Megan Candio: From Opera To A Career in Nonprofits

At SPS, Megan Candio ('18SPS Nonprofit Management):

• Built a deep nonprofit experience in two years

• Discovered new skillsets and interests

• Began two positions in the nonprofit world

• Prepared for a career at top nonprofit organizations


What was your background prior to the entering the program?

I studied vocal performance as an undergraduate and became a professional opera singer for ten years. Eventually, though, I lost interest in auditioning. In my opinion, the opera world was dying from complacency, lack of funding, and lack of education. Something had to change. I wanted to be part of the solution.

How would you describe your experience in the program?

In almost every single class, we’re asked to pick a project nonprofit—a real-life nonprofit—and carry out a semester-long project for that specific nonprofit organization that matches the subject matter of that class. I chose an adaptive sports nonprofit for one project, and for another I chose a nonprofit that raises money for children in hospitals. I discovered I’m passionate about getting things done for these different types of organizations.

What else stands out to you about the program?

I find the professors to be overwhelmingly helpful and available. Even months after a class ends, I can still bounce ideas off them. Something else: I am floored by the other students in the program. This is like an MBA with heart.

Here, the goal is always the charity, it’s never you. There’s an atmosphere of “the better I do, the better you do, the better the sector will do.”

How did you find your current position?

My work with Hire Cause came directly from Columbia. My class did a project involving the organization and I presented our work. The CEO saw it, and he reached out to me and said “I want to hire you.” I started working there in December. He had a lot of faith in my abilities based on what he saw, and the terms of my hire were very favorable.

What else should people know about this program?

Opportunities are everywhere. People stop me in the hall and say, “Hey, this job opened up! You should apply.” One of the things I love here is that you’re not left alone.

One misconception I’d like to correct is that being a professional in the nonprofit world doesn’t mean you’re going to be living in poverty. People want professionals with the highest ethical and legal standards running their nonprofit and handling the money they’ve donated and they pay them a competitive salary.

I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished in two years. Part of that has been my determination, and the other part is the amount of opportunities to be found here. At Columbia you’re looking at the next-generation of leaders today.

Learn more about the M.S. in Nonprofit Management program at Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies.