MNA Profiles


“I feel very lucky to have taken classes from the program founder, Michael O’Neill, whose belief in the power of the voluntary sector to make change inspired me to seek a career in nonprofit service and leadership. I was hired for my first job in affordable housing by a graduate of the MNA program, Ali Kashani ’91, and I saw firsthand the importance of the alumni network. The courses on board governance, legal issues for nonprofits, and strategic planning feel as relevant today as they did 20 years ago.” Read more >>



“Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) for me is day in and day out,” says Susi Collins MNA ’13, DEI Lead for the Global Vertical & Strategic Accounts team at Amazon Web Services. Collins is an assertive, bold, empowered Latinx leader and trailblazer, but her path to success was not without challenges. Seventeen years ago, Collins moved from Peru to the United States. She had to learn English as an adult and work to navigate the differences between the Peruvian education system and the United States. Even with these challenges, her innate perseverance allowed her to succeed. After graduating from San Francisco State University, she discovered her passion for helping others and began volunteering with nonprofit organizations such as the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, Room to Read, and Thousand Currents (formerly IDEX.) Collins realized she “was missing the opportunity to help support communities that look like me,” and this created her love for philanthropy. This epiphany inspired her to obtain her Master’s in Nonprofit Administration from USF. She was drawn to USF because of its social justice mission, commitment to innovation, and its focus on global learning. During her time at USF, what Collins appreciated most was the diversity and intersectionality of her graduate class cohort, including the many dimensions of identity such as race, gender, sexual orientation, language, country of origin, and career paths among others. Upon graduation, Collins worked in Seattle for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in a variety of roles, which led her to discover her passion for DEI.  She then went on to serve as the senior manager of diversity, inclusion, and belonging at Nordstrom before transitioning to her current position at Amazon.” Read more >>

Jeanne Bell, MNA ’00

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). Read more >>

In Silicon Valley, philanthropy does not begin at home - Silicon Valley Business Journal


“I was a young executive of a private foundation looking to deepen my understanding of the sector. I met some amazing people and engaged in real time learning that I applied at work the very next day. I am now an advisor, teacher, and author focused on effective philanthropy and governance and work with some of the most significant philanthropies in the country helping them scale their impact.” Read More >>


After successfully working in the private sector in marketing, communications, and planning, Lillian Samuel used her University of San Francisco graduate degree to delve into the nonprofit sector. She weighed her options between an MBA and Nonprofit Administration program, and, for Lillian, the answer was clear. “I was interested in growing my career; I really liked nonprofit and didn’t want to go back [to working in the private sector], so, I chose to do an MNA because there was a great program at USF.” Since graduating in 2011, Lillian says her career has “grown exponentially.”

She worked her way up to Senior Director of Development at University of California, San Francisco, and was recently appointed Chief Development Officer at Girl Scouts of Northern California. As a Girl Scout herself in a troop led by her mother, Lillian has a strong place in her past and present for Girl Scouts. Things have come full circle and Lillian is now the camp leader for her own daughter’s Girl Scout troop. Behind the scenes, she leads a talented team of executives devoted to keeping the whole show running.

Up until 2006, Lillian had spent her entire career in the private sector. “10 years ago I made a leap from the for-profit sector to the nonprofit sector and I had great success with it for the first three or four years.” In order to advance her career, Lillian enrolled in USF’s MNA program. “I wanted to grow my leadership skills in particular, and a Master’s in Nonprofit Administration helped me tremendously.”.  Read more >>



“The key to her success? Access. Ultimately, it was because of the scholarship she received that Brandy was able to enroll and thrive at USF. I strongly believe that education is the essential link in creating pathways for folks to rise out of poverty and build successful lives. I’m a role model to my children […]. Showing them that through resilience, perseverance, and hard work, dreams become realities. […] Access to funding is essential for marginalized populations that generally lack access to institutions of higher education due to high costs of tuition,” Read more >>


“I’ve always been passionate about nonprofit work and I was interested in getting an advanced degree, most particularly drawn to the fact that this was the first MNA program in the country, and that [it] really focused on professionalizing the nonprofit sector. […] I was taking things that I was learning in class and utilizing them in the office. Conversely, my practical experience at work really informed what I was learning at school. […] It was really nice to be in a room full of other nonprofit professionals, managers, and see that they were all having their own unique experiences. I think what was surprising was for me to sit in that room and to see all the similarities and differences we were experiencing. […] In the MNA program, I felt welcomed, and safe, and appreciated. [I was] valued in the classroom, both as a woman of color, [as well] as a member of the LGBT community.” [My professional experience and input were] valued and respected, [which reflects the community of San Francisco as] a wonderfully diverse place.” Read more >> 


“I spent about 11 months in the transitional housing program at Swords to Plowshares, and got another job in finance to get back on my feet. I realized I really hated that, and I needed to do something that had some meaning for me if I was to maintain my recovery. I gave my resume to the man who was housing director at Swords to Plowshares, and I was hired as an administrative assistant. […] After seven years at Swords to Plowshares, I was promoted to deputy director of the agency. Most of our funding was through government grants. I thought I could really add value to the agency by earning my bachelor’s degree in public administration, and then studying nonprofit administration after that. USF’s School of Management had a bachelor’s completion program in public administration and the only Master of Nonprofit Administration program in the Bay Area.” Read more >>


“I started to think about how I could make a bigger impact on the people that I want to serve and how I could make a bigger impact on the lives of youth. Learning more, not just about the direct service part of nonprofits but also about how they can be made more efficient, were the answers I needed. […] School and work being physically so close together helps me think about my work when I’m in class and vice versa. When I’m at work, I think about what I’ve been learning in class and how I can immediately apply it. […] I’m just awed almost every single time I get off BART by how beautiful the downtown campus is. I feel like oh, wow, I’m in a big city doing big things, and learning a ton. […] Everyone wants to learn from each other, not just the marketing but the networking, the exchange of ideas.  Pretty much everyone is working in the field, so just getting all those different perspectives is a valuable part of the program. […] I’m able to see the bigger picture now and how I can keep changing, growing and developing the skills that I’m going to need in the future. The program helped me focus on where I want to be in years, which is at the head of a nonprofit organization where I get to really influence all the parts of an organization that really helps the people who need it. […] In class, we’ve been discussing collective impact, and it has profoundly influenced my outlook on the nonprofit sector. The idea is that through collaboration, through the exchange of ideas we can bring about change and really have a big, big impact on the lives of people.” Read more >>


After raising children, becoming PTA (Parent Teacher Association) president, and doing extensive volunteer work, alumna Kate Comfort Harr MNA ‘06 enrolled in the Masters of Nonprofit Administration program at USF. In her words, “I needed to go back into the work world. … I wanted to make a career out of [my volunteer work].”

What better way to carve out a career in the nonprofit sector than to enroll in the U.S.’ first MNA program? In 1983, the School of Management at the University of San Francisco was the first institution in the nation to offer the Master of Nonprofit Administration (MNA) program. During her time in the MNA program, Kate was hired as Executive Director of HIP Housing — a nonprofit that connects affordable housing to struggling communities. In an exceptional balancing act of school and work, Kate found her university assignments to be extremely applicable to her position with HIP Housing. […] “I never dreamed in those early days that I would go from stay-at-home mom and PTA president to the Masters in Nonprofit Administration program”. […] Currently, Kate is using the leadership skills she learned at USF to facilitate communication between the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. “Right now there are wonderful new opportunities for all three [professional nonprofit] sectors to come together. Housing problems are big and difficult to solve, but with a difficult problem comes more opportunity to collaborate.”



“I want to use my passion and what I have learned through the MNA program to be a leader and key decision maker within the nonprofit sector, and to help museums create stronger, more resilient, and connected communities. […] Museums of all types are uniquely positioned to build community, connect, educate, and drive social change. I have found my passion and my niche in helping museums achieve their fundraising and programmatic goals,” she said. Being in the program has helped me to grow, test my knowledge, and stretch myself professionally, academically, and personally. The investment in the MNA has proven to be a good decision time and again. What I have learned has already assisted me in realizing incremental career goals. […] Because this program is built for working professionals, I have been able to use the skills I am learning and directly apply them to what’s happening in my office,” she said. “It really opened my eyes to the myriad of ways organizations can be run. It has helped me more objectively and strategically analyze the state of nonprofit organization. […] I learn just as much from my classmates as I do from the texts and professors. It has offered me opportunities for great reflection and hard work, as well as fun and flexibility. I am forever grateful for my cohort. We have developed deep friendships, and we encourage each other to achieve at the highest levels.” Read more >>


“Originally I am from Santiago, Chile but have lived in the U.S. off and on all of my life. I live and work in the East Bay, and now this is home. I pursued the Master of Nonprofit Administration degree at USF because it was flexible in terms of allowing me to continue to work full time. As a manager in the nonprofit sector, I realized I needed to deepen my management skills in order to succeed. Getting a master’s degree has been a lifelong dream for me [and I value] the practical applications of this degree in terms of really understanding the ins and outs of leadership. […] I have been pleasantly surprised to see that USF’s Jesuit values show up at every level of our course work. Social equity has been highlighted in all of our classes so far in our readings, during lectures and within our assignments. It is awesome to see and feel that the greater good is an emphasis for the school. Justice, equity and respect are values within the nonprofit sector, so seeing these values play out in the coursework makes me realize that I am in the right place for my higher education.” Read more >>


The MNA program is designed for working professionals. We have the opportunity to use what we are learning immediately on the job and use our developing skill sets to improve the organizations we work with. Everything we learn is immediately applicable. […] I feel much more knowledgeable about leadership and management issues at my organization. My coursework at USF has provided me with tools and research-based knowledge to support my conversations with my organization’s senior leaders, my board members, and my donors to help my organization develop the resources and infrastructure we need to bring our transformational program to more students than ever before. […] The nonprofit sector inspires me daily and speaks to my deeply embedded commitment to social change and value-driven work. […] San Francisco has all the energy and vibrancy of a world-class metropolis, but is small enough that you can build a close-knit community. Walking down the street of my neighborhood feels like being in a small town, with familiar, friendly faces all around.” Read more >>


“When I was researching different graduate programs, the top nonprofit program was right in my local backyard at USF.  My advice to MNA students is when doing your research, be prepared to do the work. Through my two years of researching and thesis, I discovered the change I wanted to make through my business model. From USF, I learned that our job is to find social injustices and empower those who might not empower themselves.” Read more >>


“I realize that when I was in school I was very fortunate to be given the privilege of having permission to take a very critical lens to the information I was getting from the school and to then say how that content matched or mismatched reality. I feel that I really I need to create this reality on the ground. […] Choosing to pursue USF’s MNA program was an easy decision as “there [are] not a lot of programs that are specifically built for enriching public sector, nonprofit sector work. […] I’m very interested in how we can eliminate hierarchy in work. I am passionate for worker justice and helping others create collectivized systems with no bosses or management by creating more just system with horizontal accountability and interpersonal worker relations.Read more >>

– Educating Social Sector Leaders Since 1983 –

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