SoHE Professional Skills Courses

Students participating in a Professional Skills course

A new graduate program hosted by SoHE and complementary to our Centers of Excellence work, the School of Human Ecology Applied Master’s Program, was launched at the beginning of this academic year.  The program lets students customize their own course of study based on their professional goals. The goal is to provide a thoughtful balance between critical studies and the acquisition of professional skills, culminating in a capstone project done in collaboration with a community partner. The program commits to maintaining strong connections between community and professional advisors to ensure and increase the program’s ability to prepare graduates to have impactful careers.

Bonnie MacRitchie, Children’s Mental Health Program and Policy Analyst for the State of Wisconsin, briefs a Professional Skills course on Trauma-informed Care Principles.

Among other curricular and practical elements of this master’s degree Program, students are required to take nine (9) designated Professional Skills credits.  Thus, a series of courses has been developed to meet this need, anchored in community wisdom, field observations, and the ability to customize the learning to individual students’ areas of interest.  

The launch of these courses in Fall 2017 was successful and fun.  Instructor Mary Beth Collins, JD, MA, and collaborator Bakari Wallace, MSW and PhD candidate in the SoHE Civil Society and Community Studies program, designed and delivered three (3) 1-credit, 4-week units to kick off the series.  Upper-level undergrad and graduate students from a variety of programs on campus were invited to enroll and representatives from a host of master’s and PhD programs participated.

Here are some basics about these special Professional Skills Courses:

  • Each Unit lasts for 4-week and is focused on a discrete “Professional Skill”, with Thursday evening classes and one Saturday session per Unit.  
  • Students can take the Units “a la carte” for 1 credit, or sign up for as many as they wish!
  • Upper-level undergrad and graduate students from any field or major are invited to register and participate.

The model embraces five (5) key tactics:

  • Focus on a single key Professional Skill area applicable in a variety of fields;
  • Obtain a high-level background information framework for the Professional Skill area, focused on current and popular sources;
  • Learn about realities of the Professional Skill from various “Community Wisdom” sources (field observations; practitioner and community member presentations);
  • Engage in a respectful, professional learning community to gain experience and comfort with applying a critical lens to the relevant Professional Skill area;
  • Conduct a discrete application of skills and learning gained in the course to the student’s own personal career trajectory — culminating in a final project that ideally allows the student to “take home” from the class a useful tool or report for his or her future professional work.

The full list of Units being offered through a 3-semester cycle is as follows:

Fall 2017 Units (“A”)
1.    Strategies for Managing and Facilitating
2.    Interaction with the Public Sector and Understanding Regulatory Contexts
3.    Culturally Competent and Trauma-Informed Strategies

Spring 2018 Units (“B”)
1.    Creative Collaborations and Partnerships in Domestic and International Contexts
2.    Financial Management and Reporting Processes for Organizations
2.    Storytelling, Messaging, and Communication

Fall 2018 Units (“C”)
1.    Design Concepts for Mission-Based Enterprise
2.    Health and Wellness Principles and Applications
3.    Fundraising and Revenue Models

A Professional Skills course tours Madison East High School and meets Principal Mike Hernandez.

Another exciting course, “Nonprofit Board Leadership” is also being offered as an option to fulfill the Professional Skills requirement of our SoHE Applied Master’s program — this course places graduate students on nonprofit boards of directors while delivering coursework on best practices for boards and is offered in a 3-credit, 2-semester combined course.  

The Professional Skills courses draw heavily upon community experts and leaders and their wisdom about professional and lived realities; contributors who have opened their site doors to students as well as spoken in our classroom include publicly elected officials, organization executives, applied scholars, public servants, entrepreneurs, and more.  These contributors also help comprise the informal Community Advisory Group, which provides guidance and community connections to the SoHE Applied Master’s Program as a whole.

Should you have any questions about the Professional Skills courses, please contact Mary Beth Collins at marybeth.collins@wisc.edu.


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