USC Price School of Public Policy

Nonprofit Program Attracts Accomplished Professionals

Knowledge in Action:

Nonprofit Program Attracts Accomplished Professionals

By Cristy Lytal

Marie Mazwi MPA student Marie Mazwi helped found the nonprofit Just Like You, a nonprofit, an after-school program that uses sports to create the next generation of global citizens
Photo by Jonathan Moore

After realizing that his students had done everything from founding nonprofits to raising more than $25 million for the Downtown Women’s Center, USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development professor Robert Myrtle had two words to say: “Holy smokes!”

Myrtle teaches “Strategic Management in the Nonprofit Sector,” one of the three required courses in SPPD’s popular Certificate in Nonprofit Management and Policy program.

The program develops skills and imparts knowledge about the growing importance of nonprofits in society and their role in influencing public policy. Students can pursue the certificate by itself or in conjunction with a graduate degree, such as the Master of Public Administration or Master of Public Policy.

The program attracts many accomplished nonprofit professionals, such as Master of Public Administration students Marie Mazwi and Brooke Lykins and Master of Public Policy student Archana Patel.

Just Like You Students participate in Just Like You’s “Global Playground” event, held at the L.A. Lakers’ training facility in El Segundo
Photo by Jonathan Moore

Mazwi, who spent a year traveling and teaching English after finishing her undergraduate degree at Macalester College, helped found the nonprofit Just Like You, an afterschool program that uses sports to create the next generation of global citizens.

The Just Like You curriculum focuses on one area of the world at a time, introducing Los Angeles elementary school students to aspects of language, culture, geography and sports. During the lesson on Zimbabwe, for example, students study the country in the classroom before spending recess playing the African games of kho kho and dibeke.

“What’s cool is that in Los Angeles, we have this microcosm of the world,” Mazwi said. “Yet so many of the kids are taught that they need to be American and that their parents’ backgrounds aren’t as important as where they are now. So we try to say, ‘The fact that your mom’s from Guatemala and your dad’s from Texas — that brings important things to your community and your school, and those are things you should be proud of and talk about.’ Through our curriculum, they start to see that.”

Bob Myrtle SPPD professor Robert Myrtle

Patel helped start a nonprofit further afield. After finishing a two-year commitment with Teach for America, Patel started work at Indicorps, a nonprofit organization that provides grassroots volunteer opportunities in India for people of Indian origin from abroad. While working for Indicorps, she adapted the Teach for America concept – having college graduates commit to two-year stints as teachers in under-resourced schools – into what is now Teach for India.

“Education is not only the backbone of our society, but it’s a fundamental component to living a fulfilled life,” she said. “It’s a human right, and the injustice of the disparities between the educations students receive depending on their ZIP codes or their skin colors is something that’s not acceptable. It’s something that needs to get changed.”

Lykins applied her energies and talents in a different direction and helped raise more than $25 million as the capital campaign manager for the Downtown Women’s Center, which recently moved into a new space.

The center provides meals, shelter and support for homeless women. Their new facilities have allowed for an expansion of services.

“We’re opening downtown’s first medical and mental health clinic for women, which is the only resource downtown for uninsured women to get mammograms,” Lykins said. “And we have a retail shop and a cafe so women can gain job skills. It’s really exciting.”

“Our services, because of the recession, are more needed now than ever,” she added.

According to Myrtle, training the next generation of nonprofit leaders supports the larger mission of SPPD.

“Historically, our school has always been about developing people to work in the public and nonprofit sectors, to work in areas where there is a need and there isn’t really a well-trained cadre of people,” Myrtle said. “It’s just part of our mission of making a difference in the lives of people.”