Programs & courses

Degree opportunities

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Community & Nonprofit Leadership (CNPL)

In smaller, inclusive, project-based courses, CNPL students collaborate with each other and community partners. Through service-learning, applied research, and internship experiences, students impact the community even before they graduate.

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Master of Science in Human Ecology (MS)

This applied program aims at preparing professionals who want to solve real societal problems and take on leadership roles within organizations that promote the well-being of individuals, families and communities.

Icon of two people sitting together in front of a computer. One person has a speech bubble above their head.Civil Society and Community Research (PhD)

Through interdisciplinary coursework and research in community settings, students  become participant-scholars in change processes, and learn human ecological theory and application-focused research methods.


Community & Nonprofit Leadership Capstone Certificate 

The Community and Nonprofit Leadership certificate embraces a multi-disciplinary, ecological, community-centered approach that focuses on community dynamics and community-led efforts in addition to organizational management approaches. The program encourages critical thinking and skill-building which acknowledges and addresses root causes, alongside the development of tactical, operational, and management skills typically associated with nonprofit leadership.


Community-Engaged Scholarship Graduate/Professional Certificate

The Community-Engaged Scholarship Graduate/Professional program is designed to train graduate students in the practice of community-engaged scholarship (CES), which is defined as teaching or research that is done in collaboration with community organizations or community partners in equitable, mutually beneficial, respectful relationships.

Professional Skills Courses

  • These 1-credit courses take place over 4-weeks, featuring community-based speakers, field work, and application of skills learned to your area of interest. 
  • Courses will meet on Thursday evenings throughout the session, plus one additional class on a Saturday.
  • Enrollment is open to junior and senior undergraduates as well as graduate students from all departments.
  • Courses are available on a three semester rotation, repeating every third semester.
  • Click here to check course availability and enrollment information. 

Design Concepts for Mission-Based Enterprise (Interdisciplinary Courses 815-001)

In nonprofit organizations and social service spaces, community development projects and neighborhood revitalization initiatives, and other social change, community-building, and service delivery efforts, designed environments and arts and design concepts can be important factors to consider and address. Negotiating and understanding the politics and history of spaces and their impacts on community is as important as thinking innovatively about applying design and arts concepts for positive user and community experiences. Learn about various frameworks and strategic approaches to incorporating design and the arts into a variety of mission-based efforts and gain familiarity with key considerations and critiques.

Health and Wellness Principles and Applications (Interdisciplinary Courses 815-002)

Applications of public health principles are exploding.  Learn about the exciting possibilities of examining the way that a public health lens can help build support for positive social change around transportation infrastructure, urban agriculture, gun violence, and incarceration, just to name a few examples.  Explore how your future work and mission might be bolstered by public health principles, and health impact assessment. Consider the way that “wellness” may be a useful guiding principle in your future work as a manager, advocate, entrepreneur, or leader.

Fundraising and Revenue Models (Interdisciplinary Courses 815-003)

How will your mission and vision be supported?  Learn from community professionals and experts about fundamentals of development, donor relations, grant-writing, and establishing fee-based or other types of revenue models for your enterprise.  Concepts of social entrepreneurship – making profit work for good – as well as the relationship between programming and funding — will also be included.

Culturally Competent and Trauma-Informed Strategies (Interdisciplinary Courses 815-001)

Thursdays, September 6 – October 1; one Saturday session
In almost any professional context, we must work with and communicate with others. Gain skills and strategies for approaching others with empathy, an awareness of your own biases, and cultural competency. Learn about the principles of “trauma-informed” programming and approaches. Explore a variety of illustrations and applications of these foundational strategies for being a better communicator and collaborator with others.

Strategies for Managing and Facilitating (Interdisciplinary Courses 815-002)

Thursdays, October 9 – November 5; one Saturday session
Professionals in a variety of fields must manage staff, and facilitate group decision making processes. Hear from community professionals about legal elements, best practices, and strategies to managing staff effectively. Learn about creative approaches to facilitation that support positive community engagement. Practice skills that will be useful in your future career when working with a variety of stakeholders, colleagues, and collaborators.

Interaction with the Public Sector and Understanding Regulatory Contexts (Interdisciplinary Courses 815-003)

Thursdays, November 13 – December 13; one Saturday session
Whether working in nonprofit programming, business and entrepreneurship, or in public schools or agencies, your work and goals may depend upon public funding or regulation. Learn how to identify and navigate government and regulatory contexts that pertain to your future work. Observe public sector hearings or processes, and gain understanding about advocacy and relationships with government officials.

Financial Management and Reporting Processes for Organizations (Interdisciplinary Courses 815-001)

Develop a working knowledge of financial best practices, accounting principles, and financial reporting that may be required of your enterprise. Hear from professionals who have gained a command of financial processes. Examine the way that finances interact with mission. 

Creative Collaboration and Partnerships (Interdisciplinary Courses 815-002)

Learn about regional examples of private-public partnerships as well as examples of international partnerships forged among organizations and actors from different countries. Explore challenges and benefits associates with these rich, complex, and often very powerful collaborations. 

Storytelling, Messaging, and Communication (Interdisciplinary Courses 815-003)

Social change often depends on effective storytelling and communication. Learn about and experience a variety of approaches and media – including video storytelling, social media, and traditional paid and earned media – that can help you be an effective storyteller and communicator, in advancement of your mission.

Other CommNS courses

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CSCS 742: Nonprofit Board Leadership I (Graduate level)

Fall semester

Wednesdays 6 – 8pm, two semesters with two credits in the fall and one credit in the spring

This course provides an overview of nonprofit governance and boards of directors, and pairs students with a community partner board of directors, engaging students in real-life learning; students work on and with the boards and ultimately deliver a final project that supports the organization’s board best practices.

This is the first course in a two-course sequence. Students are required to commit to both semesters of this course.

CSCS 743: Nonprofit Board Leadership II (Graduate level)

Spring semester

Wednesdays 6 – 8pm, two semesters with two credits in the fall and one credit in the spring

This course provides an overview of nonprofit governance and boards of directors, and pairs students with a community partner board of directors, engaging students in real-life learning; students work on and with the boards and ultimately deliver a final project that supports the organization’s board best practices.

CSCS 742: Nonprofit Board Leadership I is the first semester offering.

CSCS 530: Infrastructure and Operations for Community and Nonprofit Organizations (Undergraduate)

Fall semester

Monday/Wednesdays 4 – 5:15pm, three credits

Join us for this robust overview course which orients students to a broad range of community and nonprofit organizations in context, and provides foundational and experiential learning related to how these organizations are structured and how they get their work done. In this class you’ll learn about the context of nonprofit and community organizations and key aspects and considerations of operations. You’ll develop skills by applying organization’s through a community-based learning project.

CSCS 699: Getting the Work Done

Spring semester

Join the CommNS for a 1 or 2-credit group independent study experience focused on providing direct support on operational, infrastructural, and strategic projects to advance the work of community and nonprofit partners of the CommNS.

Summer courses

Each summer the CommNS hosts a set of novel community engaged courses. Course topics have included Creative Communication and Collaboration Strategies, Virtual Service Learning with the Universidad de Guadalajara Museo de Ciencias Ambientales, and SoHE Professional Skills “Wisconsin to the World.”

Topics and course structure are decided the semester prior. For more information reach out to the CommNS at