MURRAY, Ky. — Murray State University’s Nonprofit Leadership Studies (NLS) graduates were recently asked to reflect on their career journeys, the impact of their work and their aspirations for the future.
This is the fourth of an eight-part series by Visiting Distinguished Professor of Nonprofit Leadership Dr. Bob Long, with an additional four stories to be published in the months to come. Each piece will feature a Q&A with a program graduate and tells the story of their commitment to making the world a better place for us all.
Part four tells the story of alumnus Nikkous Crump, who graduated in May of 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in nonprofit leadership and in May of 2018 with a Master of Science in Human Development and Leadership. He lives in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee and currently is actively engaged in the processes of applying to doctoral programs in higher education leadership.
Long: How did the NLS program at Murray State University help guide, inspire, and support you?
Crump: I give the highest recognition to the NLS program and especially the faculty for introducing me to the world of community engagement and what the work of the nonprofit sector really means. The program at Murray State helped guide me towards my calling in life. The joy that comes with helping others is my purpose. Any ideas I had for my future, any support that I needed for my commitments, and any creative response I had were always inspired and enthusiastically encouraged. The NLS program opened my eyes to the many ways that communities can be empowered to address the challenges and opportunities they face every day. I learned about the critical role of community-benefit organizations and the potential for quality partnerships with the government and business sectors is making the world a better place. I came to Murray State with a commitment to others, and I left with an understanding of the many roles that I could play in realizing my dreams of a life of service.
Long: Tell us about the work you’re doing today. How has your degree helped advance your career?
Crump: I came to Murray State in the fall of 2011 to play football, which I did for two seasons, a part of my long journey in team sports and group leadership. After this, I joined the Army National Guard in part to help pay for college and to continue my personal development as a follower and leader. Being a part of a team with a broader commitment to the community was an important part of my learning journey. I graduated with my degree in Nonprofit Leadership Studies in spring of 2016. I went directly on to get my Master’s degree in Human Development and Leadership in December 2018. The program of study helped me better understand the role of higher education in community building and its alignment with my growing personal commitments to that mission.
I was one of those guys who thought football was going to be my ticket to financial gain and fulfillment in life, but once I stopped playing football, to be honest, I was kind of lost in trying to find myself and my true passion. Then I met the Nonprofit Leadership Studies program and its many dedicated students, who helped me see the range of opportunities to serve a higher calling. Through courses and service learning activities, I began to understand what the program was really all about and the type of work and life fulfillment that comes with it. I began to volunteer more, give back more and ultimately, I felt myself becoming a better person. I began to understand what my life’s passion and purpose might be.
I jumped right into the program and got involved in a variety of amazing local nonprofit organizations that helped me grow and develop. My time with United Way, NeedLine, The Humane Society, The Rotary Club and several organizations supported by the Murray State Giving Back Endowment encouraged my commitments and strengthened my confidence that serving the community is my future. This was complemented by a range of service projects that were a part of Greek life on campus and my membership in Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. I look back now at all I learned from team sports, military service, service learning activities, fraternity philanthropy, and my continuing connection to my home community in Memphis as the foundation upon which my future is being built — Murray State University and the Nonprofit Leadership Studies program.
Long: Describe some of your biggest accomplishments in nonprofit leadership since graduation.
Crump: Since graduating from Murray State, I would say my biggest accomplishments would be my continued work with the United Way of the Mid-South. Moving home to Memphis and being among friends and family after over five years in Murray, United Way gave me the opportunity to quickly engage in countless charitable events and the chance to make personal financial contributions. It allowed me to be reconnected with my community and a chance to apply all that I learned from my Murray experience, working to make Memphis a better community.
Through the NLS program at Murray State I found my passion to serve the community and the confidence in my capacity to do so. I want nothing more than to give back and help my community as much as possible. I realized that I want to do more than deliver programs and services. I want to be involved in changing the systems that challenge and limit communities to improve. I want to be an advocate for change, improving the systems and policies that have a broader impact. Back in Memphis and involved with United Way, encouraged me to explore a leadership role in local government. I began to build my campaign to make a run for City Council. I wanted to make a real big impact with a true change for my city. I began to put together a powerful team with the eagerness, passion and enthusiasm to bring about change. While my first campaign fell short, it demonstrated in real terms that I was on the right track in wanting to be involved in system leadership.
Long: What sort of impact has your work had in the community?
Crump: Although I have only been back a year, I believe the amount of volunteering and commitment to my community has made significant impact, while helping inform my plans for the future. I am a part of real positive change. The work with United Way opened the door to other engagements. I joined the Boy and Girls Club in my community to have an even greater impact in the neighborhood where I grew up. The biggest impact is on the quality of life for the children and parents from my community. I believe that my example of community leadership also has a positive impact in a neighborhood that is hungry for change. I want to be a positive influence in changing the negative narrative that has been in place for a long time in this city. I believe it opened a few people’s eyes who hold high positions, letting them know as a community we care for one another and want to better our city.
Long: What do you aspire to do in the future?
Crump: I aspire to get even more involved in local politics and continuing to partner with different nonprofit organizations in my city to help bring about the changes needed. Especially within the youth. Their developmental programs for youth have remarkable positive impacts, and I have plans to start these programs in certain communities where the city has given up. There’s nothing for the kids to do or go to in certain areas.
For now, I plan to continue my community engagement, while taking on challenges to prepare to be a more effective leader. One important decision that I made this year is to pursue my doctorate in educational leadership, making sure that I have the knowledge, experience, and credentials needed for long-term success in community leadership. I am confident in these efforts because of the foundation that was laid during my years at Murray State.
“The NLS program is enormously proud of the impact that Nikkous is having in his community and the success he is experiencing in pursuit of improving the lives of young people in his home neighborhood,” said Long. “We are honored that his work is a reflection of the value and quality of our program of study in the real-world challenges of increasing the impact of the nonprofit sector. We look forward to sharing additional alumni stories going forward.”
The NLS program at Murray State is committed to building a coordinated response to growing educational, research, and service needs of organizations dedicated to improving the quality of life in communities around the world. The program offers a broad-based approach to the development of the future leaders of the nonprofit sector through undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as leadership, networking, funding, and promotion of quality practice.