A Day-in-the-Life of a Student Pursuing Her Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management

Jessica Dvoracsek, Fellow at NLC Stories

“Accounting is the language of business.” Although I’ve heard this phrase many times throughout my career, it has always scared me. I’m not a finance person and I have zero accounting experience. So you can imagine how nervous I felt as accounting week approached in my Certificate in Nonprofit Management graduate program at the University of Tampa. While I came in with an open mind, I expected to be lost. I’m happy to report that I not only survived but I now actually understand accounting … well, at least some of it. 

Jessica Dvoracsek talks about her experience in the University of Tampa Certificate in Nonprofit Leadership program
Me (Jessica Dvoracsek) with my NLC colleague Charlie Imbergamo

Accounting is just one of the many focus areas covered as part of the Certificate in Nonprofit Management program at UT in collaboration with the Nonprofit Leadership Center. The program is an 18-month journey in which we’re required to be on campus four times for a five-day period and then working on an innovative project for a local nonprofit organization with fellow students in between sessions. The program is designed to strengthen the effectiveness of leaders in social sector organizations in the Tampa Bay area.

John H. Sykes College of Business at the University of Tampa
Our classes are held in the John H. Sykes College of Business at the University of Tampa

I believe the beauty of this program is the way it’s taught. Each week has multiple instructors, including academic professors and practitioners in the field. Not only do students like me receive theory and the academic side of learning, but we also benefit from real-life experiences. Accounting week was taught by Dr. Maureen Butler and Sheff Crowder.

Program instructors include James Lee, Emily Benham, Jessica Muroff, Amy Harris and Sheff Crowder
Professors and professionals teach side-by-side to provide broad and deep knowledge on the nonprofit sector (From left to right: Professor James Lee, Instructor Emily H. Benham, FAHP, CFRE, CEO of NLC, Guest Speaker Jessica Muroff, CEO of United Way Suncoast, Professor Amy Harris and Instructor Sheff Crowder, president of the Conn Memorial Foundation)

READ NEXT: Is a graduate certificate in nonprofit management right for you?

What’s a week on campus like?

During our most recent week on campus, we began with a brief overview of what to expect from the week ahead, including an overview of accounting, financial reporting, budgets and cost analysis, and functional expenses (which is specific to nonprofits). Throughout the rest of the week, we covered cost accounting, management tools, evaluations and accountability, and internal controls. We also presented to a panel of experts to discuss the financial considerations associated with our innovative projects. 

Here is an example of some of the things we discussed that week:

  1. The difference between cash and accrual accounting — We learned to recognize revenues and expenses when cash is exchanged versus recognizing it when it’s earned or the benefit is received.
  2. Debits versus credits — “Debits on the left, credits on the right, for complete satisfaction balance all of your transactions.”
  3. Functional expense reporting
  4. Different ways to use excel

Probably one of the statements I appreciated most was: “We aren’t trying to make you CPAs or accountants. We are trying to give you the tools to read budgets and cash flow, functional expense reports, and other critical documents so you can ask the correct questions when something looks off.” The Certificate in Nonprofit Management graduate program is designed to strengthen the effectiveness of nonprofit leaders, not create experts. While we didn’t learn four years of an accounting degree in five days, we did learn how to read spreadsheets and understand the information to be able to ask the correct questions as future nonprofit leaders. Other focus areas of the program include effective board governance, strategic planning, marketing and fund development, developing a business plan and growing your leadership potential.

Tom Peters said, “Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.” As a student in the Certificate in Nonprofit Management program at UT, I believe this is exactly what I’m learning. Participating as a student is helping me foster the leadership skills that will allow me to contribute to the continued growth and impact of our sector and community.

Take Your Career to the Next Level with a Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management

If you’re ready to grow in your career or are an emerging nonprofit leader, getting your graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management from the University of Tampa can prepare you to lead courageously and competently in our dynamically changing nonprofit sector.

Find out if a graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management is right for you and what other students are saying here.

Learn more about the program and how to apply here.