MNCL Alumni and Student Profiles

Cindy Beecher, MNCL studentCindy Beecher

Upcoming MNCL Graduate - May 2020 

Program Coordinator, Global Exploration for Educators Organization

Cindy Beecher is gaining a new perspective on her career thanks to the Master of Nonprofit and Civic Leadership program at Drury University. Beecher currently works full-time for a nonprofit that encourages educators to travel abroad.

I studied foreign language education in my undergraduate degree and ended up finding even more of a passion for nonprofit work,” Beecher says. “I came to Drury to deepen my knowledge of how to run a successful nonprofit organization. When I found this program, it seemed like the perfect fit to prepare me to be an effective nonprofit executive.”

Beecher, 30, received her Bachelor of Science in Education from Missouri State University. After graduation, she taught English in South America and Europe, then returned to Springfield to teach Spanish at the college level. With the knowledge she gained from her teaching and travel experiences, Beecher eventually transitioned from the classroom to the nonprofit world, including a stint at United Way of the Ozarks.

She began furthering her education by joining Drury’s MNCL program in the fall of 2018, where she also became a member of the Leadership Springfield Signature Class 37. She will be the first MNCL graduate to have taken advantage of Drury’s new partnership with Leadership Springfield – earning three graduate credit hours toward her MNCL degree thanks to her Leadership Springfield experience.

Beecher joined the staff at Global Exploration for Educators Organization (GEEO) in December 2018, where she currently serves as program coordinator. GEEO creates opportunities for teachers to participate in educational travel programs and helps them bring global education and diverse perspectives back to their classrooms. As the program coordinator, Beecher is the main point of contact for all of the teachers who travel with the organization and provides resources to help them bring those global experiences back to the classroom.

Since joining the MNCL program, Beecher says she’s learned practical lessons that have applied to her career in the nonprofit sector. But just as important is the advice and mentorship she’s received along the way from both the faculty and the many working professionals and nonprofit leaders who speak to and work with MNCL classes.

“A lot of us get into the nonprofit industry because we want to ‘save the world’,” she says. “One of our faculty members told us to change that phrase to ‘save a world.’ That has completely changed my perspective on nonprofit work. We may never reach our overall mission to ‘save the world,’ but if we can make a world of difference in one person's life, then we are making progress.”

Beecher will graduate in May 2020, and praises Drury for its personalized approach to the MNCL program.

“The faculty at Drury goes above and beyond to make your experience relevant and personally enriching,” Beecher says. “The coursework is customizable to your specific interests in the nonprofit sector, which allows an individual to focus on the skills they want to develop, rather than a one-size-fits-all education.”

Story by Madi Johnson, marketing and communications graduate assistant.

Anastasiya Gulak

Anastasiya Gulak on the Drury University campus.MNCL Graduate 2019

Program Assistant, Open World Program - American Councils for International Education

Anastasiya Gulak ‘19 could see the finished puzzle in her head – she just needed to find the right pieces.

“I knew I wanted to work in the international education or development field,” says the 27-year-old as she walks along the streets of Washington, D.C. “I just didn’t know how to get there.”

Emigrating from Ukraine with her family at the age of 12, Gulak wanted to stay close to home for college. She picked up her undergrad in global studies with an emphasis on political science and environmental issues at Missouri State University. That lead to her first internship in the nation’s capital and an introduction to nonprofits.

“I wasn’t sure where to go after my global studies degree. Being in that nonprofit world opened my eyes and I knew I needed to understand it,” she says. “It turns out, Drury University had the perfect puzzle piece for me.”

Gulak graduated in 2019 with her Master of Nonprofit & Civic Leadership, leading to her current role with the American Councils for International Education.

“I was really able to develop an understanding of how nonprofits work and function,” she says. “I was developing my understanding of the bigger picture and began to see how I could use that in real life.”

At the international nonprofit that focuses on exchanges and education, Gulak works with diverse professionals, many of whom are from Eurasian and Central Asian countries, through a program called Open World. The program is administered by the Open World Leadership Center and supported by the U.S. Congress. Fluent in three languages and in the process of learning French, Gulak helps incoming professionals prepare for their 10-day stay in various U. S. cities where they are paired with their professional counterparts to learn about American values and democratic institutions.

While her education may be complete, Gulak still has big plans for the puzzle that is life.

“This is a big city with lots of people. There are lots of personal and professional development opportunities for me as well,” she says, noting the DC atmosphere inspires her creativity. “In the next few years, I hope to move up from a less administrative role and to more idea work. I want to look at the big picture.

“And when the opportunity comes, I know I will be ready, because of what I learned at Drury.”

Mackenzie Hernandez 

MNCL Graduate August 2017

Internal Communications Manager, Bass Pro Group
Formerly Executive Director at Missouri Safe and Sober

Why did you choose Drury University for your master’s program?

After graduating from Harding University in 2014, I had no plans to pursue a master’s degree. Instead, I started working for Safe and Sober. The first few months of my career were challenging as I quickly learned that nonprofit work has its own set of obstacles and opportunities that I did not learn about in my undergraduate program. I needed to understand important fundamentals, like how to work with a board of directors, measure program success and fundraise. I attended Drury’s Nonprofit Communication Conference in the fall of 2014, and learned about the Master of Nonprofit and Civic Leadership degree. I immediately made plans to start the program in 2015.

How has the MNCL program directly benefited you in your current work situation?

The MNCL program covers important issues like ethics, governance and philanthropy. Outside of the classroom, I have had the opportunity to interview, observe and complete projects for other nonprofit organizations in our community. Working with these area nonprofit organizations has taught me principles that I can take back to Safe and Sober. The program has given me the chance to network with key leaders in our community that I would not have otherwise met.

What surprised you the most about the MNCL program?

The MNCL program is small enough that students get to know each other. Many of my classmates are already working for area nonprofit organizations. We serve as a support group for one another – not only in our classes, but in our careers, as well. Many classes include various announcements from fellow students about upcoming fundraisers or volunteer opportunities. I look forward to class because of the content and I enjoy spending time with other professionals outside of my daily work hours.

Advice you would give students currently contemplating the MNCL program: 

The MNCL program is perfect for professionals who are seeking a long-term nonprofit leadership role, whether that includes becoming an executive director or serving as a board member. Nonprofit work is complex, and this program offers an opportunity to ask questions about an organization that may not come up on a daily basis. I would encourage interested students to set up a meeting with Dr. Charles Taylor, program director, to learn more about the value of the MNCL degree.

Amy (Qualls) Landrigan 

MNCL Graduate August 2017

Regional Director - Psychiatric Medical Care 
Bachelor's of Science in Psychology & Gerontology, Missouri State University

Why did you choose the Master of Nonprofit and Civic Leadership degree? 

I felt I had only just scratched the surface of the nonprofit world and that was not enough. I wanted to make sure that I continued my career in the nonprofit world as a leader, and as a professional ready to not just “help people,” but make a positive impact. I aim to change lives for the better, make measureable progress, and develop sustainable strategies for social community change. The MNCL provided the knowledge, tools, and hands on experience needed for me to become a leader in my community and my field.

What surprised you the most about the MNCL program?

The hands-on experience. Almost every project, paper, or program I participated in involved the participation of a local nonprofit. I was able to be a sponge and soak up all the knowledge these nonprofits had to offer me. I had the opportunity to act as a consultant and assist several nonprofits as part of this program.

It is too easy for people to live within a bubble, to only work within their comfort zone, but this program pushes you to learn from others, submerge yourself in new situations, and learn from others in your field that may not have the same focus as you.

What did you gain from completing this two-semester collaborative project?

I gained confidence in myself as a nonprofit leader. Before the MNCL program, I was seen and treated more as a student in the nonprofit world. As I learned more, I began to be seen and respected as a nonprofit expert and consultant. During my capstone collaborative project, I was able to assist my partner nonprofit (RSVP) in its evolution as an agency. It was an amazing experience. I am still working closely with RSVP and am now a member of the RSVP Advisory Board.