Published: April 25, 2022 By

MBA students meeting with C Suite executives in ChicagoI would recommend any student to join Board Fellows. This is great professional experience and it is serving a larger community.  - Michelle Lishnevsky (MBA’23), Board Fellows President

Board Fellows, a program of Net Impact, provides an opportunity for MBA students to serve as non-voting board members at local nonprofits. Students actively support the nonprofits where they are placed, attending board meetings, working on projects, and being mentored by a current board member.  

Offered every spring semester at Leeds, rising second year MBA students can identify a nonprofit they are interested in working with, or ask for help with outreach from the club. This spring, six MBA students matched with four local nonprofits to begin their year-long service projects.

1. Michelle Lishnevsky & Sonya Query will serve with Naturally Boulder
2. Ben Lerman & Charles Msilanga are paired with Big City Mountaineers
3. Drake Swezey is at the Inland Ocean Coalition
4. Lucas Burns is matched with the YMCA of Northern Colorado

Board Fellows offers many advantages and benefits to participating students.

Experiential learning

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"As a nonprofit leader, I see tremendous value in having CU Board Fellows engage with our organization. And as a career educator, I love the idea that they have this opportunity to put what they are learning to authentic practice,"

says David Taus, Executive Director, Big City Mountaineers.

Board Fellows offers business students an opportunity to work with and on boards, which increases their chances of eventually serving on a board themselves. Students also learn to use their skills to strengthen nonprofits. For Drake Swezey (MBA ’23), working with the Inland Ocean Coalition (IOC) has taught him both about that organization and more generally about how nonprofits can make an impact. Drake’s focus has been on creating momentum for IOC’s Ocean Friendly Farmers program. 

“IOC is working to create buy-in from inland stakeholders around their impacts on ocean and watershed health,” Drake explains. “Farming is a huge piece of this impact and is why they decided to create a farmer oriented program.” While his work is, in some ways, programmatic, it also connects back to the organization’s larger strategy and mission.

Ben Lerman (MBA ’23) joined Board Fellows to apply the skills he is learning in business school to a cause he is passionate about, outdoor education and youth development. “It's been a valuable chance to see how board work can fit into the rest of my career and given me actionable steps to take for finding these opportunities beyond the club and my Leeds experience," he says.

Network building

Board Fellows also provides students with access to mentors, and demonstrates the value of nonprofit service, and volunteerism, while building professional networks and skills. For incoming Board Fellows President Michelle Lishnevsky, who is pursuing the Natural & Organic MBA Pathway at Leeds, networking with professionals in her chosen field is a key part of the experience. 

Michelle has the opportunity to work directly with Bill Capsalis, Executive Director of Naturally Boulder, and with her board liaison, who founded a successful local company. Both contacts are helping her develop her professional network.

“Additionally, I will get to learn about what issues the industry is facing and what topics the Board will discuss and vote on,” she explained.

Industry specific knowledge

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“It's a brand new way to contribute to something that has been an important part of my life for a long time,”

says Ben Lerman.

Another outgrowth of Board Fellows is the chance to learn about and connect with a cause that students care deeply about, and plan to focus on in their careers.

Michelle’s project for Naturally Boulder involves finding ways to engage community members across the natural and organic product industry via different communication channels. She is learning about the Naturally Network, which is composed of local member organizations like Naturally Boulder from around the country, and the different topics and questions people have in each area.. “Naturally Boulder has an incredible network and this is an amazing opportunity for me to work in my field,” Michelle says. 

“Board Fellows is an awesome opportunity to get in with a mission aligned non-profit and gives you a lot of flexibility for how you want to establish your role,” Drake says.

Benefit to nonprofit partners

For the nonprofits as well, this partnership is a chance to incorporate new perspectives and best practices from the business world into their work. “It is an enormous help to have Ben and Charles working with our nonprofit,” says David Taus, Executive Director of Big City Mountaineers. “The things they are learning in their MBA courses are directly applicable to our organizational needs, and the ideas they bring to the table are informed, fresh, and immediately useful.” 

Bill Capsalis, Executive Director of Naturally Boulder has worked with Leeds students through the Board Fellows program for two years. Each year, Naturally Boulder has taken two students and had them tackle projects and sit in on board meetings. “I find them to be very engaged and energetic as they learn the inner workings of a non profit organization,” Bill says. “It is a pleasure to work with them and I highly recommend working with Board Fellows from CU!" 

Learn more

To learn more about participating, either as a nonprofit partner or an MBA student, please reach out to Michelle Lishnevsky.

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