University of Washington – Sample Essay for Graduate Program in Non-Profit Management
Raised with the Jesuit notion of service to mankind, I have always been interested in society’s injustices and problems. During my undergraduate studies, I was drawn to the political science courses, but I never understood how I could apply the knowledge I gained in them to a career. Only years later did I recognize the potential of a career in public policy.
I first discovered an interest in the human services arena through my work at the Crisis Clinic. Originally hired as the publications coordinator for Where to Turn, King County’s comprehensive directory of social services, I soon became a member of the management team. As a manager I helped determine general and budget policy for the agency as a whole. While I enjoyed the detail-oriented work required, I remained especially intrigued by the big-picture issues surrounding the agency’s management.
At the end of my tenure, the agency’s interim executive director advised me to apply to a graduate program in non-profit management. While I learned a great deal from my work at Crisis Clinic, I was not sure that I wanted to make a career out of non-profit management. My pragmatic side argued that the for-profit sector would be more lucrative, and I accepted a position in the software industry as an activities coordinator. Though my duties were suited to my detail-oriented skills, however, the company’s mission did not appeal to me, and I quickly lost interest. My true passion, I quickly realized, lay in the human services sector.
I returned to the not-for-profit world as a grant inquiry coordinator for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. After a year, I transferred to my current role in the Pacific Northwest Giving Program as a grants administrator, reviewing reports, creating grant agreements, coordinating grant payments and performing due diligence. On a more limited basis, I make site visits to potential grantees, review applications and participate in the grant approval process. In addition to my work with the foundation, I read and rate funding applications from human service providers for the United Way of King County; in January, I will work with a diverse group of volunteers to make funding recommendations to the Board of Directors.
Through my experiences in these various positions, I augmented my knowledge of emerging social issues, barriers, and gaps in service, and I gained experience in evaluating a program’s effectiveness in addressing these issues. Furthermore, my career to date has accorded me an invaluable look into the role of public and private funding sources in creating public policy and providing human services. My exposure to nonprofit management at Crisis Clinic, my program-related duties at the Foundation and the United Way, my core values and interest in larger social issues, and my detail-oriented problem-solving skills all point me towards a career in public policy.
An Evans School of Public Affairs master’s degree will provide me with the set of core analytical and technical skills necessary to evaluate an institution and its procedures. I expect to gain a better sense of how policy is made, and to concentrate on a specific policy field through one of the Evans School’s Policy Gateways. The leadership development and supplementary training in budgeting, accounting, principles of management, and survey methods will help me conceive and implement future solutions.
As a student, I will bring a wealth of real-world experience from my work in both a direct service organization and a private funding institution. I also carry an understanding of the social service community in the Puget Sound area, and of how various organizations work together to form a continuum of care.
Society’s complex problems stem from many sources: economic changes, the environment, social welfare, population, technology, and family structure to name a few. Through my work as a graduate student, I hope to gain the skills necessary to address these multi-dimensional problems directly and effectively. Whether my future lies in the public, non-profit, or private sector, I look forward to completing a degree in public policy that will ultimately allow me to contribute to any future institution.