MA/MBA Alumni Utilizing Interdisciplinary Degree at Local Nonprofits

Learn how six SMU MA/MBA program alumni are making a difference in the community at Dallas-area nonprofit organizations.


Meadows’ unique interdisciplinary degrees are preparing their graduates for careers at impressive companies making a difference. One such degree is the MA/MBA: a two-year program that combines a Master of Arts in Arts Management and an MBA into one hybrid graduate degree from SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts and the Cox School of Business, respectively. This degree is a natural next step for many Corporate Communication and Public Affairs (CCPA) majors at Meadows.

The MA/MBA program effectively positions its graduates to excel in the nonprofit sector, and many alumni are using their degrees to make a difference right here in Dallas. Mission Advancement, a nonprofit consulting firm, was founded in 2007 by Jennifer Ducate Lehman ’96 and her husband Schuyler Lehman to assist nonprofits in their growth trajectory and ultimate fundraising success.

“Every client we work with is unique in size and mission, and unique in their needs,” explained Lehman ’96. “Whether a client is embarking upon a major fundraising initiative, needs help strengthening their annual fundraising operations or is looking to train their staff and volunteers, it is our team’s unique skills that bring the greatest value to our clients.”

Lehman soon realized that the tailored education graduates receive in the MA/MBA program would make them incredible assets to Mission Advancement, and MA/MBA alumni Natalie Voigts ’18 and Chris Currens ’22 later joined the team, already understanding their clients’ distinctive needs.

Jennifer Ducate Lehman ’96, Natalie Voigts ’18, Chris Currens ’22

Boski Sharma ’18, Greg Oertel ’15, Bree Miller ’22

“The MA/MBA emphasizes training well-rounded arts or nonprofit professionals and courses through the program are offered in strategic planning, financial management, fundraising, marketing, and more,” said Voigts ’18. “To understand the full picture of a healthy nonprofit organization is critical to our work at Mission Advancement, and I have used principles from these courses time and time again.”

It was these same courses that prepared three alumni to join Communities Foundation of Texas (CFT), a nonprofit organization that aims to improve the lives of all people in their community by growing community giving, expanding community impact and advancing community equity. This mission is largely met through providing and planning ample giving opportunities. CFT leaders, like Meadows’ Bree Miller ’22, Greg Oertel ’15 and Boski Sharma ’18, work with donors, nonprofits and philanthropy-focused businesses in order to create a thriving community.

“The MA/MBA program helps you develop a strong business acumen along with relationship-building skills which are essential to successfully lead a nonprofit organization towards the path of growth and sustainability,” explained Sharma ’18, who did her MA/MBA internship at CFT in 2018 and returned to the organization as a Donor Relations Officer in 2020. “I regularly use the skills I garnered through my strategy and data analytics courses on the MBA side for building business development plans and presentations and I apply the learnings from the fundraising and marketing courses offered on the MA side to inform my decision making about the asset growth and advancement of my organization.”

Our MA/MBA alumni have been heavily involved in big projects bringing success to their respective companies. This summer, Mission Advancement acquired another nonprofit/mission-centered consulting firm and have a goal of securing $5 billion in funding for nonprofit organizations by 2032 and will be expanding their staff by about 25%. Employees at Communities Foundation of Texas are gearing up for their 2022 North Texas Giving Day event, which takes place this Thursday, September 22. NTX Giving Day is the largest online giving event in the nation and last year, CFT helped raise a record-breaking $66 million dollars benefiting more than 3,300 nonprofits.

To learn more about the MA/MBA program at SMU, please click here.