Tag Archives: learning in action

Learning in Action: Mind4Athletes

Our Learning in Action series highlights stories of students outside the classroom, implementing their skills in a real-life environment. In this special student interview, the Leaders’ Lounge caught up with Stephanie Myers, current student and founder of Mind4Athletes.

The mission of Mind4Athletes is as follows:

We provide mental health education and psychiatric care to college athletes to help reduce the negative effects of mental health disorders and to prevent suicides. Through our services, college level student-athletes will be able to be mindful individuals who can enjoy life and sport while performing to their maximum capacity.Mind4AthletesThe overarching vision of Mind4Athletes is to decrease the number of mental health diagnoses and suicides in college level student-athletes nationwide. As an organization, we work to reach out and help as many college athletes as possible.

Stephanie Myers was inspired to start Mind4Athletes by her own  experience as a student-athlete.

“As a former Division I soccer player, I saw far too many student-athletes suffer from depression, anxiety, stress and other mental health disorders while in college. More times than not, these student-athletes did not receive the attention nor the services that they needed in order to better manage their conditions to enjoy life and sport.

StephanieMyersDuring my senior year of college, I myself experienced general anxiety disorder, which caused me to walk away from the sport that I have loved since childhood. I was a captain and scholarship player my senior year, and the last thing I wanted to do was quit playing soccer. Yet, with the support of my family and friends I knew that walking away was what my mind and my body needed at the time.

I chose to create this nonprofit to open up the discussion about mental health disorders in collegiate athletics. I believe that the mission of the Mind4Athletes organization will help to decrease the stigma attached to mental health disorders in collegiate athletics. This organization is not just for athletes going through these mental health struggles, but also for the 100 percent of athletes who deal with the highs and lows of collegiate sports.”

Stephanie has already begun to see the fruits of her labors.

“Since starting this organization, I have been overwhelmed by the number of student-athletes who have come to me and opened up about their mental health struggles. This organization is all about helping people speak up and seek help for the mental health struggles that one in four Americans face on a daily basis. We are all human; we all struggle. It is time that we talk through and seek help for these struggles to make us even stronger.”

Villanova’s MPA program has helped Stephanie put her public service motivation into practice and address a cause she believes in.

“My whole life, I have always wanted to help people but never really knew how I could make the impact that I wanted. Enrolling in Villanova’s MPA program has been one of the best decisions that I have ever made. This program has equipped me with the necessary tools to make the difference I have always dreamed of making.

I decided to start Mind4Athletes in January 2014 – my first semester of graduate school. Because our public administration program has a dedicated nonprofit track, I was able to seek the guidance of the nonprofit faculty in starting this organization. The mentorship that the MPA faculty provided me with in this endeavor has been nothing short of phenomenal. I have had teachers give hours of their day listening to me and providing input about the nuts and bolts of Mind4Athletes. The faculty members have provided important contacts for Mind4Athletes, allowed me to present in undergraduate classes on this topic, and attend conferences. Overall, the faculty has been instrumental in helping me launch this new nonprofit.

What I have learned in all of my MPA classes directly coincides with what I am doing with Mind4Athletes. Professor Wilson always says, “make your education work for you.” I took this advice and ran with it! My Individual Research course allowed me to create the 44 page ever-changing business plan of Mind4Athletes. I have also learned  how to read and balance budgets in Financial Management, create a motivational work environment for my employees in Public Personnel Management, write grants and cases of support in Fundraising for Nonprofit Organizations, understand ethics in Public Administration Theory, and much more! All of these skills have been fundamental to the foundation of Mind4Athletes; I would be completely lost without this education.”

Mind4Athletes is moving forward at an exciting pace! At the end of last year, the organization received its IRS employer identification number and its approval by the Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Two Board members committed earlier this year – Mitchell A. Greene, Ph.D, a Clinical & Sport Psychologist and Joseph Dowling, M.S., a Licensed Professional Counselor. Last month, the IRS received the organization’s application for 501(c)3 status. Ingrid Moyer of Hofstra University has joined as Vice President for the organization.

“At this time we are trying to absorb as much information as possible from all of the experts in order to create effective mental health services for collegiate student-athletes. We are also working to expand our network and spread the word about Mind4Athletes.”

You can learn more about Mind4Athletes on the organization’s Instagram page or by emailing Stephanie directly.


Do you have a story of learning in action that you’d like to share with the Leaders’ Lounge? Email us!

Learning in Action: NonProfit Strategic Planning

Our Learning in Action series highlights stories of students outside the classroom, implementing their skills in a real-life environment. Heather Vanderslice, a student in our online MPA program, shared her story with The Leaders’ Lounge.

VandersliceIn addition to her full-time work for the Virginia Farm Bureau, Heather currently serves as a strategic planning consultant for the Center to End Adolescent Substance Abuse (CEASE). She’s been able to put her classroom learning into action since she met CEASE founder Jeannie Armstrong. While networking with Jeannie, Heather made some suggestions as the two talked about CEASE, and Jeannie was impressed!

“When I mentioned I had some classroom experience with strategic planning through Villanova, Jeannie was thrilled. We’ve been working together ever since. The members of the board have impressive work experience, and many have advanced degrees, but what I’ve learned through my Villanova classes has allowed me to make real contributions despite my limited knowledge of substance abuse cycles.”

Heather feels a connection to the CEASE mission, which has inspired her work with the organization. She’s had the opportunity to help CEASE in a variety of ways:

“My main areas of focus thus far have been building the board, increasing awareness and goal setting, but we are moving into fundraising and creating action plans for the coming year. Per the last board meeting, we are starting a crowd funding campaign for the end of the year. We would love to have more website traffic so people better understand how the organization helps at-risk children.”

A highlight of her experience with CEASE is the opportunity to collaborate. Balancing short and long-term goals has been one of the prominent challenges.

“So far the best part of my work is being able to use the diverse talents of the board to create workable strategies. In my opinion, this collaboration shows that the organization can achieve greatness with the right plans in place and the dedication to follow them. The most challenging part of my work is helping board members tackle immediate challenges like resource acquisition while keeping in mind the long term goals of the organization.”

Working with CEASE has offered Heather a unique opportunity to put her classroom learning into practice.

“I believe I have used knowledge or skills from every class I’ve taken in some capacity. In fact, being in this position has helped me realize that to be an effective public administrator, you cannot only be good in one area. Instead, you must be well-versed in finance, management, strategic planning, theory, analysis, and leadership. Nonprofit challenges require comprehensive solutions.”

Have an example of learning in action that you’d like to share with The Leaders’ Lounge? Email Shanna Lodge to have your story included in this series.

Learning in Action: A Business Plan for the Global Philadelphia Association

Learning in Action is back! We have another story for our readers about Villanova MPA students putting what they learn in the classroom into practice.

This past spring, as a part of MPA 8199: Cultural Competency, several students had the opportunity to work with the Global Philadelphia Association (GPA) and develop a business plan for the organization. In May, the graduate students presented their business plan to John F. Smith, III, Chair of GPA’s Board of Directors, and Zabeth Teelucksingh, Executive Director of GPA.

Photograph of students with GPA staff.
From left to right: John Smith, III, Vincent Reitano, Zabeth Teelucksingh, Justin Evert, Sophie Lee, Christian Slater, and Prof. Catherine Wilson.

Sophie Lee, an MPA student, told The Leaders’ Lounge a little more about what she learned about GPA and about the project:

“GPA leaders are from academic and for-profit backgrounds, so the organization is naturally structured for business strategy. As a foreigner, I think of Philadelphia itself as a part of America and culture, and I believe GPA’s vision of ‘advertising’ the City of Philadelphia will bring more interests groups to represent themselves as a culture and Philadelphian. 

“Creating a business plan for GPA was challenging.  People make different assumptions, have various communication styles, and praise or criticize something based on their values, beliefs and background. We wanted to present a realistic business plan to the leaders, who already have learned and achieved so much, while considering their experience. We gradually became more confident about our findings, and that also led us to target the organization’s mission in broader perspective. Furthermore, the more we communicated with Asmaa and Zabeth, the better the adjustments we made on the project. ”

Justin Evert, a Masters of History candidate pursuing his Nonprofit Management Certificate in our department, told us about some of the specific steps the group took:

“My project partners and I spent most of our time in the first weeks of the term getting in touch with GPA and its staff, particularly Asmaa Lahlou. GPA was very forthcoming with its promotional materials and yearly report(s), and that was an immeasurable help. From there we conducted a market research survey in the region, just to see what other organizations had in the works. Afterward, most of our time was spent hashing out ideas for new projects, more efficient structures, and overall organizational goals. Throughout the semester we were in constant contact with the GPA office staff and board, and conducted several interviews to gather background info and a view of the state of affairs on the ground.”

Presenting the project culminated the group’s experience.

“Presenting to Zabeth Teelucksingh and John F. Smith was, in a way, much less nerve-wracking than our final in-class presentation,” said Justin. “The two of them, despite their enormous pool of experience, talent, and cultural sway, are in fact very approachable people, and extremely engaging with everyone they meet. They listened intently, took careful and copious notes, and asked insightful questions. And more than that, they were genuinely interested in what we had to say and valued our input as outsiders.”

Sophie agreed, saying, “I knew our business plan was realistic and was at the executive level to grab the Board Chair’s attention, and I was proud to be the member of the Cultural Competency class project team.”

Both students reported learning a lot from the project.

“All the team members were actively involved in the project. We all shared and taught each other with suggestions throughout our journey. The most valuable thing I have learned through the project was collaborating, and incorporating my knowledge and background into various fields. I always compared and still compare myself with others’ expertise, but it was a great opportunity to know I actually have unique background and skills. We distributed project responsibility based on our expertise, and we worked well together,” said Sophie.

Justin said, “In the end, my greatest take-away from this project was that as important as resources are to a successful non-profit, enthusiasm and talent on the part of its membership is equally essential. Fortunately for GPA, they possess both in spades.”

Learning in Action: “Mission Mystique”

We’re thrilled to highlight this story as a part of our Learning in Action series! Below, MPA student Emma Weisser shares her story about putting learning into practice in her role working in local government:
Emma Weisser
Emma Weisser

In the course Public Personnel Management, we learned about “Mission Mystique” in public organizations- essentially, how creating a well-connected, intrinsically motivated workforce leads to happier workers and a better product.

While I don’t directly manage others, in my work I oversee a network of about 45 social workers who use a county-wide database for reporting information on the homeless clients that they serve. The database has had a really bad rap- it’s about 5 years out of date, it’s a requirement that they have to do, and it’s not well integrated into their daily work.

As you may expect, the database was not well-used or well-kept. Motivation to use it was low, if not non-existent.

So, I began applying the principle of “Mission Mystique” to my work with these users. The idea was to connect the workers with the core purpose of the database in order to increase their interest in using it, and hopefully, increase the quality of the data being entered. I created a strategic plan for the project, identifying key points for improvement which would ideally lead us to a point of being a network with “Mission Mystique” (or as much as we could be, given that the workers are spread out over many different agencies). This strategic plan was based off of the key principles identified in the Mission Mystique framework.

Here are a few examples of how I tied the Mission Mystique tenants into action:
  •  Agency personnel are intrinsically motivated. For this principle, I needed to show how entering data into this database was helping them to serve homeless residents. I produced “people friendly” infographics to showcase how our department had used the data over the past year to support new funding initiatives, raise public awareness, etc. This was blasted out to the users and to the county elected officials, so that the users felt like a part of the project. This is also now the first thing that new users learn about when they come for training.
  • The societal need met by the mission is seen as urgent. A strong point of contention for social workers is their frustrations working against “the system.” Our data could show us this, but my department had not done a good job of using current reports to identify service gaps. So, we started a monthly committee to review priority issues using reports pulled from our database. This generated a lot of great data-informed discussions about key issues, and allowed social workers to weigh in on what they experienced as well. Then, these discussions were summarized and sent back out to the people entering the data, so they could see how their data was being used to move new projects forward or bring tough issues out into the forefront of the community discussion.
  • Learning/ renewal is ongoing. I started a monthly “quick tip” email blast to the users, with updated guidance and answers to FAQ’s and common issues. Feedback was very positive on how this provided good ongoing training and reminded people to use the system more frequently. It also allowed me to talk about how to improve data quality without sounding like I was reprimanding users, and made me more accessible to people if they had questions.

There are still a lot more things that I’d like to do using the Mission Mystique principles, but in just 7 months of applying some new ideas I’ve drastically increased the level support from the users. It’s also created a more collaborative attitude toward the database- the users are seeing it as “their” project more now and even state- in public meetings, no less!- that they have come to see the value in it.

To learn more about Mission Mystique, check out Charles Goodsell’s book Mission Mystique: Belief Systems in Public Agencies. Special thanks to Emma for sharing her story with The Leaders’ Lounge!

Learning in Action: Effective Nonprofit Management Students Present Strategic Plan

As our students and alumni know, Villanova’s MPA professors are dedicated to providing students with applicable knowledge in the program’s coursework.  One of the four goals of our mission is to “Emphasize the importance of practical experience.”

The Leaders’ Lounge is excited to introduce a new series of articles that we’re calling Learning in Action. Over the next few months this semester, we’ll be bringing you stories of students outside the classroom, implementing their skills in a real-life environment.

To start things off, here’s an example of Effective Nonprofit Management students putting their coursework into action in the workplace:

ACE Dinner Attendees
Students Stephanie Myers, Bernadette Smith, Justin Evert, and Lany Villalobos, and Dr. Catherine Wilson with the ACE Steering Committee at Maggiano’s Little Italy.

As a final project for MPA 8600: Effective Nonprofit Management this past fall, four students developed a strategic plan for Advancing Civics Education (ACE), an initiative of the Philadelphia Bar Association. The students worked closely with ACE Steering Committee members, engaging in weekly conference calls to research and develop an appropriate strategic plan. At the end of the project, the students presented their plan in class, with several members of the Steering Committee in attendance. The students were then invited to present their findings to the full ACE Steering Committee and three Philadelphia judges – Judge Ramy Djerassi, Judge John Younge, and Judge Genece Brinkley – at a dinner at Maggiano’s Little Italy.

Effective Nonprofit Management was Stephanie Myers’s first course in the program. “We worked for several months on this project, sometimes becoming frustrated, but never giving up,” Stephanie said. “In the end, we learned that a well-crafted strategic plan was the key to ACE’s success moving forward.” In addition, Stephanie found that the project allowed the students to establish valuable professional connections, broadening their networks. “Professionalism and perseverance will go a long way in public administration,” she said, “and might even get you a dinner with some of Philadelphia’s best attorneys!”

Have an example of learning in action that you’d like to share with The Leaders’ Lounge? Email Shanna Lodge to have your story included in this series.