“At age 26, I was managing eight staff, helping to manage a $1 million organization, lobbying, convening with elected officials, working with donors — and no one had taught me how to do any of that,” says Kady McFadden, deputy director of the Sierra Club’s Illinois chapter. With an eye toward building her skills in all of those areas, McFadden applied to the highly selective Civic Scholars Program at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and was chosen for the class of 2019.
The program is run in partnership with Chicago Booth’s Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation, and thanks to funding from the Neubauer Family Foundation, all Civic Scholars receive scholarship funding to Chicago Booth’s MBA programs. Equipping nonprofit and government leaders with skills to manage organizations and collaborate with their private-sector peers is the aim of the program. “I wanted to make sure my skills were just as strong as those sitting across the negotiating table who were generally from the corporate world,” says McFadden.
Neubauer Civic Scholars complete the same rigorous coursework as their fellow MBA students, and also take part in specialized programming and networking opportunities. Scholars graduate equipped to diagnose and tackle complex problems in government and nonprofit organizations. “It felt like the golden ticket,” McFadden says. “As someone who wants to stay in government and nonprofits, I had been weighing the price tag of an MBA.”
Courses were relevant to McFadden’s work right from the start. “I was able to take public finance classes, which helped me understand how we fund infrastructure bills,” she says. “And the Advanced Negotiations course was extremely applicable to the work I do in the legislature. I went deep in engagement, and that’s helped me as our organization grows and I now manage managers.”
“The program gave me a general understanding of the foundations that make the world move, which is really relevant to politics. It benefited me both in hard skills and in softer ways of thinking about and approaching problems.”