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Workshop draws nonprofit leaders
NGSCU class is first held at Cumming MBA center
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Forsyth County News

Watching Billy Lachnit work the audience, it looked as though he had been instructing for years.

That wasn't the case.

"In our first dry run, I was stuttering," Lachnit said about practicing for Thursday's class. "But just practice, practice makes perfect.

"This was a great experience. This is probably what work is going to be like, getting up in front of people, telling them and selling them."

Lachnit, a marketing major, was one of four division leaders and 17 students from North Georgia College & State University to participate in the Mike Cottrell School of Business' first Nonprofit Leadership Development Workshop.

The workshop was designed to be mutually beneficial, both to business students learning leadership skills, and for rising leaders of nonprofit organizations looking for tools to get ahead.

"It's called a leadership training group and they want to make it a permanent part of the [school] to try to attract business leaders of the future and more nonprofit organizations to teach them some skills," said Joshua Preston, university spokesman.

"This is a really hands-on practical experience for our senior- and junior-level students. I think it will help them in their careers."

Representatives of about 30 nonprofits from the Forsyth County area attended the five-hour workshop. Between group discussions, movie clips and Play-Doh activities, the students were able to inform as well as entertain attendees.

"The students did a wonderful job," said Nicole McCoy, executive director of Forsyth County Community Connection.

"Their energy, their fresh approach to the nature of nonprofit work was really great. Anytime we can gain knowledge in different ways of looking at things is always a great experience."

A United Way agency, Community Connection serves as a networking resource, working with other nonprofits to identify resources and needs, and how services can be improved to meet the needs of families.

"They were so very highly motivated and kept the energy up throughout the day," McCoy said of the students. "It really made it a fantastic experience at a very affordable price to nonprofits in the community."

The leadership class is taught by Mark Jordan, who turned his classroom into a business for the workshop.

"As the CEO, they have to brief me," he said. "So at the end of each week, we have a staff meeting and I required each of the division chiefs to say what they did this last week, what they are planning to do next week, what are their challenges.

"They're building foundational things that I will take into next year's class."

Students were divided into four groups, each focusing on different areas of leadership needs: team building; creative problem solving; organizational change; and emotional intelligence.

Nonprofits were interviewed in advance to determine their needs. After the information was gathered and presentations prepared, the students had a dress rehearsal for about 20 nonprofit leaders, business officials and faculty members in north Georgia.

"Once they went through the dry run and saw they could do this, their confidence level just skyrocketed," Jordan said.

Based on the program's success, Jordan said he plans to continue it on an annual basis, and likely will develop similar activities to increase community presence.  

"The theories and processes of my teaching philosophies is a Chinese proverb that goes, 'Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand,'" he said. "That's what I'm trying to do with this class, so they understand and they'll never forget it because they experienced it."

Thursday's workshop was the first university program held in the new MBA center, which is on the third floor of Cumming City Hall. Based on its success, it won't be the last, Preston said.

"There's going to be a lot more of these professional-based conferences and workshops like this, and hopefully we can tie the undergraduates doing this, to the grad students and really have that mix," he said.

"Forsyth is our growth spot ... the whole idea is to have more accessibility and Forsyth County is where our target really is."