Preparing Students for Careers in the Third Sector: Critical Teaching and Learning Practice


  • Mary Beth Collins UW-Madison Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies
  • Garret Zastoupil Northland College



Nonprofit Education, Third Sector, Civil Society, Critical Pedagogy, Androgogy, community engaged


The University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies (the “Center”) has helped to expand or create new courses for two degree programs within a School of Human Ecology: the undergraduate Community and Nonprofit Leadership Bachelor of Arts degree program, and the Applied Master of Science in Human Ecology degree program. A post-baccalaureate Capstone Certificate program was then approved and offered, based on the set of courses that the Center has developed. Courses to meet the needs of these programs were developed with a focus on critical pedagogies and an expanded notion of subject matter, relying on community-based learning, praxis applications, and course structures which accommodate a diverse community of learners and contributors. This paper will examine how these course models and some of their key features and approaches advance best practices for applied learning in the field of nonprofit and community studies. Promising pedagogical features and strategies of the courses which the authors recommend for course design in this field include: decentering academic knowledge in favor of practitioner and community wisdom and engagement; emphasizing the value of the learning community as a source of diverse perspective and expertise; and critical consciousness development and practical skills building through reflection, action, and praxis—all taking into account the skills, experiences, and needs of adult learners.