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Nonprofit center emerging

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By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — An interdisciplinary center to support graduate and undergrad nonprofit studies, a nonprofit executive-education program and nonprofit research is taking shape at N.C. State University.

The proposed Center for Nonprofit Education, Research and Engagement aims to raise $4 million over the next six years and could launch research projects next summer, says Linda Brady, dean of NCSU’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

NCSU could begin offering a graduate-level executive program and service-learning undergrad minor next fall, she says, and launch a new master’s degree in nonprofits in the fall of 2005.

The center’s academic program and research would aim to meet the needs of North Carolina nonprofits, says Brady.

“We’re challenged to be relevant in the liberal arts, to justify what we do in our disciplines and the impacts we have on problems in our community,” she says.

Half the dollars the proposed center wants to raise would fund an endowment, and the other half would support operations through grants and research contracts.

The center has named an interim director and moved into leased offices at 219 Oberlin Road near Cameron Village Shopping Center formerly used by NCSU’s College of Design.

A faculty steering committee headed by Jim Svara, head of NCSU’s department of political science and public administration, is developing the center’s academic program and research agenda.

Reporting to the steering committee is Heather Lee, an associate professor and head of the human-resources bachelor’s degree program at Peace College in Raleigh who is on sabbatical and serving as the center’s  interim director.

Lee, who says the center aims to supplement and not compete with programs offered by the N.C. Center for Nonprofits and the nonprofit certificate program in continuing education offered by Duke University, plans to meet early this fall with nonprofit leaders in Asheville, Charlotte and Greenville to help identify needs the new center could address.

She also will conduct an electronic survey of nonprofits throughout the state and begin to build a database on nonprofits and their needs.

“Nonprofits have to inform academia with regard to what their needs are,” says Lee. “And the academic world has to do a better job of making its work accessible to nonprofits.”

NCSU’s nonprofit initiative, which received $45,000 for planning a year ago from a handful of funders, has received $50,000 more from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek, Mich., to develop its undergraduate minor, tying classroom studies to students’ field work for nonprofits.

“I really see the nonprofit center as the first of a series of initiatives that we might undertake in the college that would translate the concept of engagement into the reality of engagement,” says Brady, an arms-control expert who was named dean a year ago after chairing the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at Georgia Tech, serving in the State Department and Pentagon and working for the nonprofit Carter Center in Atlanta.

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