Heller Profiles

The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University

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Katherine Fitzgerald

USA

MBA '13

Heller education broadens skills and perspective

Kate Fitzgerald aims to bridge the gap between nonprofit and for-profit organizations

Kate Fitzgerald has always wanted to make a difference in the world. After graduating from Colorado College, the Sudbury, Mass., native worked in customer service in a Denver lacrosse equipment manufacturer. Despite being a lacrosse player and coach she found herself questioning how she could better make an impact and set out to find a new path closer to her home state.

She learned about Boston’s GreenLight Fund and was impressed by its mission to identify needs in the city of Boston and help nonprofit organizations from other areas launch there. GreenLight had an opening and Fitzgerald landed the job.

As the third staff member in this organization created by a venture capitalist, Fitzgerald came in frequent contact with the GreenLight board members. Fitzgerald was particularly drawn to one of the members, Andrew Hahn, a professor at the Heller School, whose focus was youth programs and evaluation. Through her work with GreenLight, Fitzgerald came in contact with Heller MBA students who, as part of their Team Consulting Project (TCP), were assigned to Greenlight as “consultants.”

Fitzgerald wanted to be able to contribute to both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors at a level that she knew would require more education, and investigated the Heller MBA program.

After only one year as a Heller student, Fitzgerald reflects on the many unique things that she has had the opportunity to become a part of: a diverse environment in programs offered, the expansive cultures from which the students hail, and the richness of interdisciplinary faculty expertise.

“The fact that professors care so much about me as an individual and what I learn is very important to me,” she says. “I’m not sure I would have made it through accounting without Brenda Anderson...”

Even fundraising, which she previously found daunting, has become surmountable. David Whalen, MBA ’00, who teaches Fundraising and Development, demystified the process, she said.

“I now understand that it is simply a process of engaging someone in your work and communicating how they fit into it,” says Fitzgerald.

Another class she found helpful was "Practicing Philanthropy," which she says was a great balance because the class had the opportunity to create grants and observe the process as a donor would.

“Heller is about your experience and what you put into it,” says Fitzgerald. “If you take initiative you will be totally supported—and that includes access to the Dean, Lisa Lynch.”

Fitzgerald continues to have an interest in bridging the gap between nonprofit and for-profit organizations. She says she can picture herself in either sector since the skills she is obtaining at Heller prepare her for both.

“My classmates all have different perspectives and I’ve come to think of all of them as my teachers,” says Fitzgerald. “There are always lectures and events that allow you a glimpse into the other five degree programs—from Russian philanthropy to Heller authors, where faculty and students discuss their books on health care, transgender issues, and growing up in the South, to a rich landscape of international programs.”

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