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M.S. Nonprofit Management Alumna Deana Paradis Uses Her Career Success To Mentor the Next Generation Of Students

Deana Paradis (’20SPS, Nonprofit Management) wears many hats. Her most recent and rewarding one, she says, is the role of e-Mentor with the School of Professional Studies (SPS). Paradis is the Chief Financial Officer for Louisville Collegiate School, an independent nonprofit school in Kentucky, the liaison to the Finance Committee of the Board of Trustees and serves as a member of Financial Accounting Standards Board's Not-for-Profit Advisory Committee and an Associate Instructor for a number of courses in the M.S. Nonprofit Management program.

Each step of her career trajectory took hard work, but she credits much of her success to participating in mentorships. Now Paradis is paying it forward. She spoke about the importance of mentoring and described her experience with the e-Mentor Program, where she says she is “developing an authentic connection and friendship” with a current SPS student.

What compelled you to sign up as an e-Mentor at SPS?

I strongly believe in mentorship programs as a way for students to feel connected through meaningful relationships, and to develop student and alumni engagement, student wellness, and career support. I participated in a mentorship program with PricewaterhouseCoopers both as a student intern and as a more experienced mentor. I also mentored accounting students at Bellarmine University while completing my MBA. As an e-Mentor with SPS, I was matched with a student in the Nonprofit Management program.

What’s been the most rewarding part of the e-Mentorship?

What I found most rewarding was developing an authentic connection and friendship with my student. While our career experiences and academic paths aren't identical, there are a lot of common themes and interests in our backgrounds. We meet for an hour each month and really enjoy an informal and relaxed conversation where we can discuss a number of topics, from navigating career goals, job searches, and balancing school commitments with a full-time job, to volunteer engagement in the nonprofit community.

What advice would you give to Nonprofit Management students who are seeking to translate the skills they're developing in the job search?

Many of the Nonprofit Management courses, and particularly the electives, are unique to the Columbia University Nonprofit Management M.S. program and are focused on a specific skill. I believe noting relevant coursework on a resume is helpful to highlight to prospective employers. Promoting relevant coursework can also be beneficial in facilitating thoughtful discussion during the interview process, allowing a candidate to stand out from their peers. Additionally, students can share what they've learned from a case study or project that helped them to improve a process or product in their current role.

How is your Columbia education and network continuing to enhance your career?

I've stayed connected with many of my fellow Nonprofit Management alumni and appreciate so many of these relationships. For example, during the first year of the pandemic, I reconnected with one Capstone classmate whose organization had already pivoted and held a couple of virtual events in New York. She was able to help an organization I was with brainstorm ideas for creating our own inaugural virtual fundraising event in Kentucky.  

Additionally, for the Marketing course, students were tasked with selecting a local nonprofit organization and creating a marketing plan. I selected the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky. After months of meetings with staff, research, and writing the plan, I learned so much about the organization, its leadership, and goals. I remained connected with the organization and recently joined the Board of Trustees. This past year, I was honored with a "Best in Finance" award recognizing outstanding professionals working in a finance role at a Louisville-area company or nonprofit organization. More recently, I was appointed to a four-year term with the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) Nonprofit Advisory Council.

Why is it important to you to stay connected with the Columbia SPS community?

I have been an Associate Instructor for a few courses including Leadership in the Charitable Sector, the Role and Unique Nature of the Nonprofit Sector, and Nonprofit Financial Management. This semester, I am really excited to serve as an Associate Instructor for the Business of Nonprofits. Staying connected with the Columbia SPS community is important to me in order to stay current in the nonprofit sector. I participate in the Nonprofit Management professional development sessions periodically, and have co-presented a session with another Nonprofit Management instructor. My involvement as an Associate Instructor also helps me stay relevant on sector trends, curriculum development, and instructional methods.

Learn more about Columbia’s M.S. Nonprofit Management Program and the Career Design Lab’s e-Mentor Program. The e-Mentor Program is supported by the Career Design Lab and Alumni Relations at the Columbia University School of Professional Studies.