Former Journalist Turned Teacher Focuses On Nonprofit Sector

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript, Okla.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Diana Hartley, the University of Oklahoma’s first professor of practice in the Nonprofit Management Program says nonprofits appeal to students looking for a “compassionate career,” but they are businesses and, in many ways, must be run like businesses.

The Norman Transcript, Okla.

One out of 10 jobs are with nonprofit organizations, said Diana Hartley, the University of Oklahoma’s first professor of practice in the Nonprofit Management Program.

“If you want to earn a paycheck, you can do that anywhere,” Hartley said. “But if you want to make a difference, maybe a career in the nonprofit sector is right for you.”

Some may think jobs in the nonprofit sector are a poor choice during bad economic times, but Hartley said less public funding doesn’t mean fewer jobs.

“The perspective that I look at it from, if the state dollars are not there to go to nonprofits, the need is still going to be there,” she said. “I think the demand for their services is going to be greater than ever. You could argue that it will create more job opportunities for students, certainly within the fundraising arena, program management and volunteer coordination.”

Nonprofits appeal to students looking for a “compassionate career,” Hartley said, but they are businesses and, in many ways, must be run like businesses. Still, the human factor can’t be ignored when looking at the demand for college classes on nonprofit management.

“I don’t think [career choice] should be based on how much money you’re going to make when you get out of college,” Hartley said. “If you do what you like, it doesn’t feel like drudgery. I see too many people walking around in life like they’re on the way to a funeral when they’re on the way to their jobs.”

Since the establishment of her position in fall 2015, OU students can get a minor in nonprofit studies or they can declare it as a major and combine nonprofit and public administration, Hartley said.

Long before Hartley’s career took her into the nonprofit sector, she experienced it as a volunteer. The career path to becoming a professor who will mentor students in nonprofit management was not a direct line for Hartley. Some might even call it serendipitous.

Hartley studied journalism at OU during the 1980s. Her first job out of college was as a newspaper photographer and reporter in Elk City. From news reporting, she moved into public relations, community education and eventually morphed into nonprofit work.

“I haven’t been afraid to try a lot of different jobs,” she said. “The career change really was when I went to work for the city of Oklahoma City. I was the marketing communications director for the Oklahoma City parks and recreation department.”
In that role, she had the nonprofits Myriad Gardens Foundation and the Friends of the Martin Nature Park under her umbrella of care.

“That position really was when I made that transition into more community education and the intersection of nonprofit and city government,” she said. “My career, even in newspaper, was about how to add quality of life.”

In addition to seven years with Oklahoma City, Hartley spent seven years at the Moore-Norman Technology Center as marketing communications director. She also worked at Sarkeys Foundation, which provides grant funding to nonprofits and educational programs such as trainings, retreats and conferences for nonprofits.

“That’s how I became an adjunct at OU,” she said. “I started out teaching nonprofit management, then OU created a professor of practice for me.”

Hartley also had served as executive director of the Oklahoma Women’s Coalition.

“They did a good job of really working with policy change around everything from equal pay for women to how domestic violence victims are treated by the court system,” Hartley said of the Women’s Coalition.

As a teacher, she hopes to inspire the next generation.

“Most of the mentors in my life have been males,” she said. “It’s because so many business and community leaders have primarily been males. Now we’re seeing more women move into those roles. I feel honored that a lot of people look to me as a mentor.”

She said she has had good mentors in her life who made a difference for her.

“My dad was certainly one, and the superintendent, Frank Coulter, at Moore-Norman Technology Center was one of the most influential,” she said. “Things he said to me, I will carry for the rest of my life.
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I want to do that for as many people as I can.”

Hartley said her advice can be bought with a cup of coffee and some time to chat.

“I just had a former student come to my office on campus at the beginning of February to tell me how influential I’d been in her career decision,” she said. “Of course, I cried like a baby. I try to live my life to be a difference-maker.”

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