MNA ‘Grow Irish Week’ Delivers for Students and Nonprofits
Author: Bryan Fields
For Drake Shrader, participating in Notre Dame’s inaugural Grow Irish Week was not only one of the highlights of his Mendoza education; it also played a critical role in launching his promising career in nonprofit administration.
As a student in the Master of Nonprofit Administration (MNA) program, Shrader was eager to get hands-on experience in his field of study and Grow Irish Week allowed him to spend a full week embedded in a nonprofit organization working on a project of strategic importance.
During Spring 2023 Grow Irish Week, Shrader and three MNA classmates traveled to Orange County, California, and spent the week working with Catholic Charities of Orange County (CCOC) at their headquarters in Garden Grove.
CCOC asked Shrader and his teammates to analyze the feasibility and desirability of two strategic directions the organization was considering: Should Catholic Charities become
accredited as a Trauma-Informed Care Organization or become certified as a Trauma-Informed Care Organization?
“Obviously there was a lot for the team to learn before we made any recommendations,” Shrader says. “Our process started with first gathering as much information as possible. This included meeting with staff, researching the benefits of Accreditation and/or Certification, gaining an understanding of the application and approval timelines, and outlining costs.”
Shrader says the team also explored Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) frameworks. “We took time to understand the overall goals, objectives, and vision of the organization to figure out what route best aligned with that vision,” Shrader says. “By the end of day two, our group felt strongly that working towards accreditation or certification at this time would not be beneficial (time-wise or financially) and wasn’t necessary to achieving their goals and implementing their vision.”
According to Shrader, his team ultimately decided to recommend a third option to the CCOC. “We were tasked with finding the best way forward towards CCOC being able to implement SEL and TIC programs in schools and we took that responsibility seriously,” Shrader says. “Our solution stemmed from CCOC’s willingness to explore all options.”
The solution the team presented was this: Adopt an SEL and TIC framework and then begin to implement that across the organization and in the schools with which the CCOC was already partnering.
“Our conclusion was to focus on becoming the gold standard of care by providing high-quality, evidence-based programming in schools,” Shrader says. “Then spend time building relationships with new school partners to expand programming.”
Ellen Roy, the executive director of Catholic Charities, was thrilled with the team’s courage to offer an innovative solution and presented the team’s plan to their board of directors.
“CCOC was open and excited about the solution we proposed,” Shrader says. “When we left Orange County, their intention was to move forward with the team’s recommendations. We hope to connect with them in the future to see how the programming is coming along.”
Throughout the project, Shrader and his teammates found themselves drawing on the skills and knowledge they had gained in their MNA coursework. Strategic Management with Professor John Michel proved to be particularly helpful in thinking critically about the organization’s primary objectives.
Shrader credits the hands-on experience during Grow Irish Week with giving him the opportunity to learn, grow, and recognize his ability to find solutions to complex problems in a limited amount of time. Drake is confident future MNA cohorts will benefit from Grow Irish Week like he did. Now as the development manager of national expansion for Youth Guidance, a nonprofit organization that creates and implements school-based programs that enable at-risk children to overcome obstacles and focus on their education, Shrader is eager to serve as a project mentor for future MNA project teams.
Topics: Nonprofit Administration (MNA)