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“The Most Rewarding Component of My Experience:” Angelica Johnson on the Columbia HBCU Fellowship

As Angelica Johnson, '20SPS, Nonprofit Management, approached her senior year in college, she needed clarity in her career exploration process and professional experience. But she wasn't exactly sure how to proceed – until she learned about the Columbia HBCU Fellowship. Angelica -- who currently serves as a Program Administrator at Columbia University's Irving Medical Center and an Associate Instructor for the M.S. Nonprofit Management program -- reflects on the real-world insights and deliverables she's gained as a graduate of the M.S. in Nonprofit Management program and the hands-on internship and networking experiences she gained as a Fellow.

How did you learn about the Columbia HBCU Fellowship?

My internships as a Spelman College senior informed my interest in the nonprofit sector; I was a fellow at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta and a student intern in the Office of Alumnae Engagement. However, I was not sure which direction I wanted to take my career. I could gain more professional experience, then go to graduate school or vice versa. As if kismet, my school sent out an email about the Columbia HBCU fellowship. The Nonprofit Management program stood out to me because I did not know there were specific graduate school programs in this field. It seemed like a sign that I should apply so I did. 

What attracted you to the Nonprofit Management program at Columbia? 

The integrated curriculum is what sold me on Columbia’s M.S. in Nonprofit Management. I saw that the curriculum offered classes that went more in depth on subjects that I’d only briefly learned about during my internships. Reading the descriptions for Fundraising Fundamentals and Grant Writing really helped me to make my decision to join this program. The classes truly have a theory and practicum component that I knew would be helpful post-graduation.

Which skills did you build and improve through the NOPM program? How did the courses and faculty and other program features help you to develop your skills?

As an early-career student, I knew I would need to gain practical skills to improve my marketability. The Capstone Project was a culminating experience that helped to fine tune my consulting, team work, communication and critical thinking skills. The M.S. Nonprofit Management program is structured to create deliverables. I now have a portfolio of work that I used in my job search. 

My Ethics in the Nonprofit Sector professor, Dr. Erwin de Leon, introduced thought-provoking questions and issues that I believe should be explored more within nonprofits. For my final paper, I wrote about diversity, equity and inclusion programs in higher education. I explored how universities can create inclusive environments for students of color by building stronger, responsive communication systems.

The Nonprofit Management program is structured to create deliverables. I now have a portfolio of work I used in my job search."

Tell me more about your experiences through the HBCU Fellowship. How did the special networking opportunities, internships and other fellowship benefits assist you in your educational and professional development?

The Columbia HBCU Fellowship is truly a gem; it is the most rewarding component of my experience at the School of Professional Studies. The Columbia HBCU Fellowship effectively works with Student Advising, Student Life and the Career Design Lab to take care of the whole student. The fellowship creates an inclusive and responsive space for students while creating opportunities for students to explore and pursue their career interests, including assisting with obtaining internships and mentors. As an intern in the SPS Office of Student Life and a student in the Nonprofit Management program, I also gained unique experience in creating programs for students, including new program features for incoming HBCU Fellows.

The Columbia HBCU Fellowship effectively works with Student Advising, Student Life and the Career Design Lab to take care of the whole student. The fellowship creates an inclusive and responsive space for students while creating opportunities for students to explore and pursue their career interests, including assisting with obtaining internships and mentors."

The Columbia HBCU Fellowship provides high-achieving undergraduate seniors selected by partner HBCUs for full-tuition fellowships and housing for master’s degrees at the Columbia University School of Professional Studies. Learn more at sps.columbia.edu/hbcu.