Q: Alright, so you are Dr. Leigh Hersey, P.H.D., so I wanted to go, a little bit, over your background, credentials, where you were educated, etc. etc. Just in case other people don’t know.
A: Okay, that’s fine, so I guess you didn’t want to know where I went to preschool, but I went to preschool with ladybug. My undergraduate degree is with the University of Georgia, BA in journalism with a focus on newspaper. My masters degree is with the University of Temple in Athletic Administration, an M.E.D, and then my P.H.D. is in Public Administration from Arizona State University. I spent about 13 years as a fundraiser for nonprofit organizations, primarily in the state of Arizona.
Q: Alright, and that brings me right into my next question: how would you culminate your experiences in the nonprofit sector, high points, low points, etc.?
A: Um, I would say one of the most rewarding experiences was working at the food bank because I knew I was impacting lives every single day, even though I worked in food collection so I worked with grocery stores to take their surplus food and helped organize food drives, so I guess i was more of a food-raiser than a fundraiser.
Q: So, not as sexy but still just as rewarding?
A: It was awesome. Very rewarding, you know I also worked as a fundraiser for Arizona State, which is probably where some of the biggest gifts came from, and where some of the biggest impacts for students and their educations came into play, where a lot of their educational opportunities and their career opportunities came from.
Q: Now, how do those experiences stack up with any experiences from outside of the nonprofit sector?
A: You know, I don’t really have a lot of experiences outside of the nonprofit sector, I worked at my dad’s newspaper, but I feel that the core and the crux of what journalism and newspapers do,
as far as informing the public, has really driven that public service ideal that has driven my life even though its in a different format that way. And I had the usual jobs in college, like in Retail, but I just really enjoyed helping people. I wasn’t motivated by sales goals, I just wanted to make sure everyone got what they needed.
Q: So it sounds like you have really been on the path even when you weren’t on the path.
A: Before I even knew there was a path.
Q: You managed to segway nicely into my next question: So you are doing this nonprofit policy and leadership class here at ULM, how do you think that it is going to affect nonprofit leadership in the future through your efforts at ULM?
A: I think a better understanding of what the nonprofit sector is and the opportunities. Even outside the nonprofit sector, should you be appointed to a board you’ll understand what is expected of you and what you're doing. I think that the nore informed we can be and our community can be about the ideals of what a nonprofit can be, will help the sector be stronger and continue to build trust in the sector. When people don’t trust things they tend not to be involved, and that trust will help make the sector stronger, make our students be all they can, and help make our community stronger ultimately.
Q: How do you think “Learning by Giving” is affecting other schools with similar programs, and our school?
A: They have been an excellent catalyst for these programs by providing some funding, last I looked there are about 35 schools out there that have this program, and they have been very instrumental in providing that money for students to use, and to be able to go out and make an impact on the world. Because of its foundings and the values of those that started and created the program, they’ve been able to provide an outlet of growth for students and to help them
understand the importance of philanthropy, and foster the realization that philanthropy is something we can all do no matter our resources.
Q: It’s a great opportunity for hands on and for really getting in there, and I know I’ve been inspired by the opportunity. Have you ever had any experiences with “Learning by Giving” before?
A: I got the program started at my previous university, and it was very well received there. The network they have between universities and the professors that offer the programming is a nice little network to share ideas inside the classroom and out. I’ve been showing the other teachers activities like the Scavenger Hunt we had here in order to demonstrate how nonprofits effect us.
Q: What do you think the student reaction to the nonprofit policy and leadership class has been?
A: The student reaction, I think, has been very positive across the board. It’s a lot of work and I realize that, but it’s a lot of work that means something in the end, versus writing a paper that no one but a faculty member is ever going to read. You’re going to be giving to organizations 2500 dollars each that’s going to impact their organization. I have found that students don’t really have the opportunity to do that, and they really appreciate that opportunity. You get to see the rewards of the work at the end of it. Hopefully we will be able to do the photo ops and see the impact when we give the checks away. It’s really powerful. It’s also beneficial because several students have gotten internships and jobs through the program, out of their site visits. Some of our students last year did get summer jobs with their organizations.
Q: Did you have any particular hopes for what the reward would be used for? I know I, going into it, was leaning more towards the direct impact and sponsorship, but now the more I’ve been in the class, the more I’ve been leaning towards hoping these organizations use their funds
towards building a strong administrative structure, so that they won’t rely on grant money in the future, and that they can build from there.
A: I try to go in with as little bias as possible, but my goal is to see that transition in the students more. That kind of strategic philanthropy that we talked about in class being grasped is what I want to get out of this, rather than seeing where the money goes. When we get down to the selection process, I try to leave everything open. I don’t want to steer the results, I want you guys to decide what happens, but that kind of evolution of strategic thinking is what I want to see out of the class.