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Lott Jumps To IU, Heads NPO Management Ph.D.

A scholar in philanthropy policy and charitable regulatory affairs, Cindy M. Lott has departed Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies to direct the nation’s first doctoral-level degree program in philanthropic leadership at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Lott’s association with Indiana University dates to 1989 when she earned her first academic degree, a Bachelor of Arts in comparative literature, at the university.

Lott left her position as academic director of the Nonprofit Management Program at Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies this past July after six years. She had designed and managed the Master of Science degree program in nonprofit management.

With an extensive professional background, encompassing legal, regulatory, nonprofit, education and academic positions, Lott said the constant is a focus on public good and mission-based work. Raised by educator parents who encouraged volunteerism and giving, Lott said her career has been shaped by working toward the public good and enabling others to do the same.

“One major reason I am so pleased to be directing this new Professional Doctorate in Philanthropic Leadership is that it represents another opportunity to work with seasoned leaders who seek the highest levels of educational attainment,” she said. “We will see what fantastic ideas and real-world initiatives emerge from cohorts of professionals combined with cutting-edge research in the philanthropic field.”

Erik Nelson, senior associate dean for academic affairs at Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies said of Lott: “We are grateful for Cindy’s service as program director for Nonprofit Management. In her time leading the program she drove innovations in the curriculum, including expanding the elective offerings while being the first to offer a DEI-centered (diversity, equity and inclusion) graduate course. We look forward to building on these efforts in the future.”

The school appointed Sarah Holloway, a senior lecturer on nonprofit financial management and social entrepreneurship at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, as interim program director for the M.S. in Nonprofit Management. 

Lott, in a LinkedIn post last month, announced she was honored to join “world-class colleagues” at Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

In addition to being appointed program director of the university’s new online Professional Doctorate in Philanthropic Leadership (PhilD), she will be Clinical Professor of Philanthropic Studies and a Stead Policy Fellow at Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, while continuing research in charitable regulatory policy.

“I cannot thank the faculty, staff, students, and alumni enough at both Columbia University’s MS in Nonprofit Management and Columbia Law School for our work together over the last seventeen years. I continue as a Policy Fellow at Urban Institute as well and look forward to collaborating across institutions in this next exciting iteration,” Lott wrote in LinkedIn post.

The 17-year reference was to Lott’s past professional work as a Columbia University adjunct professor and executive director and senior counsel to the National State Attorneys General Program at Columbia Law School.

In a prepared statement released by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Lott said: “This innovative new degree program affords an opportunity to seasoned leaders to integrate and expand upon the depth of prior knowledge and experiences that our student leaders will bring to the classroom, their peers, and the major challenges of our civil society. The PhilD will further strengthen the philanthropic sector and our communities, develop the current and next generation of leadership, and launch these leaders into the next phase of their social change careers.”

Lott was an inaugural policy fellow at Independent Sector and will continue as a senior pellow at the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute.

The new, three-year doctoral program on philanthropic leadership is designed to equip seasoned professionals in philanthropy, business, government, and other organizations to deepen and accelerate impact in charitable giving.

The 48-credit-hour doctoral program, to be capped at 25 students, was described in a release from the Lilly School of Philanthropy as involving a set curriculum delivered in year-round, sequential eight-week sessions for two years as an applied research project is pursued. Instead of a traditional dissertation, the final project, completed and presented in the program’s third year, “uses extant or new research to address a real-world problem within an organization, an area of practice, or a particular initiative that may serve as a model for other leaders and organizations.”

Amir Pasic, the Eugene R. Tempel Dean of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, said of Lott’s hiring, via a release: “We are delighted that Professor Lott is directing the PhilD. Her impressive knowledge and experience encompass teaching, research, policy engagement, governance, and regulation across many facets of leadership relevant to all who are curious about philanthropy and prepared to make an even bigger difference through their work. Her expertise and prowess will be significant assets as we launch this new degree.”

More information about the doctorate in philanthropic leadership can be found at:

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