Partnering to promote China’s nonprofits

Until the 1990s, there were relatively few organizations outside of state-run agencies in China dedicated to serving the country’s vast humanitarian and environmental interests, or supporting philanthropic efforts in general. But China’s economic surge, along with changes in the government’s involvement, has fueled an explosion in the nonprofit field in the last decade. Various reports estimate that there are now more than 500,000 organizations, compared with just 60,000 in 1999.

The growth has created a critical need for leaders who have the specialized knowledge and perspective necessary to guide a nonprofit organization. To address the challenge, one of China’s most prestigious universities is partnering with Notre Dame to offer a graduate business program designed for Chinese students planning careers in nonprofit organizations.

The Notre Dame-Renmin Master of Nonprofit Administration is a collaboration between the Mendoza College’s Master of Nonprofit Administration (MNA) and Renmin University in Beijing. Scheduled to commence in May 2013, the program is the first such international degree program for the College.

“The partnership truly is a significant event for the University and Mendoza College,” said Roger Huang, Kenneth R. Meyer Professor of Global Investment Management and interim dean. “China’s recognition of the vital role played by nonprofit organizations within its national economy and its society is fairly recent; whereas Notre Dame’s concern for the underserved among us is a foundational part of our mission. We have much to share in knowledge, experience and best practices.”

Renmin University (also known as the People’s University of China) is a comprehensive research university established in 1937 that enrolls approximately 23,000 full-time students, graduate and undergraduate. It primarily emphasizes humanities, social sciences and natural sciences.

Up to 25 Notre Dame-Renmin students will attend courses at Notre Dame during two summer sessions. In addition to classroom studies, the students will participate in a 10-week internship with an American nonprofit organization, such as Alliance for Children and Families, Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services, United Way and Volunteers of America. The internships are intended to provide them with an opportunity to gain real-world experience with a nonprofit’s operations and to apply what they’ve learned.

“The program is relatively modest in terms of the number of students, but this is one case where numbers aren’t the best measure of impact and success,” said Thomas Harvey, the Luke McGuinness Director of Nonprofit Professional Development, which is the Mendoza College department that directs the MNA program. “As an opportunity for sharing the Notre Dame perspective on nonprofit management, the potential impact of this partnership is vast considering the millions of individuals and thousands of communities with various social welfare needs in today’s China.”

Notre Dame International Studies, including the Notre Dame Asia Office in Beijing, supported the development of the collaboration through its ongoing strategic dialogue with China’s Ministry of Education and China’s leading universities, such as Renmin University.