Nonprofit Leadership Institute Accelerates Graduates’ Success

A group of professionals sit at a boardroom style table watching an African American woman at the white board giving a presentation.
UAlbany's Emerging Nonprofit Leadership Accelerator is celebrating its fifth anniversary of educating the Capital Region's next generation of nonprofit professionals.

By Michael Parker

ALBANY, N.Y. (Oct. 25, 2022) — From spurring economic development and revitalization to improving healthcare outcomes, nonprofit organizations often play a vital role in advancing the general wellbeing of the communities they serve. This is readily apparent in New York’s Capital Region, and one of the driving factors behind the creation of UAlbany’s Institute of Nonprofit Leadership and Community Development.

Launched in July of 2016, the Institute is a collaborative of UAlbany’s Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, the Colleges of Public Health, Social Welfare, Criminal Justice, Business, and Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cyber Security, Albany Law School and Albany Medical College.

With a focus on advancing the University’s commitment to engagement and service, the Institute serves as a hub for nonprofit training and professional development through lecture series, workshops and its Emerging Nonprofit Leadership Accelerator (ENLA), a rigorous leadership and development program that aims to cultivate the next generation of nonprofit professionals in the Capital Region and beyond.

“ENLA Fellows engage in team-building, professional soft skills workshops and technical trainings facilitated by subject-matter experts,” said Pamela Skirpak, executive director of the Institute of Nonprofit Leadership and Community Development. “The accelerator is designed foster engagement in this shared nonprofit space, by having fellows participate in small peer learning groups and receive one-on-one mentorship and career advisement during the course of the program as we prepare them for future leadership roles.”

Now in its fifth year, ENLA has cultivated an alumni network of more than 80 graduates in the Capital Region alone, while also providing a nonprofit leadership accelerator “microcredential” from UAlbany that can be displayed on resumes and online job boards or employment-focused social media sites such as LinkedIn.

Ben Williams speaks at a podium during the 2022 Emerging Nonprofit Leadership Accelerator graduation ceremony.
Emerging Nonprofit Leadership Accelerator graduate Ben Williams

Two such graduates include C Romeo of the New York Library Association and the Connect Center for Youth Executive Director Ben Williams.

Romeo started their organizing and advocacy career at 19 years old when they were the lead campus organizer of the Save Our Saint Rose Movement. After, they served as a Public Affairs and Political Research Intern at SKD Albany, a research and writing assistant and a campaign manager for J Strategies, and a 2019 CWGCS Women & Public Policy fellow placed with the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Currently, Romeo is the director of communications and member engagement for the New York Library Association. They also serve as an advisory council member for Equality NY and are the chair of the Youth, Families, and Aging Protections Commission. Romeo received a B.A. in English from The College of Saint Rose and earned an M.A. in Political Science at the Rockefeller College of Public Policy and Public Affairs.

"I joined ENLA at a pivotal point in my professional and personal life where I wanted to join a community of other thoughtful, intentional and passionate individuals who were also reimagining their role as a nonprofit leader,” said Romeo. “Through this program, I was provided the space and the time to question, grow and learn from others in a learning environment that embraced where we were at in our professional journey. Now, looking forward to the future of the nonprofit sector — we are at a crossroads of breaking the status quo of our industry and moving towards developing purpose-driven communities within our respective nonprofits. ENLA fosters the leaders we need today in our sector and I'm humbled to be one of them.”

An Albany Academy alum, Williams has a long history of working with young people. At the YMCA, he developed and implemented various youth programming and instructed culinary workshops. In 2017 he was awarded the Adult Achiever Award at the Capital District YMCA Black & Latino Achievers Banquet. He has also worked at Parsons Child & Family Center (now Northeast Parent & Child) with students who face behavioral and mental challenges. Williams has spent time volunteering at Vanderheyden with a similar population. He also has experience with individual tutoring, local mentoring and student advocacy.

“Personally, I came to ENLA for hard skills and networking. I got some of those, but the soft skills I was able to develop were way more valuable. ENLA was an amazing personal growth journey,” said Williams “Through the semester, I got to explore my humanity through and through. I laughed, I cried, I celebrated, I mourned, I breathed…I was human. Through the chaos, ENLA made space for me to connect with me. It also accelerated the growth of my organization. During my cohort, I was blessed to win the 2022 Philanthropist of the Year award from the United Way of the Greater Capital Region. I am forever grateful for this experience, and have highly recommended it to other emerging nonprofit leaders.”

The Emerging Nonprofit Leadership Accelerator is in the process of hosting information sessions, with the 2023 accelerator application process opening in November. Once final selections are made, the 2023 class of ENLA fellows will begin their coursework in January. ENLA, in carrying out its mission is committed to building an inclusive and diverse cohort and encourage individuals identifying as black, indigenous, people of color, LGBTQIA, all gender and gender identities people with disabilities, religious minorities, and/or under-represented identities to apply.