MILWAUKEE – For a price that’s right, nine Wisconsinites are completing their two-year master’s degrees from Chicago’s Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership.
The first Milwaukee class through the program had students paying just $5,000 each, for two years in total. The next Milwaukee-based class will pay $6,500 each.
The nine current students from the first class are to each earn their master’s of arts in Jewish professional studies by September, most often with an emphasis in non-profit management. They’ve been taking once-a-week classes from visiting Chicago instructors, at the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center in Whitefish Bay, the Milwaukee Jewish Federation’s Helfaer Community Services Building, 1360 N. Prospect Ave., and at other locations in the local Jewish community.
Now, Spertus is set to initiate a second Wisconsin-based student group in the fall of 2017. The school reviews admissions applications on a rolling basis, but would prefer to see applications by June 30.
Ellie Gettinger, education director for Jewish Museum Milwaukee, a program of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, has an undergraduate degree from Stanford University in Jewish studies and knew she wanted a master’s degree. But with a full-time job and a family, it needed to fit into her life. After two years in the program, she notes the Wednesday night classes and a handful of intensive, three-day visits to Chicago did just that.
“It’s just been a really fabulous experience,” said Gettinger, when asked if she would recommend the program. It’s affordable too, she added. “I think it’s kind of a no-brainer,” she said.
“We’re aggressive about finding funding opportunities for those students,” said Tal Rosen, director of the Center for Jewish Leadership at the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership.
At $6,500, the two-year master’s program is deeply discounted from the $18,000 retail price tag. Rosen said the key is fellowships and scholarships that they have maintained on behalf of students.
“The program is for those working full time in the Jewish community and has a real emphasis on leadership and program skills,” Rosen said. Sometimes, particularly in Chicago, students will enter the program to help them make a career change into a professional Jewish career.
The content basically exists in one of two tracks – management, including fundraising and donor relations, and Jewish content. Gettinger’s classes included Aesthetics of Jewish Civilization, Working with People and Strategic Management.
She’s applied concepts from class at work. “It’s made me a little more deliberate and goal-setting in coming up with programs and what I want to achieve,” Gettinger said. “I think some of these strategy and evaluation pieces come into play.”
She also feels the classes have made her a better grant writer.
Rosen wants to help community members have a diverse and engaged community in 20 years.
“I think it’s just this wonderful opportunity to get people in the community together to talk about the growing and ever changing needs of Milwaukee,” he said. “We want to give you the knowledge and the skill sets to be more effective.”