By Terri Hughes-Lazzell
Kellie Boyd has always liked helping people. That’s why she studied psychology at Michigan State University and then earned a master’s degree in counseling from MSU. She has worked most of her career with nonprofit organizations focused on counseling and assisting those in need.
As her career developed, Boyd has taken on more administrative leadership positions and currently is executive director of Disability Network Oakland & Macomb.
That’s when she realized that to be more effective she needed to go back to college for a degree—but not one in psychology and counseling. She needed to better understand the business side of nonprofit work.
“I never had a business background, just a background in social work. But I was running the organization and needed more understanding of finance and accounting, as well as strategy,” Boyd said. “After six years in the organization, I knew I wanted to be a better leader. I knew I could learn more.”
That’s when Boyd returned to her alma mater to look at business degree options. Michigan State University was the only choice for her. “I am a Spartan,” she said, smiling. “I got a great education that I have used. I knew if I were going to add another degree, I would get that same great education from MSU’s (Broad) business college.
So, her choice came down to the Full-Time MBA or Executive MBA education. She chose the Executive MBA program in the Broad College of Business so she could continue working, but still have time in class with peers and professors. She will graduate in 2015.
The first day she stepped back on campus as a student in the program, Boyd wasn’t sure she could do what she had set out to do and earn her MBA.
“I realized I knew nothing about accounting and our first classes included accounting,” she said. “I had a good team, and they helped me learn what I needed. I told them I would bring the human side of business to the table if they helped me with the business side.”
Because of an emphasis on teamwork, the Broad College’s Executive MBA program places students in a cohort of six people who work together for the entire program. Teams are put together by administrators with a focus on diversity in backgrounds, gender, and culture. In addition to her background in nonprofit services, Boyd’s team includes people with backgrounds in finance, engineering, and supply chain management. She believes her teammates have learned as much from her as she has from them when it comes to human resources and ethical issues.
One of Boyd’s greatest classroom achievements was learning the accounting that she had once seen as a foreign concept. “I (now) understand accounting, so when an auditor hands me a report, I get it. I understand our finances,” she said.
That was a large part of her journey to earn her MBA. As her responsibilities grew in her nonprofit work, she wanted to completely understand the finances of the program. She wanted to be confident when she reported to the funders. She wanted them to realize not only could they be confident in the program information she was reporting, but also that the business side of the nonprofit organization and its finances were being handled in the same professional manner.
“I wanted to be more balanced and see the whole picture,” she explained. “I chose to be more well-rounded, and because of that I learned other things. I learned my leadership style and how to use that. And I learned how to think differently from both the program side and the business side.”
Disability Network Oakland & Macomb works with people with disabilities, assisting them in transitioning from high school to adult life, working with employers, and independent living services.
Boyd oversees the organization and its employees and serves as community liaison. Earning her MBA expanded her skills—giving her the confidence to make decisions for the nonprofit organization to move it forward in its mission.
“I will leverage my degree going forward,” she said.