Winter 2023 Newsletter

Letter from the Director

Dear NPL Community,

As we embrace the winter season, I am thrilled to extend a warm and hearty greeting to each of you. It is with great pleasure that I step into the role of Director for the Nonprofit Leadership graduate programs, succeeding the remarkable leadership of Dr. Maureen Emerson Feit and Dr. Noreen Elbert.

Firstly, I offer deep gratitude to Dr. Feit for her decade-long dedication to advancing our Nonprofit Leadership programs. Dr. Feit’s legacy is marked by a commitment to racial and social justice, evident in the transformative changes she spearheaded during her time as director. Under her guidance, we launched the Certificate in Fundraising Leadership, introduced the "Social Justice in the Third Sector" course (which became a program requirement), and initiated a comprehensive examination of our curriculum through a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) lens. Under Dr. Feit’s leadership we were among the first programs in the country to be accredited with the Nonprofit Academic Centers Council. Her impact on fostering reflection, critical thinking, and new perspectives has left an indelible mark on our community. We eagerly anticipate her continued contributions to teaching and research in the years to come.

During the transitional period, Dr. Elbert played a pivotal role in fostering connection and community within our programs. Dr. Elbert’s emphasis on storytelling illuminated the incredible work our graduates are undertaking across various sectors and promoted the program to prospective students. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Dr. Noreen Elbert for her dedication and leadership last year.

As I begin my term as director, we are faced with new challenges and opportunities for nonprofit graduate education. Under Seattle University’s strategic plan, we are participating in a holistic curricular review, considering how our courses teach and respond to racial and economic justice, sustainability and climate change, and technology and its impact on society. We also received a grant from the Center for Community Engagement to develop a set of guiding principles to enhance community-engaged learning and increase sustainability—both for faculty and especially for our nonprofit partners. Both initiatives are important opportunities for our program to stay abreast of changes in the nonprofit sector as well as our broader society. And we know that educational models and platforms are in flux—especially for graduate students—so we are continuing conversations about hybrid and online learning options as well.

In closing, I encourage you all to stay connected with the program as these connections are what sustain the challenging work of our sector. Join us for our upcoming events, connect on social media, and share your updates with our Program Coordinator, Nicole Plastino, at Together, let us continue asking hard questions, putting our values into action, and working towards a more just and humane world.

Wishing you a joyful and purposeful winter season.


Dr. Elizabeth Dale, PhD

Director, Nonprofit Leadership Graduate Programs


Introducing MNPL Cohort 2025

This past fall, the Nonprofit Leadership program joyfully admitted its latest cohort of leaders! The MNPL Cohort 2025 brings a wealth of diverse experiences in the nonprofit sector, from grassroots volunteer work to executive leadership roles. Many students have dedicated years or even decades to serving their communities through organizations focused on education, social services, arts, and more.

This group possesses hands-on knowledge of both frontline and behind-the-scenes operations, having experience in running programs, leading fundraising campaigns, and managing staff and boards. Several cohort members grew up utilizing nonprofit services, giving them critical insight into the populations these organizations aim to serve. We invite you to join us in extending a warm welcome and providing support to this exceptional group of leaders.

  • Erika Brown, Pinnacle Explorations Outdoor School
  • Lauren Christian, Underground Ministries
  • Renee Dillard, HNN Associates
  • Alice Farrer, International graduate student
  • Nicole Harvey, Seattle JazzED
  • Alexis Lynley, Graduate student
  • Ladyjane Okere, Righteousness Adorned Zion
  • Annette Promes, KUOW Puget Sound Public Radio
  • Mary Richardson, Seattle University
  • Alexis Silva, United Way of King County

With backgrounds spanning program management, marketing, community engagement, and direct service, these students are poised to strengthen and expand the impact of mission-driven organizations. Their collective expertise and passion are sure to fortify and extend the influence of mission-driven organizations throughout the region and we look forward to introducing them to our network of alumni and friends!


Alumni and Student Spotlights

MNPL Alum Works at the Intersection of Environmental and Racial Justice

In this edition, we shine a spotlight on Tess Honan, MNPL ‘21 Environmental Justice Advisor at Seattle Public Utilities. Tess's newly created position has given her a dedicated focus on justice in shaping the city’s water and waste priorities is a testament to the impact our graduates make in the community.

Tess Honan, Environmental Justice Advisor at Seattle Public Utilities

Q: Tell us about your current role, which is a new position for Seattle Public Utilities. 

A: I am currently the Environmental Justice Advisor at Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) where I am working to shape water and waste priorities, policies, programs, performance measures, investments, and decision making. In my current role, I am developing and implementing a shared environmental justice operating framework and empowerment strategy for SPU.  

Other elements of my job include serving as the Language Access Liaison at Seattle Public Utilities, where I lead language justice initiatives across our 1,300-person agency. From crafting policies for SPU Corporate Policy and Planning to managing $500,000 in contracts with community partners, I'm actively involved in shaping our approach. 

Part of my role involves building strong relationships with Seattle communities facing environmental and health inequities and amplifying their voices on water and waste issues. With expertise in environmental justice best practices, policies, and funding opportunities, I connect with networks at local, regional, and national levels. 

Collaborating with experts, I drive the creation of an environmental justice framework for SPU, aligning priorities with community input. I support investments that prioritize environmental restoration and community health, fostering partnerships for impactful outcomes. 

In leadership roles for City-wide equity initiatives, I assess and recommend solutions for racial equity impacts in SPU policies and programs, ensuring positive outcomes for historically excluded communities. 

Q: How have you used what you learned in the NPL program in your career and life? 

A: The NPL program has been instrumental in shaping both my career and personal life. The program equipped me with a nonprofit toolkit full to the brim with skills in leadership, financial management, writing, applied research, and program planning/evaluation. This program taught me so much about relationship building, community engagement, advocacy, how to effect change, and encouraged me to always stay curious. 

Q: What encouraged you to pursue a master’s in nonprofit leadership? 

A: I love school and I love learning, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to go back to school and gain more skills to take my career to the next step. This program offered a comprehensive skill set encompassing leadership, financial management, program evaluation, and ethical governance, tailored to the unique challenges of the nonprofit sector. The combination of expert professors who were established professionals in the nonprofit sector, practical skills, and a strong alumni network made this degree a compelling choice. 

Q: What inspired you to elect to get the Certificate in Fundraising Leadership? 

A: While I knew I did not want to go into development, I still pursued the Certificate in Fundraising Leadership because the skills you learn are transferable into any other job you may pursue. I learned how to build a case for support, how to persuasively talk about a mission, and I strengthened my written and verbal communications skills. 

Q: Tell us about your Capstone and Practicum experiences, and how you have used them in your career? 

A: I did my practicum at Treehouse, an organization that provides youth in foster care with access to the services they deserve to be successful in school and life. I interviewed long-time staff to author Treehouse’s Racial equity journey: A narrative of pivotal events from 2011-2021, then conducted research to recommend best practices for retention of staff of color. 

For my Capstone, I designed and conducted research on Change, Innovation, and Resilience of Nonprofit Organizations in the Seattle University Youth Initiative Network during the COVID-19 Pandemic. I listed both the capstone and practicum on my resume and have used the documents as writing samples for the job I have now.  

Q: Any news, interests, or hobbies you’d like to share? 

A: I am getting married in 2024 and have a beautiful fur baby named Mabel.  

Q: Words of Wisdom for Aspiring Graduates? 

A: Lean on your cohort! You can get through this. Utilize the vast NPL Alumni Network— everyone is eager to share our work/passions with you.  

Q: What advice would you give to someone who is considering pursuing a master’s in nonprofit leadership? 

A: Do it! This was one of the best career decisions I have ever made. I attribute the NPL program to catapulting me into the job I am in now.


MNPL Student Ushers in New Emergency Youth Shelter in King County

Eileen Schuetz (MNPL '24), Friends of Youth's Director of Major Gifts and Volunteer & In-kind Donations, played an integral role in coordinating the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Willows Youth Service Center in Kirkland on October 28, 2023. This new facility, which will replace the Landing in Redmond, will be the sole emergency shelter in east King County for young adults aged 18 to 24.

The event featured notable speakers, including Congresswoman Suzan DelBene and local city and county council members. The 7,000 square foot shelter, set to open later in the year, offers enhanced privacy with individual bed spaces and will double the city's capacity, with space for up to 35 young adults each night. Amenities include meals, showers, laundry, case management, day drop-in services, and a health room.

The project received support from various government agencies and donors, including Microsoft, Amazon, and Meta. The center aims to provide dignified and inclusive support, fostering a positive impact on the lives of vulnerable young adults experiencing housing insecurity.

Moving forward, Eileen will continue working to secure ongoing funding and support that this critical resource center needs to assist young adults facing housing insecurity in east King County.


Faculty and Staff News

Welcome Program Coordinator

Nicole Plastino, MNPL ‘20 (she/they) joined Seattle University in August as the Graduate Programs Coordinator for the MNPL and GCFL programs. “We are thrilled to have Nicole join our team and connect with current and prospective students as well as alumni,” said Elizabeth Dale, Ph.D., program director. “Nicole brings a valuable perspective as both an alum and a nonprofit fundraiser and marketer which will enhance our recruitment and help us build and maintain connections within the Greater Seattle region.”  

Keep us up to date with your news! Send your updates to our Program Coordinator, Nicole Plastino (



On December 7, the Nonprofit Leadership program hosted an engaging book talk on Fundraising Without Burnout: Radically Reimagining Philanthropy to Transform Your Impact. The event featured author Radha Friedman, an accomplished fundraiser, grant maker and philanthropic advisor with 25 years of experience, as she shared practical strategies and inspiring insights for navigating the challenges and rewards of fundraising without sacrificing personal well-being.

Learn more about Radha and Fundraising Without Burnout on her website:


Alumni Council Message

Mark your calendars for a special occasion – SU Gives is on Leap Day, February 29, 2024!

Do you remember the transformative impact the Nonprofit Leadership program had on you and your peers? The deep bonds, passion for service, and courage to lead change that it sparked? As alumni, we know how life-changing it is to have the connection and support of the Nonprofit Leadership community.

SU Gives is our opportunity to pay that gift forward by growing the Nonprofit Excellence Fund. This fund allows the program flexibility to ensure students can begin, thrive in, and complete the degree.

Not only do we hope to ignite that same passion in future generations of Nonprofit Leadership students, we are actively strengthening the community web that supports each of our journeys.

Can't wait to contribute? You don't have to! Feel free to make your donation right away.

Simply choose "Other" in the "I want to support" dropdown and enter: Nonprofit Excellence Fund. Your early support is greatly appreciated!


Stay in touch!