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Deana Paradis: Using a Master’s Degree in Nonprofit Management to Improve the Educational Services Sector

Deana Paradis (’20SPS, Nonprofit Management) is a part-time student in the M.S. in Nonprofit Management program. As the Chief Financial Officer for Louisville Collegiate School, a nonprofit independent school in Louisville, Kentucky, she also serves as the liaison to the Finance Committee of the Board of Trustees and teaches a Financial Literacy course for upperclassmen. Deana is a recipient of the Nonprofit Management Master’s Program Merit Fellowship Award and is a Columbia University Teachers College Cowin Financial Literacy Fellow. 

What initially attracted you to the M.S. in Nonprofit Management program?

I spent the first ten years of my career in public accounting with PricewaterhouseCoopers. I served nonprofit clients for two of those years and worked abroad for PwC in the UK. I found that I really enjoyed working with nonprofit organizations, particularly in helping them strengthen their internal control structure and improve financial sustainability. For the past five years, I have worked for an independent school as their CFO. During this time, I learned that to be successful in a nonprofit, my responsibilities would need to extend beyond that of the Finance function. In researching nonprofit master’s programs, I found the Columbia University program’s curriculum to offer relevant and challenging courses with many of the components I was looking for to broaden my skill set, including fundraising and development, governance, nonprofit law, and marketing. It stood apart from similar programs for offering a wider scope than simply the fundraising component. 

What type of skills were you able to improve on throughout the program? 

My coursework in the Nonprofit Management program has enabled me to become a better steward of donor contributions. The Governance and Fundraising classes provided a foundation for my work on our school’s strategic planning and finance committees, and the Legal Landscape and Social Purpose Businesses classes helped me navigate complex issues such as unrelated business income tax and corporate sponsorships. The Leadership Development class led by Dean Wingard afforded an opportunity for career development, executive coaching, and skills assessment to better prepare me to lead in a nonprofit organization. Further, the program has made me a more effective Director on the Boards that I serve on in my local community.

How will the Master’s degree benefit you in the education space?

In the education space, this degree has supported the work I do with our advancement office in completing our capital campaign, annual fund, managing major gifts, and financial reporting. I also regularly meet with donors who are interested in the financial health of our school and the stewardship of their gifts.

Was the format of the program helpful? 

The flexibility of the program allowed me to progress in my career path and also enjoy the benefits of Columbia's campus. I chose the part-time online format, which is effective for completing the program as a distance learning student who is also working full-time. I’ve taken advantage of the opportunities to participate in courses that are offered via a hybrid or a block week format. These opportunities and their schedule flexibility afforded me time on campus and networking with fellow students and faculty.