Michelle Ahearne

Michelle Ahearne is a third-year doctoral student at the University of San Diego, pursuing a PhD in Leadership Studies with a specialization in Nonprofit and Philanthropic Leadership. She is also a Doctoral Research Assistant at the Caster Family Center for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Research at the Nonprofit Institute, working with San Diego nonprofits to strengthen their programs through conducting assessment, program design and evaluation.

Her interest areas lie in program design and evaluation, leadership and burnout in the nonprofit sector, and using reflective practices to help individuals and organizations reach their highest potential. Having been in both roles, she is particularly gifted in serving as a bridge builder and translator between nonprofit academics and practitioners.
Michelle has spent nearly 20 years serving the nonprofit sector in diverse capacities, including as an AmeriCorps member, donor, volunteer, program director, consultant and ten years as the executive director of a San Diego-based, national drug-prevention and character development organization. As a volunteer, she has served in an advisory capacity for Shakti Rising, a social change organization transforming the lives of women, girls and the larger community, as well as the Nonprofit Institute at the University of San Diego, and most recently for Group Relations International. She is currently a Big Sister through Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego and has been matched with her Little for seven years.

Michelle earned her MA in Nonprofit Leadership and Management from the University of San Diego and her BS in Human Service Studies with a certificate in Social Work from Cornell University. She earned her Certificate in Fundraising Management (CFRM) from the Fundraising School at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

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