Program: Master of Nonprofit Organizations Year: Class of 2021
When Rhonda M. Jones began working at Case Western Reserve University more than 34 years ago, she knew she wanted to return to school herself to earn her master’s degree. In August 2018, she took her first step toward that goal, enrolling in the Master of Nonprofit Organizations (MNO) program at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences.
This month, Jones, who works as the student experience coordinator at the School of Law, will cross the stage at commencement herself.
“CWRU allowed me to fulfill my dream,” she said.
According to Jones, the MNO program gave her the opportunity to take her passion for community organizing and development to the next level. Through the project, she became involved with the Clark-Fulton Together Project, a community-based effort to develop and implement a master plan for the neighborhood. As one of five neighborhood ambassadors, Jones has helped engage residents in creating neighborhood initiatives, collecting and implementing feedback throughout the planning process.
“I’ve learned that most residents are eager for a change within the neighborhood,” Jones said, adding that, through Zoom conversations, she has helped push the master plan toward its implementation stage.
In her coursework, she also had the chance to attend the Community West Foundation’s annual meeting as part of a class on board governance.
“That was very interesting because I have never attended an annual meeting given by a nonprofit organization,” Jones said. The experience gave her new firsthand insight into nonprofit governance.
Though she’s accumulated many special memories like these during her time as a student, Jones admits her early days in the MNO program—years after completing her undergraduate degree—presented a challenge.
“I was a deer in headlights when I first began because I wasn’t accustomed to so much reading,” Jones said. But she soon found her stride and found a way to balance her studies and work responsibilities.
Even when COVID-19 presented her with new challenges, Jones stayed engaged with her nonprofit coursework and the ways in which she could apply her lessons to her own community.
With her MNO in hand, she hopes to continue her work with communities and find best practices for their development.
“I believe that there is beauty in every neighborhood and I feel that what I am learning by working and creating change in this neighborhood will be a ripple effect that I can use in my own neighborhood,” Jones said.