The Master of Science program at the Fordham Center for Nonprofit Leaders aims to inspire students that are committed to social change. It gives them the essential knowledge and critical thinking skills needed to successfully manage nonprofit organizations. From Priscilla Garces, who was born blind, to Pastor R.C. Hugh Nelson, who leads a large congregation, students from every walk of life are acquiring the knowledge essential to launching their own, unique nonprofit programs to improve society.
“Most of our students have a personal connection to the causes they represent, making them extremely passionate about changing the status quo,” said Allan Luks, the Center’s executive director and one of its founding members. “Our Master’s program gives them the tools and support they need, but we also provide a validation of their dreams. We show them that they can make a difference in society if they are committed to their vision.”
Priscilla Garces is among the dedicated students at Fordham University motivated by her personal experiences to achieve social change. She became blind as a result of medical complications from a premature birth. Her parents immigrated to the United States in the hopes of providing her with a better education and an overall improved quality of life. Despite the odds, she excelled in school thanks to early exposure to various forms of technology and having supportive teachers.
Her personal experiences as an immigrant with a disability shaped her overall outlook and passion for creating social change. Recognizing the critical role technology played in her life, she is hoping to start a nonprofit that provides quality educational services, training and professional development for people with disabilities.
“Technology is a very useful and powerful resource for people with disability because it fosters the empowerment to lead a successful independent life,” she said. “Yet, even with the various forms of technology available today, challenges still exist, and no tool is perfect. Dealing with the complexity of living with blindness has allowed me to find other innovative approaches to navigate through these challenges.”
Garces added: “Having the appropriate support, tools, and drive for innovation is the key to empowerment.”
As a pastor of a large congregation, hospital board trustee and president of Hope Center Development Corporation, a food pantry located in Brooklyn, R.C Hugh Nelson is no stranger to nonprofit organizations. Nelson joined The Fordham Center for Nonprofit Leaders to gain skills that will help him manage his own nonprofits and to build relationships with other students who share his passion for social change.
Nelson has seen firsthand that there is a serious problem of “father-absence” within numerous communities. His goal after completing the program is to establish a nonprofit to provide training and support for young fathers.
“Many young fathers would like to become involved more with their children, but lack the community support to do so. I hope to establish a program that will be there to guide and inspire them to take on the responsibility,” he said.
Helping Forced Migrants
Jean Pierre Kamwa is founder of the nonprofit Espoir,Inc., which focuses on providing support to immigrant survivors of torture and violence and victims of human trafficking. He came to the United States seeking political asylum from persecution in Cameroon. He was attracted to the Fordham program’s excellent integration of social justice and management into the curriculum.
“Social welfare policies that will help forced migration populations, including refugees, asylum seekers, trafficked population and other survivors of torture are extremely important in today’s world,” said Kamwa. “I plan to utilize the strengths, competences, resources and tools I’ve gained through Fordham to make the world a better place to live for all.”
“Many of our students have ideas for nonprofits that are both practical, as well as extraordinary,” said Elaine Congress, Associate Dean of the Graduate School of Social Service. “They see the role of the nonprofit as the public’s conscience. They continually bring their inspiration and vision for a better future to Fordham, to New York City, and beyond. Our program helps them turn their vision into reality.”
Sponsored by the Graduate School of Social Service and the Gabelli School of Business, the Fordham Center for Nonprofit Leaders offers a one-year, 30 credit Masters in Nonprofit Leadership. Its students, many of whom work in the nonprofit sector, are finding the knowledge gained at the school invaluable for helping them to launch their own social justice initiatives to achieve lifelong dreams of helping others.
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The Fordham Center’s leadership and administrators are pictured above from left to right: Francis Petit, Elaine Congress, Mica McKnight, Sandra Guerra and Allan Luks.
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