MC organization chosen for prestigious American Humanics award

January 19, 2003

Members of Maryville College’s Non-Profit Leadership Development Program were awarded the prestigious American Humanics Launch Award during the American Humanics Management Institute held Jan. 2-5 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The College’s leadership development program is an affiliate chapter of American Humanics (AH), a professional organization dedicated to equipping college and university students with the education and experience needed to become skilled professionals and leaders in America’s youth and human service agencies. AH ensures students’ success by providing leadership opportunities, internships and financial aid, as well as an education curriculum.

Students who complete the curriculum and requirements of the program earn the American Humanics Certificate, which is nationally recognized by non-profits like the American Red Cross, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America, Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Habitat for Humanity International.

Only chapters operating on college and university campuses for one year or less were eligible for the Launch Award, which recognizes growth in membership, service project participation, marketing and fund-raising efforts.

“ What this award says about Maryville College is that if students believe in something and get behind it, then they can be the best, no matter whom they’re up against,” said Cole Piper, campus director of the College’s Non-Profit Leadership Development Program. “The level of interest in this program tells me about the character of students coming to this school.”

Charter members of the Maryville College Non-Profit Leadership Development Program held their first meeting Feb. 11, 2002, with 35 MC students attending. Because of the College’s solid commitment to providing an education that prepares students to be successful and make a difference in the world, college administrators thought the American Humanics program was a natural fit.

According to Piper, Colleges of Maryville’s size typically begin an AH affiliate with five to 10 students. He said officials at the AH headquarters in Kansas City, Mo., were pleasantly surprised by the initial interest shown by Maryville students, and they were shocked to see 21 students from Maryville attending the institute in Las Vegas.

“I think because of our strong turn-out, a senior vice president of American Humanics told me that she wanted to better understand Maryville College … In proportion to the size of our student body, we had the most students there,” Piper said, adding that the institute was attended by approximately 700 students representing approximately 70 colleges and universities across the country.

“ Howard University came in second for this award,” he added. “They had nine students in Las Vegas.”

The Launch Award carries with it a plaque and a $1,000 prize, which the Maryville students plan to put toward developing a high school program for the Emerald Youth Foundation in Knoxville, a non-profit organization that serves urban children and youth by equipping them to be leaders in their neighborhoods.

First things first – fundraising

According to Joe Ambler, president of the Maryville College Non-Profit Leadership Development Program and senior sociology major at Maryville College, preparing for the institute was almost as educational as the institute itself.

For starters, the non-profit leaders-to-be enrolled in the program had to put their fund-raising skills to the test. With help and advice from Mark Cate, the College’s Vice President for Advancement and Admissions, students sought out donors who would support the mission of the Non-Profit Leadership Development Program and scheduled face-to-face visits with them to ask for their support. In less than one month, the group raised $10,000 for conference fees, air travel and accommodations.

“That [fund-raising campaign] was good for everyone, even though several of us were a little apprehensive at first,” Ambler said. “We built relationships with donors and will be having an appreciation reception for them soon, to thank them for their support and celebrate our success at the management institute.

“But without the help of the Advancement office in those early months, I don’t know if all the students who wanted to go to Las Vegas would have been able to,” he added.

More awards, more ideas

Once in Las Vegas, Ambler said he and other MC students were divided up into groups to discuss case studies involving real-world problems encountered by real-world non-profit organizations. The students were asked to access problems and come up with possible strategies or solutions. The groups then presented their ideas to a panel of AH affiliate sponsors.

Groups with the best presentation were recognized with the Outstanding Case Study Presentation Award. Four Maryville College students were members of an award-winning group. Many MC students served as presenters.

“One of the things I think our students realized while in Las Vegas is the quality of education they’re receiving at Maryville College,” Piper said. “Not only did these students hold their ground in the small-group discussions, they excelled in using their critical thinking, problem-solving and presentation skills.”

When not discussing case studies, students could attend workshops on several topics related to non-profit work. Mock interviews with national non-profit organizations were also held, so that students could get a feel for what a real interview is going to be like and afterward, get tips on resumes, portfolios and individual presentation. And a host of representatives from national non-profits were on hand to speak, lead workshops and meet with students.

“From networking opportunities with other students, we also got lots of ideas – creative ways to fundraise and promote the chapter. There are lots of colleges out there doing some very innovative things through American Humanics.

“It was a confidence booster,” he said in describing the experience. “Going away, I felt good about applying what I had learned in the classroom to the conference.”