Teaching What they Practice

Students discuss the profound impact of living and learning alongside North Park’s “practitioner faculty,” part–time instructors who bring their unique, full–time industry experiences to the classroom. Three of these professors explain why they won’t soon be quitting their day jobs.

Shannon Stubblefield

Of the 600+ part-time professors surveyed by the Chronicle last year, more than half agree with Bakken—the return on their investment in student lives is immeasurable. In spite of some of the challenges that come with balancing two demanding roles, 51 percent of respondents (spanning some 90 colleges and universities in the Chicago metropolitan area) were “satisfied,” and 17 percent were “very satisfied” with teaching.

For Shannon Stubblefield, director of annual and major gifts at the Greater Chicago Food Depository, SBNM professor, and new mom, the challenge of time management is a real one, but doesn’t compare to the joy of the rich interactions she experiences with her students.

“I can’t imagine teaching any other way,” says the southern California native, who earned her master’s in nonprofit leadership at the University of San Diego and got her start in fundraising at the McCormick Foundation.

“She has a great energy,” says MNA student Frances Caan G’2010, who was already working as a development professional when she took a fundraising class with Stubblefield. “The course was essentially about cultivating relationships with major donors,” says Caan.

The executive director of the Evanston Township High School Educational Foundation, Caan appreciated being able to apply what she was learning in class on a daily basis. “I basically helped start an educational foundation from scratch,” she explains. In her previous position at the C. G. Jung Institute of Chicago, an educational and training facility specializing in Jungian psychology, Caan had an opportunity to “wear many hats” at a small nonprofit early in her career. Still, she admits there was a lot she needed to learn, and Stubblefield has been instrumental in that process.

One of her assignments in Stubblefield’s class was to create a detailed business plan for her organization. “I learned about writing a case for support, prospect research, move management, cultivating major donors and then developing them into planned giving donors . . . all the basic, foundation assignments for fundraising in a small shop,” Caan describes. “It was right up my alley. Every major fundraiser has these steps to follow, and I wouldn’t have known it without her class.”

Most of Caan’s classmates were also serving at small organizations, so to glean Stubblefield’s expertise from working at a large–scale operation like the Greater Chicago Food Depository was helpful. In addition to providing students with pertinent reading material and articles on the latest trends, “Her approach to the class was very pragmatic,” notes Caan. “The case studies, mock interviews, and meetings she had us conduct were very realistic and helpful. I am certain many of us appreciated these ‘practice sessions.’”

As the president of an accredited professional organization called Women in Development, Caan even invited her former professor to present to its members last year. “We have monthly meetings with lunch, some business, and a full hour devoted to a speaker on different fundraising topics,” Caan explains. “At my request, our program co–chairs asked Shannon to present to our group. Not only was she very well–received in 2009, but she has also been invited back to speak in 2011.”

Stubblefield welcomes such invitations, and says she feels especially privileged, as a woman in leadership, to help mentor other women, providing advice, encouragement, and even networking opportunities.“I encourage all of my students to keep in touch, and many do,” Stubblefield says.

When recent graduate Jesse Bolinder G’2010 S’2010 landed his position as director of development at Covenant Heights Camp in Colorado, he was not shy about sending an email to Stubblefield to ask for her input on his fundraising questions. “I just asked her to get back in touch with me if it wouldn’t be inconvenient and if she had the time,” he says. “She responded with quite a bit of helpful information . . . I even used one of the exercises she taught us in class for a training we did with our board members.”

Although Bolinder admits he was initially ambivalent about Stubblefield’s discussion – and exercise-based teaching style (“sometimes I just wanted some good old-fashioned lecture,” he says) now, working in the fundraising field, he has a different perspective. “I have found that much of what she did and taught is very helpful, and I am grateful to have her as a source of guidance even after the fact.”

Shannon Stubblefield