanthropist Award. Recognizing her family’s privilege she also acknowledged the limits of philanthropy and how the generosity of those who give back should raise the question of their privileges in how they accumulated their wealth in the first place. Reflecting on the importance to channel the power of philanthropy toward impact investing and systemic change, Ms. Pritzker suggested that

“Philanthropy should be in the business of investing in new models that democratize decision-making and ownership, and shift power and control to those who are most impacted by social, economic, and environmental harms. These are the people best positioned to lead us towards change and transformation” (Impact Assets).

Philanthropy should be about promoting deeper expressions of humanity, innovation, inclusion and compassion, and not become a substitute to justice. Charities often target symptoms, not causes. This is why privileged and powerful people prefer to be recognized as philanthropist (s)heroes instead of granting systemic solutions for implementing social justice and tax-supported public services. That is why our MNA program moves beyond philanthropy to educate well-rounded leaders who combine human compassion with social justice, social innovation, social impact and organizational sustainability.


“The MNA Program has been ahead of the curve while flattening the curve. We have integrated technology to provide diverse forms of participation since 2016 in order to address the diverse needs of our students.” — Dr. Marco Tavanti, MNA Program Director

The COVID-19 Disruption to the World

The COVID-19 crisis and worldwide health emergency has disrupted our lives, our social relations, our global economy and our educational systems. This should not have been a surprise. The US higher education system had numerous warnings from the China and Italy examples. In California we also had previous warnings due to the fire emergencies. Yet, our education systems have been resisting the integration of video conference tools, online learning management systems, and mobile access with the excuse that the quality of classroom face to face (F2F) experience was not replicable through online mediums. While this is partially true, it cannot be an excuse to evolve into a more diverse, equally accessible, and integrated inclusive technology to achieve the learning goals and outcomes of our educational programs. This lack of natural evolution has created a disruption also in many programs for nonprofit management education (NME) demanding last minute trainings and technical upgrades to keep up with the obligations of social distancing. The Nonprofit Academic Centers Council (NACC) and the Association for Research for Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Sector (ARNOVA) stepped in and provided a list if useful techniques and resources for synchronous and asynchronous online teaching.

The MNA Technology and Community Integration

Fortunately, the MNA Program at University of San Francisco has been ahead of the emergency and advanced in 2016 a system for multiple levels of participation with courses supported entirely by video conference synchronous inter-activities (live on Zoom+Mobile) and online well organized learning modules with asynchronous self-learning and group discussions (at our own time on Canvas+Mobile). The integration of technology  should not diminish the quality of instruction. Instead, it should enhance its diversity of offering to provide access for diversity, equity and inclusion in teaching and leaning beyond the physical classroom. This obviously require faculty to be willing to upgrade their technology competence and not be intimidated to learn, adapt, and innovate. Administrators would need to support faculty and promote innovative integrations for multi-layered, blended, hybrid and online teaching. Online, video and mobile access to education should also not do discount to experiential leaning either. This would require to shift away from a teacher-centered model (content focus) and it should also require to go beyond also a student-centered only model (leadership focus). In the MNA case, this is achieved through a community-centered approach where the students are recognized as members of their local communities and accompanied throughout their learning process to contribute to them in their action research, collective writings, systemic analyses and participatory activities.  In the Ignatian Pedagogical model, the community-centered perspective reflects both the content (SEE), concern (ACTION) and diversity (CONTEXT), while the specific teaching and learning components with the instructor and course activities represent the analysis (JUDGE) and the impact measurement (EVALUATION).

We are very proud of our MNA students, alumni and advisors who are engaged in our communities providing essential health, human and social services during these times of the COVID-19 emergencies. Our online meetings through Zoom and Canvas discussions have been an essential space not only for learning, but also for finding mutual support and camaraderie in their stressful jobs and services with hospitals, food banks and homeless population and in critical organizations such as Catholic Charities, YMCA, Kiva, Doctors Without Borders and the Gates Foundation.

“The MNA Program is about leadership development no matter where your community engagement is located. That is why we are able to continue our community-centered and project-based approach of teaching and learning even during these social distancing times. Our online,  video-conference and coaching/mentoring services allow our students to reach out to their local communities and reflect on these issues and their benefits, impact and values in our online classroom.” (Dr. Marco Tavanti)

The MNA Multi Layered Participation Approach

The MNA Multilayered Participation Approach is developed around four pillars: face-to-face blended classroom participation, video-conference synchronous participation, online learning management systems asynchronous participation, along project-based, academic global immersions, and experiential community engagement participation. All these modalities are considered of equal importance and e-quality to achieve the same quality of instructions and expected learning outcomes. They are adapted and balanced according to the needs of the student and the diversity of times and context in which the educational experience occurs.   

The blended and multilayer participation modality in the MNA is both a reflection of the Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) value of the sector as well as an integral element of its teaching and learning model. The following is a visual representation of the integrated – blended technologies for teaching and learning in the MNA program. This model recognizes the role of the teacher in preparing and integrating a multiplicity of tools and technologies to achieve the learning outcomes. It also centers on the student’s leadership journey integrated with the community centered approach. The MNA teaching and learning (T&L) model goes beyond a teacher-centered model that privileges content acquisition often at the expense of comprehension and participation.

The Jesuit Multi Layered Education Foundation

This multi layered teaching and learning approach is nothing new. Even at its beginning, Jesuit education has been advancing innovative approaches resembling these diverse ways of teaching and learning. The Rome School (Collegio Romano, 1551) exemplified a teacher-centered approach with an interdisciplinary innovative way of learning emerged in the Renaissance. The Paris School  (Lycée Louis-le-Grand, 1563) exemplified a student-centered approach employing participatory techniques of teaching and learning.. The Messina School (Collegio Sant’Ignazio, 1548), exemplified a more community driven approach with the use of theatrical ways of learning morality – a very popular method appreciated by many communities throughout Europe and that made the Jesuit to be known as the Priests of the Theater (Preti del Teatro) (Mesa, 2018).

Read more in the MNA PARTICIPATION POLICY: Multi Layered and Blended Models for Teaching and Learning. Learn more about other innovative teaching and learning approaches like the use of Prezi Video with transparent images for MNA basic concepts. If you would like to know more about these models and integrated multi layered blended methodologies contact directly Dr. Marco Tavanti 


In times of crisis we rediscover the importance of community solidarity, volunteering and philanthropy to help those in most urgent need. The nonprofit-social sector does this all the time, but in emergencies our people and organizations are on the front line in partnership with government agencies, the private sector and shoulder to shoulder to our communities in need. For those of you who are local to the San Francisco Bay and California, follow these links to volunteer and/or donate.


Help your community safely with COVID-19. Every Californian can safely help their community during these difficult times. Here are some ways you can make a difference.  


Give to the City of San Francisco to respond to COVID-19: Make a tax deductible donation to Give2SF COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund 


Give to the San Francisco & Marin Food Bank: Help families during the COVID-19 crisis. Every $1 provides 2 meals.


The whole UCSF community is working hard to ensure that we continue to provide the best care to those who need it and the best solutions to this global pandemic. Below are several ways that you can support our efforts during this critical time. 


The CDC Foundation launched a crowdfunding campaign aimed at raising hundreds of millions dollars needed to bolster public health response efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic. 


The World Health Organization (WHO) is leading and coordinating the global effort, supporting countries to prevent, detect, and respond to the pandemic. Everyone can now support directly the response coordinated by WHO. People and organizations who want to help fight the pandemic and support WHO and partners can now donate through the COVID-Solidarity Response Fund for WHO at


Coronavirus has created a time of uncertainty, fear, isolation, and illness. But our faith teaches us that there is light in the darkness. As the Jesuit and broader Catholic network responds in unique ways with love, compassion, and new means of building community, ISN will compile them in this space.


We are grateful to our many MNA alumni and friends who work in healthcare and other essential human services in this time of emergency. Here are few of our MNA students, alumni and friends/advisors we honor for their example. Like other brave health and human service providers, they do their part to prevent and contain pandemics and assist others in critical care.

Dr. Carol Pertowski, MNA ’19

Carol Pertowski is a public health physician and medical epidemiologist with 25 years of experience. Her background includes an undergraduate degree in public health, a medical degree, and an Internal Medicine residency. After completing Epidemic Intelligence Service training and a Preventive Medicine residency at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Carol joined the CDC staff and worked on outbreak investigations, policy development, environmental health, disease tracking, public health preparedness and response, and communications in the United States and abroad. Her experience includes leading multidisciplinary teams to achieve program goals, leading discussions among groups with different priorities to identify common areas of interest and joint work, and sustaining working relationships in difficult circumstance. Carol has organized complex projects keeping diverse staff focused on critical issues to deliver products on time and within budget. She is an experienced public speaker, writer, and editor.  She is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and is licensed to practice medicine in California. She completed the Master of Nonprofit Administration at the University of San Francisco in 2019 with a capstone on the CDC Foundation.

Samuel Nelson, CCRN, MNA (May ’20)

Samuel Nelson is a Critical Care Registered Nurse at San Francisco General Hospital and the San Francisco Department of Public Health. He is also Director of Rowing and Head coach of men’s rowing at Saint Ignatius College Preparatory. While currently exploring his passion for Jesuit rowing practices in education he recognizes his responsibility to contribute as health practitioner in this time of emergency and needs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is is completing his graduate MNA degree while serving as Director and Coach. He previously served as Critical Care Registered Nurse at the US Department of Veteran Affairs.

Dr. Michael Anderson, MD, MBA, FAAP

Dr. Mike Anderson is the President of University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Benioff Children’s Hospitals. He is a well-known pediatrician and competent administrator with expertise in emergency management for children. He was appointed by President G.W. Bush as Vice-Chair and by President Obama as Chair of the National Advisory Committee on Children and Disasters for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Disaster Medical System. He is a Scholar in Residence for the MNA Program and a dear friend/advisor for University of San Francisco’s School of Management. Learn about his medical and administrative expertise in relation to COVID-19 here. 



Seminarians who study theology in the Catholic Church receive a good foundation in philosophical studies and pastoral work but receive little education on how to properly administer the human and financial resources of a  parish or other faith-based organizations and programs.

Their education is centered around the development of value leadership for human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral maturity in the communities they are called to serve. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) recognizes the importance of a well-rounded education for Catholic Priests and reminds us about the important integration of educational competencies for leadership and administration. In addition to the core elements of their formation, management and leadership skills are key competencies for a pastoral administration that truly reflects Gospel values.

“The pastoral formation program should provide opportunities for seminarians to acquire the basic administrative skills necessary for effective pastoral leadership, recognizing that programs of continuing education and ongoing formation will be necessary to equip newly ordained priests to assume future responsibilities as pastors. Additional leadership skills include an ability to manage the physical and financial resources of the parish, including educating parishioners about the gospel value of stewardship, and an ability to organize parochial life effectively to achieve the goals of the new evangelization.” (USCCB, 2001, par. 239, p. 81).

To date there are few educational programs which effectively integrate leadership values with organizational development, financial management and human resource management (DiPaolo, 2012). This lack of integrated curricula that combines personal values with organizational best practices, can be attributed to the two sides of the spectrum of theology on one side and management skills on the other.  Traditionally, religious leadership formation was primarily focussed on the spiritual and personal growth of its candidates rather than promoting practical competencies and necessary skills necessary to run organizations, programs and initiatives (Callahan, 2013). Management education has primarily concentrated on for-profit enterprises obfuscating the ethical responsibility that our economic institutions have toward our common humanity and moral aspirations (Wankel&Stachowicz-Stanusch, 2012).

Responding to the call to better integrate leadership values with financial management skills and human resource administration, the University of San Francisco’s Nonprofit Administration Program in the School of Management designed a program to address this important need. In dialogue with Rev. Fr. Paul Fitzgerald, SJ, USF President and Most Rev. Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, Dr. Marco Tavanti, Director of the MNA Program and Professor of Nonprofit Administration launched the Pastoral Leadership and Management in Organization (PALMO), a professional and graduate level certificate for faith-based organizations and church leaders.

It is offered yearly as a summer program through intense trainings of nonprofit ethical leadership, financial administration and HR management focussed on nonprofit, charities, and churches. The PALMO Certificate includes some of the same competencies of the Master of Nonprofit Administration (MNA), the first one of its kind established in 1983. The 12 credits of the program can be used toward the completion of an Executive version of the Master degree (EMNA) of 36 credit units. Participants benefit from learning and interacting with executives and scholars in the nonprofit sector during the first two weeks (last two weeks of May) and continue the learning through online project-based, interactive exercises, online discussions and case studies (during June and July). They complete the educational program by presenting their projects  designed to be a practical preparation to their current leadership vocation and/or leadership assignment (during in the first week of August).

The competencies developed during this program include:

  1. Understanding how churches, religious institutions and other faith-based organizations relate across economic sectors of society and how they are classified for taxation and purposes.

  2. Understand ethical decision making from a value-based leadership standpoint in the complexity of organizational administration and beyond moral assumptions.

  3. Understand financial analysis, budgeting and reporting in relation to funds sustainability and concern for common good financial resources, nonprofit economic systems and social enterprise solutions.

  4. Understand human resource management, collaboration and communication in relation to diversity, equity, inclusion, social justice and cross-cultural relations.

  5. Understand systemic change and policy influence for promoting collective impact and addressing the root causes of poverty, marginalization, injustice and human right violations.

Participants are selected and sponsored by the Bishops of their Diocese or corresponding superiors or supervisors. The University of San Francisco offers partial or full scholarship to Dioceses and candidates in need. It also makes available residence space at the Loyola Village during the intense trainings of the program.

Read more about the PALMO program and how it integrates in the Executive Master of Nonprofit Administration here. 

For additional information on the Certificate contact Dr. Marco Tavanti

Dr. Marco Tavanti is native of Arezzo, Italy, the birthplace of Michelangelo. In the last 30 years he has develop value-based and cross-cultural leadership training programs for Dioceses, congregations and missionary projects. He has worked in various administrative positions for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in partnership with the United Nations and engaged in poverty reduction and social justice in Latin America, Southeast Asia and East Africa. In addition to his Ph.D. in Sociology focussed on the sociology of religion and social movements, he studied at Gregorian University / Studio Teologico Fiorentino, and completed a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) and a Master of Cross-Cultural Theology at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago (CTU). At University of San Francisco’s School of Management, he teaches primarily in the area of nonprofit analysis, ethical leadership and sustainable development.

The Professionalization of the Nonprofit Sector

The professionalization of the nonprofit-social sector has been a conversation in the last 30 years that has influenced organizational capacity development, social economy classifications, and the emergence of nonprofit management education. This slideshow prepared and presented by Dr. Marco Tavanti, Program Director of the University of San Francisco Nonprofit Administration Program in the School of Management illustrates some of the main elements in relation to San Francisco high tech and philanthropy innovation models, the third and social sector classification (TSE) expanding from the Nonprofit Institutions (NPIs). It also provides an overview of the MNA Program as an example of nonprofit management education following the Nonprofit Academic Centers Council (NACC) curricula guidelines and accreditation standards.


The professionalization. of the nonprofit sector has been a subject of investigations and reflections from multiple aspects. Here is a list of useful articles to help you think more specifically about the challenges and opportunities in the area of nonprofit field and sector’s professionalization.

The Professionalization Of Charities: What Nonprofits And For-Profits Can Learn From Each Other (Forbes, 2019):  

The Four Impulses of Nonprofits and What They Each Create (Nonprofit Quarterly, 2015).

Nonprofits & NGOs: Aspirin and Democracy (SSIR, 2018).


To access directly some of the links of organizations mentioned in the presentation and to explore more these topics see the following: 

Wikimedia Foundation

Mozilla Foundation

TechSoup Home 

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation



Young Professionals for Sustainable Development Goals Seminar Series

Read more and apply for the UNA-SF & USF-MNA YPSDG Program at

A joint program of the United Nations Association, San Francisco Chapter (UNA SF) and the University of San Francisco School of Management’s Master of Nonprofit Administration Program (USF-MNA). If you would like to learn more about the program to decide if it’s right for you or to offer a similar program through your organization, you can download the latest version of the program toolkit available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) license.


Young Professionals for Sustainable Development Goals Seminar Series is a professional development program for young professionals looking for opportunities to align their careers with the UN Agenda 2030 or make a career transition to a different sector or industry while focusing on some or all of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

This program was first offered in San Francisco, California in 2018. Participants included Global Disaster Response and Relief Lead from a top-tier tech company aspiring to work for the United Nations, a recent graduate of a Masters Program in Public Policy looking for a position in Corporate Social Responsibility, a healthcare professional planning to start her own nonprofit, and other talented and highly motivated young professionals with diverse backgrounds and a shared passion for creating a better world.

Most of the participants reported that making useful professional contacts with mentors and panelists, building long-term peer support relationships, learning about relevant networks and opportunities, and feeling supported, inspired, and more confident integrating UN SDGs into their work as hallmarks of the program that they found genuinely helpful. The overwhelming majority of past participants gave the program the score of 8-10 out of 10 for being extremely helpful for their personal and professional development.

Program Structure & Objectives

The program consists of 4 monthly half-day sessions at the War Memorial Veterans Building and 30+ hours of self-study. Through panel discussions, a dialogic process called World Café documented with the Collective Narrative Methodology, and curated self-study and peer learning participants deepen their understanding of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, explore possibilities to contribute to UN Agenda 2030 in different sectors and industries, work on developing the right mindset and the appropriate skills to contribute to real change, learn about relevant tools, resources, and networks, and develop a relationship with a mentor who is well-positioned to support specific career aspirations of the mentee.


Past participants in San Francisco were mentored by Mark Ward, a former Senior Advisor to the head of the UN Mission in Libya, Kate Arcieri Walter, Senior Foreign Policy and Diplomacy Services Officer at the Consulate General of Canada in San Francisco, Mary Elizabeth Steiner, President of the United Nations Association of the USA, San Francisco Chapter, and Dr. Marco Tavanti, Director of Nonprofit Administration at the University of San Francisco among others. We work with each participant individually to find an appropriate mentor based on the specific background and career aspirations.

Additional Training

Up to 4 participants can be selected to go through an additional training in World Café facilitation and Collective Narrative Methodology. Such participants would be called Hosts-In-Training and they would participate in the planning and facilitation of program sessions.  This additional training requires a 45-hour commitment to participate in Zoom calls, study training materials, process data harvested from program sessions to create collective narratives, communicate with internal and external stakeholders and co-facilitate World Café dialogues at program sessions.  This is a great opportunity for young professionals to get leadership experience, receive professional recommendations from the Program Director, and get this training acknowledged on their certificates of completion.

Admission Process

We admit candidates on a rolling basis. We start reviewing the applications 2 months before the first session of the program. The strongest applicants are invited to have a 30-min video call with the Program Director and/or other members of the Hosting Team. Additional interviews may be scheduled if the Hosting Team decides that it would help with the evaluation of a specific candidacy. Admission decisions are made by the Hosting Team and confirmed by the President of the United Nations Association, San Francisco Chapter and the Director of the University of San Francisco School of Management’s Master of Nonprofit Administration Program and are typically communicated within 2 weeks after the interview.

Admission Criteria

Our Hosting Team works on creating a balanced class of 20 participants to maximize the benefits of peer learning and peer support in the program. We are looking for candidates who are deeply committed to building a better world, have a genuine interest in the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and demonstrate the potential for leveraging the program to significantly increase their tangible contribution towards the SDGs.

Program Fees

Admitted candidates are asked to pay a one time registration fee of $300. This registration fee includes morning snacks and lunches. All decisions become final 1 week before the first session of the program: registration fee cannot be refunded after that. The additional training in World Café facilitation and Collective Narrative Methodology is a work-trade program and does not require additional financial contributions from selected participants.


Participants who attended all 4 sessions and successfully completed all program assignments receive certificates of completion from the United Nations Association of the USA, San Francisco Chapter (UNA SF) and the University of San Francisco. Hosts-In-Training have their facilitation training mentioned on their certificates.

What Participants Say

Participants of the first cohort in San Francisco were asked in a follow-up survey what they would say to their past self who was just considering joining this program. Here are some of their responses:

  • I think you took a very wise decision to join this program”

  • “I would say it was such a right decision to ‘just do it’”

  • “Absolutely attend every seminar and don’t stress about it. It is going to be a significant learning experience.”

  • “Yes, join. An opportunity to learn, connect, gain support, be understood, find a mentor and learn new skills.”

  • “Definitely join the program, you will answer questions for yourself you never even knew you had.”


One Small Step for Nonprofits, One Giant Leap for the Sector!

Article written by Dr. Marco Tavanti and originally posted on Linkedin on August 21, 2019

The Nonprofit Academic Centers Council (NACC, founded in 1991), the leading organization promoting and regulating nonprofit management education, achieved an important step in 2019. It launched the first accreditation for nonprofit specific educational programming. The Master of Nonprofit Administration (MNA) program at University of San Francisco (USF) was one of the first programs to be officially accredited on July 1, 2019. While this accreditation process may not make headlines among nonprofit professionals, organizations, and even nonprofit students, it is a giant leap towards the professionalization of the sector. Older and more established accrediting processes specific to business administration (MBAs) such as The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International, founded in 1916), and those specific to public administration (MPAs/MPPs) such as The Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA, founded in 1970) have opened their processes to nonprofit management or nongovernmental leadership programs. However, the nonprofit and social sector is something that requires specific education to guarantee the managerial competencies and leadership capacities for more impactful and effective not-for profit businesses and non-government administered organizations.

As a student of history, I was reading about the professionalization of careers. Interestingly, there was a time in which today’s highly regulated and exclusive professions such as medical doctors and surgeons were simply “glorified barbers” with sharp tools for limb cutting and “bloodletting-cures.” To this day, the typical barber pole its red-white and later red-white-blue versions that are ubiquitous symbols of the barbershop emerged in the middle ages to signify the “barber–surgeons” practices. It took centuries and radical cultural changes to legitimize and regulate the medical professions through a rigorous and accredited education. Sometimes, it seems that the nonprofit sector is still at this rudimentary stage. Successful business leaders claim to know what our communities need and, leveraged by their financial donations, they enter the social /nonprofit sector prescribing cures based on their concerns for businesses and efficiency. Yet, nonprofit organizations in their multifaceted identities of charity-tax exempt organizations, nongovernmental-international development organizations, community based and faith-based organizations, social movements and social enterprises are more complex than what they first appear. Nonprofits require more than business acumen. They involve more than good intentions of volunteers. They need competent and dedicated professionals equipped with managerial skills and good values of compassion and humanity. They need leaders and managers capable of combining business sustainability with human rights-based policies. If we are serious about the well-being of our communities, we should also be serious and respectful of the competencies necessary for nonprofit administration and social sector management.

The NACC accreditation process assesses these complexities specific to nonprofit management education. Its prioritization for managerial competencies combined with social-humanitarian values reflect the root of Jesuit college education forged 500 years ago. The MNA-USF (established in 1983) has been a pioneer in advancing the specifics of nonprofit administration, management and leadership careers combining the necessary organizational competencies with the essential community equity, human dignity, and inclusive diversity mindsets. While other MBA-like and MPA-like programs increasingly include these integrated characteristics (see PRME for example), the nonprofit specific degrees will continue to sharpen the appropriate preparation for efficient and effective careers for third-sector, philanthropy, CSR/Sustainability and for other community-driven social economy solutions. USF has been a leading example of this by establishing the first nonprofit administration MNA degree. This degree corresponds to the older MBA and MPA degrees. These degrees did not generate a unified voice with other academic institutions who preferred to develop similar but differently named degrees emphasizing management (MNM), organizations (MNO) or leadership (MNL). Indeed, the diversity of the nonprofit / social sector approach is its strength. But these differently named degrees cause confusion and slow down the professionalization process for nonprofit managers and third sector professionals who place nonprofit impact, social transformation and community benefits first.

Therefore, we congratulate NACC for leading this important accreditation process. It is a small step but also a giant leap in the professionalization of the sector. We also congratulate the faculty, administration, alumni, advisors of the MNA program at University of San Francisco’s School of Management who scored 15 out of the 16 maximum accreditation points following the NACC 2015 curricula guidelines. In addition to this accreditation of quality, the program was recognized for its integration of international perspectives, experiential learning, and social impact data analysis. We are proud of our students and graduates who lead the way for a better, more inclusive, more equitable, and more sustainable future. We are part of history! It is time to celebrate! Keep up the good work!


The Michael O’Neill Award during the MNA 35th Anniversary Event, April 25, 2018



The Michael O’Neill Nonprofit Leadership and Management Education Award is a named after USF Professor Emeritus Dr. Michael O’Neill, a recognized scholar in nonprofit leadership and management education who founded the MNA Program in 1983, the first nonprofit-specific graduate program of its kind. The award was instituted on April 25, 2018 during the 35th Anniversary Celebrations of the Master of Nonprofit Administration (MNA) Program. The Award recognizes exceptional leaders who demonstrate excellence in nonprofit leadership and management with educational strategies, systemic solutions and sustainable impact.

About Prof. Michael O’Neill, Ed.D.

Dr. Michael O’Neill, Ed.D. is recognized as the father of nonprofit management education (NME) field. He demonstrated his leadership through the founding of the Master of Nonprofit Administration  (MNA), the first graduate degree of this kind. He also founded the Institute of Nonprofit Organization Management (INOM) and served as President of theAssociation for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA). He was also instrumental in the establishment of Nonprofit Academic Centers Council (NACC), the accrediting body for NME programs.


Liz Jackson-Simpson

Liz Jackson-Simpson is CEO of Success Centers. We recognize her exceptional example of a committed nonprofit leader providing systemic solutions for at-risk youth and disenfranchised communities in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Alexa Cortez Culwell, MNA

Ms. Alexa Cortez Culwell, MNA  is the co-founder of Open Impact and a longtime philanthropy advisor, speaker, and facilitator. For the past 25 years she has built and managed foundations and philanthropic initiatives for successful entrepreneurs, including serving as the founding CEO of the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation. She recently completed a four-year appointment as a visiting practitioner at Stanford University’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society.

Jeanne Bell, MNA

Ms. Jeanne Bell, MNA  is the former CEO of CompassPoint and current Director of the Nonprofit Quarterly NPQ‘s Advancing Practice program. She also serves in the Advisory Board of  University of San Francisco’s MNA program. She is a recognized author of numerous articles on nonprofit leadership and management including The Sustainability Mindset (Jossey-Bass, 2015).



The 2019 Award Ceremony will be on Saturday May 4 during the THE FUTURE OF NONPROFIT LEADERSHIP, an annual event of the Master of Nonprofit Administration (MNA) at University of San Francisco’s School of Management featuring professionals and expert leaders reflecting on current and future trends relevant to nonprofit organizations, philanthropy and social enterprise solutions for the needs of our communities.

A panel discussion representing community leaders, MNA alumni, student, faculty and advisors will respond to Liz’s remarks in their view of the sector. The Panel will be moderated by Sergio Cuellar, MNA ’17, Program Manager, Sierra Health Foundation and will include Sheryl Evans Davis, Executive Director, San Francisco Human Rights Commission and Karen Campbell, MNA Student & President, Nonprofit Student Council.

The event includes a networking reception to celebrate our graduates and review the nonprofit sector analyses of students completed in their capstone projects and featured in printed posters. These represent the experiential learning and project based values of the program that develop competent value leaders while also contributing to the capacity and effectiveness of nonprofit organizations.

Please join us to connect with nonprofit leaders, sector professionals, MNA alumni and graduating students who represent the Jesuit mission of our university to “change the world from here.”

Learn more and register for the event here 

The Posters produced by the MNA graduating students during their Capstone course exemplify the contributions that the program gives to nonprofit capacity development and data driven social impact analysis
Beatrice D. Cardenas, MNA is a respected nonprofit leader in the San Francisco Bay Area known for her inspiring advocacy for healthier and equity communities.
The Master of Nonprofit Administration (MNA) Program at University of San Francisco has been a pioneer in nonprofit management education and continue to inspire innovative leadership and management solutions to complex social problems.