Cultivating Tomorrow's Leaders

Posted in News Story

A Profile on Dr. Kathy Kretman
Director, Center for Public & Nonprofit Leadership
McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University

This is the first in a series of interviews with the faculty and alumni of the Center.

“I’m passionate about developing leaders for what I call ‘public purpose’”, says Kathy Kretman, moments into our interview. Having dedicated her life to the public good, Kretman has a real understanding of what it takes to be a leader, and more importantly, what it takes to grow successful leaders.

Kretman has served in the public, private and nonprofit sectors, but it was her experience working with elementary to high school students on a U.S. Department of Education grant that convinced her that leadership can be learned—and the younger the better. In 1995, she was one of six educators invited by the Department of Education to identify “promising practices” in leadership education in schools and universities across the country. She went on to provide leadership training for AmeriCorps and Vista program directors for the Corporation for National and Community Service. Simultaneously, she taught political leadership courses at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. Since then, she has trained thousands of people for leadership in their schools, organizations and communities.

Kretman’s experiences have served her well as the Director of Georgetown University’s Center for Public & Nonprofit Leadership. She arrived at the center in 2001, with the task of creating a nonprofit management certificate program, which has now gone on to become the Center’s flagship program. Kretman explains that the task of creating a certificate program from scratch was daunting. She reviewed the nonprofit course offerings in graduate schools across the country  and organized focus groups with executive directors to help understand what sort of capacity building they required. Thus, the Center’s Nonprofit Management Executive Certificate Program was established. More than 1,000 people from around the world have attended the program.

Kretman, along with the Center’s Assistant Director, Luisa Boyarski, work hard throughout the year to keep the Certificate Program “current”, ensuring that both the content and faculty are up-to-date with the latest trends in the field. This coming year, social innovation and social media will be added to the program. In addition to her work with the Certificate Program, Kretman has been teaching a course on public leadership in the McCourt School of Public Policy for 12 years. She also serves as an internal advisor for Georgetown’s Institute on Women, Peace and Security.

Kretman is vested in tackling the leadership needs of the nonprofit community as a whole. One of the goals of the Certificate Progam is to address the the challenges she sees facing nonprofits — board development, fundraising, staff retention, and impact measurement, to name a few. With the baby boomers retiring, weak boards running nonprofits, and a lack of young people joining the sector, Kretman wants to ensure that nonprofit organizations are as strong as they can be, resulting in new programming initiatives at the Center.

The first of these is a certificate program in Medellín, Colombia that was initiated by an alumnae of the Nonprofit Management Executive Certificate. In late January 2015, a team from the Center will be heading to Colombia to teach a week-long course on nonprofit management to an array of NGOs from around the country. Kretman hopes this will be one of many such programs in international nonprofit training in which the Center engages.

The second focus is Kretman’s women’s leadership project with the Center’s Pablo Eisenberg Public Interest Fellow, Jayathi Sethi. The year long initiative entails identifying and interviewing eight women leaders, domestically and abroad, who have created leadership programs and networks for future women leaders. The aim is to create a model for developing women leaders that can inform the leadership trainings at the Center and beyond.

Finally, Kretman will be organizing a symposium in early 2015 with Margaret O’Bryon, the Waldemar A. Nielsen Chair in Philanthropy, on the War on Poverty. They plan to examine the impact of President Johnson’s policies on Washington, D.C., 50 years after their inception, analyzing the impact, unintended consequences and the current trends in fighting poverty.

If all of this isn’t enough, Kretman is working on her first novel—a murder mystery set in Washington, D.C.


This interview was conducted by Nandini Mullaji, an intern at the Center for Public & Nonprofit Leadership.