Tuesday, April 08, 2014

[491] MTSU students gain valuable tips, insights at nonprofit student summit

Inaugural event aimed to help students turn passions into careers

MURFREESBORO — Now president and CEO of the United Way of Rutherford and Cannon Counties, Meagan Flippin told MTSU students Friday that career opportunities abound in the nonprofit sector for those students willing to build relationships, develop mentors and exceed expectations.

“Anything worthwhile is not easy,” said Flippin, an MTSU alumna and one of several nonprofit professionals featured at the inaugural Nonprofit & Social Innovation Student Summit at MTSU. “But the rewards far outweigh the challenges.”

MTSU students looking to turn their passions into careers were invited to the summit, which featured sessions throughout the day inside the Business and Aerospace Building on the MTSU campus.

Professor Leigh Anne Clark, who teaches a nonprofit management class and was a key organizer for the event, said about 175 students registered, exceeding expectations for what organizers say will be an annual event.

“The purpose of the summit is to inspire people to take something that they’re interested in and run with it,” Clark said, adding that students learned “the skillsets that they’re needing to work in these areas.”

Flippin, who earned her bachelor’s degree in public relations and master’s degree in strategic communication from MTSU, told students that nonprofits are looking to recruit “new blood” into their organizations, but are more selective in hiring as more competitive salaries are offered to attract top talent.

Having a well-rounded skillset is critical in landing a good job, added Flippin, who noted the personal benefit of acquiring budget and financial knowledge in running a United Way organization that saw a record $3.4 million in pledges this past year.

“You’ll probably be in a position where you’ll wear multiple hats,” she said.

The summit was hosted by the Jones College of Business and the College of Liberal Arts in partnership with the departments of Management and Marketing, Business Communication and Entrepreneurship, and Speech and Theatre (Organizational Communication).

MTSU student Cheyenne Plott, a junior organizational communications major from Lewisburg, Tenn., volunteers with the nonprofit Christians United for Israel and attended Flippin’s session, entitled “Becoming a Nonprofit Leader.” Plott said she attended to pick up leadership tips as she continues to consider whether a career in the nonprofit sector is in her future.

“I thought this session was particularly helpful,” said Plott, explaining that Flippin’s presentation helped her identify some target areas for personal development. “Definitely on building relationships. I know that’s key, but that tends to fly out of my head a lot of times, so I need to really focus on that.”

Fellow student Taylor Roberson, a junior social work major from Murfreesboro, wants to start her own nonprofit focused on helping youth who are aging out of foster care. Her take-away was similar to Plott’s.

“My goal is to start networking, building relationships,” Roberson said. “That’s not something that I’ve actively been doing, but know that I really need to.”

Flippin’s session was followed by a presentation from Ronni Shaw, director of the Jennings and Rebecca Jones Foundation, which provided funding support for the summit. Shaw, who has worked in a variety of nonprofit roles locally, advised students to always be open to learning — whether from the wisdom of experienced nonprofit professionals or from the technological savvy and fresh ideas of younger co-workers and colleagues.

“Always have your ears open, be talking to people and reflecting on who you are and what your talents and skills are,” she said.

Students attending the summit were asked to create a personal action plan for taking steps to reach their career goals in a specific area. Students had access Friday to community leaders to assist them with creating plans as well as the opportunity to join small peer groups to provide ongoing feedback and accountability.

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