(Posted June 26, 2015)

Led by Faculty Marshal Jack Barlow, Adam Miller and Donna Rhoses, directly behind Barlow, received the first master's degrees in nonprofit leadership awarded by Juniata College
Led by Faculty Marshal Jack Barlow, Adam Miller and Donna Rhoses, directly behind Barlow, received the first master's degrees in nonprofit leadership awarded by Juniata College

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Astute observers of Juniata College's recent Commencement ceremony May 16 might recall that the first two graduates to receive diplomas were a bit older than the rest of the graduating class.

That's because Adam Miller, director of emergency management for Huntingdon County, and Donna Rhodes, executive director of the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center, both in the midst of successful careers, were the historic first recipients for Juniata's master's degree in nonprofit leadership, a graduate education program established by the college several years ago. The program is directed by Celia Cook-Huffman, professor of conflict resolution.

Miller, who earned a bachelor's degree in 2008 as part of the college's Program for Area Residents program, and Rhodes, who is a 1984 Juniata graduate, both enrolled in the graduate program in order to enhance their skills at management in mid-career.

For example, Miller, whose job is part of Huntingdon's country government structure, felt the lessons learned in the 10-course, 30-credit program would help him develop a deeper leadership skill set.

"I think government isn't recognized for its potential as a nonprofit (model), but it is. We are often looking out for the best interests of the community," Miller says. "Opportunities to lead are not always clear, and completing this program reinvigorated my perspective on how we serve this community."

"It's an opportunity for the college to seize a part of the global market for our brand of thinking, our way of doing and Juniata's wisdom to the rest of the world."

Adam Miller, director of emergency management for Huntingdon County

Rhodes, who has a ministry certificate from the Church of the Brethren and worked early in her career to coordinate the educational ministry at the Stone Church of the Brethren, sought out the graduate education to better understand some of the nonprofit roles that often are left out of many job brochures, such as tax laws, management for boards of directors and fundraising. The coursework also applies to her current job at the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center, an Elizabethtown, Pa.-based center focused on providing training for people in mid-career who would like to become Church of the Brethren ministers, but lack the time, or perhaps resources, to attend Bethany Theological Seminary, the Church of the Brethren facility in Richmond, Ind.

"Even though my current job is a ministry, there are so many other aspects of governance related to a nonprofit business," she explains. "Juniata's nonprofit leadership degree enhanced my administrative skills."

Both graduates emphasize that students in the program can work at their own speed, taking one to three courses a semester. The entire program uses online learning, although many of the faculty in the course are based at Juniata, including Cook-Huffman, Lynn Cockett, professor of communication, Marlene Burkhardt, professor of information technology and business, Randy Rosenberger, professor of business, Terry Anderson, director of JCEL and other Juniata instructors. The faculty also includes several adjunct professors and instructors located across the country.

According to Miller and Rhodes, the cost for the entire program can range from $23,000 to $25,000, including books and fees.

Students in the program can either write a comprehensive thesis as the capstone assignment or outline an ambitious project that must be completed before the master's degree can be earned. "The program is directed toward working adults and it can be challenging to get all the work done while doing your regular job or taking care of a family," Rhodes says.

The popular notion that online education is easier than classroom work gets no approval from Miller or Rhodes. "There is no question I did more work in my online classes than I did in any of my undergraduate classes," Miller says.

After completing the requirements for their graduate degrees, both newly minted nonprofit leaders agree that Juniata can bring a unique twist to graduate education in general and online programs in particular.

"It's an opportunity for the college to seize a part of the global market for our brand of thinking, our way of doing and Juniata's wisdom to the rest of the world," says Miller.

Contact Gabe Welsch at welschg@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.