Responding to Change in Higher Education: The Case of the Nonprofit Leadership Studies Program at Murray State University and Program Identity


  • Peter C. Weber Auburn University
  • Robert F. Long Murray State University



nonprofit education, service learning, student philanthropy, higher education administration


Nonprofit studies programs have grown over the past three decades in both number and size. Although scholars have devoted increasing attention to both the field of study and its infrastructure, not much attention has been devoted to the administration of these programs. This study reviews the over three-decade-long history and development of the nonprofit leadership studies program at Murray State University and reflects on the various challenges the program has faced, including enrollment concerns, program reorganization, and declining resources. This analysis highlights the importance of developing a clear program identity, which in this case was shaped around the concepts of service learning and student philanthropy. The conclusions extrapolate broad recommendations that can serve as a road map to similar programs that face common budgetary and enrollment challenges in a changing higher education landscape.

Subscribe to JNEL

Author Biographies

Peter C. Weber, Auburn University

Dr. Peter C. Weber is an assistant professor of philanthropy and nonprofit studies at Auburn University. Prior to joining Auburn University, he was assistant professor and director of the nonprofit leadership studies program at Murray State University. His research interests include the institutionalization of nonprofit education, civil society in contemporary and historical perspective, and philanthropic innovations. He has published extensively in edited volumes and peer-reviewed journals, including in the field’s premier scholarly and teaching journals Voluntas, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Journal of Public Affairs Education, and Journal of Nonprofit Education and Leadership

Robert F. Long, Murray State University

Dr. Robert F. Long has dedicated his career to helping people help themselves improve the quality of their lives and the communities in which they live. The central commitment has been to the development of the next generation of leaders, preparing them for the challenges they will encounter and helping strengthen their capacity to positively impact the lives of others. Bob retired in 2016 after serving as the Visiting Distinguished Professor of Nonprofit Leadership at Murray State University, in Murray, Kentucky. Prior to joining Murray State in 2008, Bob spent sixteen years with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation where he served as vice president for programs. His portfolio included the areas of philanthropy, community leadership, civic engagement, and traditions of giving. Before joining the Foundation, Bob was engaged as the endowed McElroy Professor of Youth Leadership Studies at the University of Northern Iowa. He started his career as a youth development specialist with the Cooperative Extension Service in Illinois and Nevada.





Program and Center Administration