At an age when many professionals would be looking toward retirement, Janee Barrett is – once again – immersing herself in higher education. She already holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Wisconsin and Master of Architecture from Georgia Tech, and is now pursuing the online Effective Grant Proposal Writing course from the University of Notre Dame.
“I wish I would have known there was such a thing as a nonprofit industry or nonprofit career path when I was younger,” Barrett says. “I would never change my decision to earn my BFA and MArch, but the nonprofit path would have rounded out my education in a way that really suits my essential nature.”
Notre Dame’s online nonprofit courses cover a variety of subjects, from board leadership to grant proposal writing to fundraising strategies. Though they can be taken as stand-alone classes, each is part of a more comprehensive Nonprofit Executive Certificate Program.
“I enrolled in the grant proposal writing course after searching for a way to reinvent myself,” Barrett says. “When the real estate market collapsed in 2007-2008, a huge number of design, engineering and building professionals lost their jobs or couldn’t drum up work. I lost everything over a period of two or three years. I did some garden design and all sorts of odd jobs just to keep food on the table and remain a viable human being.”
“I’ve always had a connection with people who struggled. My father was a social worker and my mother was deeply involved with members of the Catholic community who needed help and representation. My life experiences had me constantly straddling the line between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. One day I was thinking about all this and it came to me that my love of creativity and service to others would be big benefits in a profession like grant writing. But I knew I’d need some formal education in that field.”
Effective Grant Proposal Writing provides instruction on the topics Barrett needed to learn, including:
Barrett did a thorough investigation before deciding on a Notre Dame program.
“I put out feelers for education in grant writing,” she says. “I searched for free or low-cost online classes since I didn’t have a steady income. But I soon realized the old saying is true – you get what you pay for. I wanted to learn and grow and be more productive. I wanted to use the gifts I’d been given. I wanted to invest in myself and a worthwhile online learning experience.”
Fortunately, Barrett found Notre Dame’s online program and got in touch with an enrollment representative.
“Notre Dame is recognized as a top University to be taken seriously. I’ve had that awareness of the school since I was a girl. And my enrollment representative was outstanding; she hung in there with me for more than a year while I pulled together the funds for a new laptop, high-speed internet and program fees.”
Like many of those who participate in Notre Dame’s certificate programs, Barrett found some major advantages to studying online.
“Since I live in a rural area and don’t have reliable transportation, choosing an online program was a no-brainer,” she says. “I really enjoyed the scheduling flexibility, as well as the ability to access the recorded lectures and classroom sessions at any time of the day or night.”
Looking toward the future, Barrett sees the possibility of even more education. Which isn’t surprising for someone with her obvious passion for lifelong learning.
“I am seriously considering enrolling in the full Executive Certificate in Nonprofit Fund Development program. This life and career path has become very important to me. I had previously addressed my desire to serve by participating in community efforts and volunteer groups, but getting a formal nonprofit education opens up a lot of new possibilities.”
When it comes to giving advice to prospective online students, Barrett focuses on passion and motivation.
“Follow what you hunger for in your heart. Give it all you’ve got to give. Be fully present in each moment to see the gifts and opportunities it offers, and to understand where it may lead you.”