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Seaver College Student Designs Diversity Training for Nonprofits

With the support of the Nonprofit Diversity Fellowship Program, Seaver College senior Amara West designed diversity, equity, and inclusion training for nonprofit organizations in the region. At the end of May, West completed her service as the first Nonprofit Diversity Fellow with the presentation of her research and training to Visionality, a local organization that serves nonprofits.

The Nonprofit Diversity Fellowship Program is designed to place an undergraduate nonprofit management minor who self-identifies with a historically underrepresented group onto the team of a local partner who works within the nonprofit sector. Fellows apply nonprofit theory learned in the classroom to real-world experiences. The fellowship includes a scholarship and stipend and is part of the Nonprofit Leadership Collaborative. Regan Schaffer, professor of organizational behavior and management and advisor of the nonprofit management minor, is the director of the Nonprofit Leadership Collaborative and oversees the fellowship.

“A couple of years ago, I collaborated on a study of Ventura County and saw that nonprofits were looking for better practices,” Schaffer says. “They wanted to increase the diversity within their organizations, but they didn’t know how. That sparked a conversation about creating this fellowship.”

West, who is majoring in sociology and minoring in both nonprofit management and sports medicine, went through the application and interview process and was hired in October 2020. She began her work in December and spent months researching and meeting with Pepperdine professors and community leaders. The first part of her training program introduces why diversity, equity, and inclusion are necessary and breaks down commonly misunderstood terms. The second stage requires nonprofits to assess themselves and the community to evaluate the nonprofits utilizing assessments that West developed. 

“I found with nonprofits that seeing an actual number value is helpful,” West shares. “They can give themselves a 95 out of 100, but if they look at their score from the community and it’s a 52, then there’s an obvious discrepancy. So the next step is to work with the nonprofit to decide what to do with that information. How are we going to develop a new mission statement, increase diversity, reallocate our funds to serve and represent the community better?”

West’s partnership with Visionality ensures that her work will impact many different nonprofit organizations. After this year’s successful pilot run, Schaffer anticipates continuing the program in the fall. 

“When I saw this fellowship, I knew that this was the best way I could give back during my last year at Pepperdine,” shares West. “I didn’t reflect on my experience until the very end because I was so entrenched in the work, but when it was over, Dr. Schaffer told me, ‘Look up and look at what you accomplished.’ And it was this moment of ‘Oh, I did this.’ It wasn’t just checking the last thing off on my degree but creating something that will impact the community. It was the perfect goodbye to Pepperdine.”

To learn more about the fellowship and other nonprofit opportunities, visit the nonprofit management minor website.