New program offers vast opportunities in the nonprofit sector

By Costa Maragos Posted: August 3, 2016 6:00 a.m.

(l-r) Dr. Gloria DeSantis, founder of the Voluntary Sector Studies Network with student representatives Ruth Easton, Brooke Schaeffer, Johann Morhart and Bryan Smith (front).
(l-r) Dr. Gloria DeSantis, founder of the Voluntary Sector Studies Network with student representatives Ruth Easton, Brooke Schaeffer, Johann Morhart and Bryan Smith (front). Photo courtesy of Amber Peters

More doors are opening for students wanting to explore the immense career opportunities offered in the nonprofit sector.

Luther College’s Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN) now offers a certificate program, approved recently by the University of Regina Senate. The certificate, a partnership between Luther College and the U of R, will be available beginning in the fall of 2016. It’s the first certificate of its kind in Saskatchewan.

“This is incredibly exciting,” says Dr. Gloria DeSantis, who is the founder of VSSN and Assistant Professor in the Department of Justice Studies at the U of R.  “The certificate gives students a chance to explore this world that people don’t think about very much. The nonprofit sector  is a substantial sector that is worthy of academic attention. Further, talented graduates can enter directly into these nonprofit organizations and work for the betterment of our communities”

Students enrolled will learn explicitly about the voluntary/nonprofit sector and its many community-based careers. Areas covered include advocacy, governance, the business side of nonprofits, professional ethics, communications, contemporary moral issues and much more in preparation for the real world of nonprofits.

In Saskatchewan the nonprofit sector is active, with at least 8,000 registered charities and nonprofits, the second highest number of voluntary organizations per capital in Canada. Saskatchewan also boasts the highest volunteer rate in Canada.

“There are plenty of opportunities now for students to explore a variety of experiences. This sector is so broad – from heritage to arts/culture to environment to human services to sports/recreation organizations - that students can find whatever they want and thrive in it,” says DeSantis who points out many of the larger organizations now offer improved pay as well as benefit packages and pension plans.

The Volunteer Sector Studies Network was launched in October 2014 with funding from Luther College at the U of R and with further funding in May 2015 from the Community Initiatives Fund of Saskatchewan. The program has gathered momentum, achieving certificate status that will offer students not only career opportunities but a chance to make a difference in the world.

“When I worked in the sector, I got up every morning and could not wait to go to work,” says DeSantis. “In these organizations you can actually work on things that can change the world and have positive impacts.  With this next generation of thoughtful, energetic students that are heading to the nonprofit sector, we’re poised to do really well. The sector  won’t be invisible for much longer.”

To learn more about the Voluntary Sector Studies Network and to register for the certificate program please visit here.

See what students have to say about the program. Please visit here.