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AmeriCorps to CEO: How the LSUS MS in Nonprofit Administration Empowered LaToria Thomas to Thrive

Newsroom | Articles April 26, 2024
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The nonprofit sector offers a rewarding career path for people passionate about social good. However, navigating these organizations' unique challenges and opportunities requires specialized knowledge. Here is where the online Master of Science in Nonprofit Administration from LSU Shreveport comes in. 
Whether you're a seasoned professional or just starting your journey in the nonprofit sector, this master's degree in nonprofit administration can equip you with the tools and knowledge to become a leader who makes a lasting impact. 
Are you interested in learning more? Explore the program through the inspiring journey of LaToria Thomas, the President and CEO of United Way of Northwest Louisiana (UWNWLA).  

Meet LaToria Thomas 

Please tell us about yourself. 

I am currently the President and CEO of United Way of Northwest Louisiana. My undergraduate degree is in Mathematics. My nonprofit career spans nearly 25 years. I started out as an AmeriCorps member at Shreveport Green. I later moved to New Orleans as the grants administrator and then later became the Manager of Donor Relations. I have also served as the National Grants Manager for the AARP Foundation, Executive Director of Dress for Success New Orleans, and Donor Relations Officer for the Baton Rouge Area Foundation.  

What made you decide to pursue your online degree from LSU Shreveport? 

In 2020, when Dr. Bruce Willson, Jr., the former President and CEO of United Way of Northwest Louisiana, announced his upcoming retirement within two years, I recognized this was an opportunity for me to be his replacement. With 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector and a deep understanding of UWNWLA's inner workings, I believed that I could step in. However, as I thought about the (unstated) requirements and expectations for the position, I knew that having an advanced degree could substantially increase my candidacy. I decided to pursue an advanced degree in nonprofit management. 

How has earning your online MS in Nonprofit Administration helped your career? 

While the actual degree didn't play a role in the Board's decision to appoint me as the next President and CEO, the courses I took through the LSUS nonprofit master's program were incredibly beneficial and timely. They provided me with insights that I've been able to apply directly in real-world situations. One particular shout-out goes to Dr. Helen Wise for her lecture on adapting nonprofits to attract the best board members. She emphasized the importance of evolving board meetings to meet members where they are, which resonated deeply with me. At the same time I was reviewing her lecture, our Board was discussing whether to switch back to in-person-only meetings or continue offering hybrid options. Dr. Wise's insights helped me realize the value of hybrid meetings and prevented me from making a hasty decision. 

How did you balance your time while earning your degree?  

Honestly, in the beginning, I didn't. I think it's important to say when I enrolled in the program, I hadn't been a student for almost 20 years. Online learning as a 21st-century professional isn't new to me, but all the papers were. But over the course of the three years (yes, I took some extra time), I began to find my rhythm. I would even write drafts and contemplate assignments at my son's baseball games. Also, as I progressed in the program, I began to draw on my experiences as a nonprofit professional.

Do you have any advice for future students? 

"The time to get that degree is now." I kept waiting for the "right time" to return to school. When I finally did it, I was a fairly new mom who just bought a house and started a new job. If you wait for the right time, it will never be. Just do it. Start slow if you want. Take one class. Just do it. If you want to, then do. 

About the Master of Science in Nonprofit Administration from LSU Shreveport 

The online Master of Science in Nonprofit Administration from LSUS is a flexible, affordable degree that cultivates leaders passionate about making a positive social impact, like LaToria Thomas. The program leverages the expertise of seasoned professors with firsthand knowledge of the nonprofit landscape. This unique blend of experience and a career-relevant curriculum equips graduates with the practical skills to thrive in this dynamic sector. Through rigorous coursework, students will understand what they need to know to lead nonprofit organizations successfully. This emphasis on real-world application ensures graduates can make an immediate difference in the communities they serve. 
The program also offers three specialized tracks: 

  • Nonprofit Administration Track: Focuses on managing nonprofit organizations, including organizational design, behavior, structure, and processes. 
  • Nonprofit Development Track: Focuses on marketing and promoting donations, volunteer development, and donor stewardship. 
  • Disaster Preparedness Track: This track focuses on managing critical situations and crises, primarily in emergency relief organizations. 

Ready to join LaToria and countless others in creating positive change? Learn more about the MS in Nonprofit Administration, and apply today! 

Explore the MS in Nonprofit Administration from LSUS!

Ready to reach your goals?

Take the first step forward by completing the form and our enrollment team will contact you soon to discuss:

  • What program meets your academic and career goals
  • Financial aid options (employer funding, military benefits)
  • Receiving credit for past education (transfer, professional development)
  • The admissions process and timeline
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