When it comes to being an executive director of a non-profit organization, how can a master’s degree in business administration help? We talked with Rochelle Michalek, executive director of PAWS Chicago, the largest no-kill humane and adoption organization in the city. She has a bachelor’s degree in finance and an executive MBA.

Executive Director Rochelle Michalek (photo courtesy of Rochelle Michalek)

Executive Director Rochelle Michalek (photo courtesy of Rochelle Michalek)

As executive director, Michalek has oversight of the organization, including the adoption center and the Lurie Spay/Neuter Clinic, and must ensure PAWS meets its goals. “We save more than 6,000 lives per year, so everything has to be coordinated and collaborated,” she explained. Michalek is also involved with raising funds for PAWS Chicago.

What is the benefit of having an MBA?

“With the degree, you can learn how to run an organization holistically. An organization has operational goals, so you need to make sure it’s sustainable by setting strategies. You can set up programs so the organization can succeed.”

What is your background in management?

“I previously worked at Motorola, where I had a varied background and learned how to work cross-functionally across different teams. This helped me see all aspects of the business cycle. At PAWS, it helps me to engage people so we can save lives.”

What challenges are associated with continuing education in management?

“As the industry evolves, you want to stay on top of the trends to make an organization efficient. For instance, more businesses are becoming community-focused and emphasizing volunteer work. At PAWS, we need to think about how we can bring PAWS to these businesses as a volunteer opportunity.”

How do you keep your skills current?

“By reading, reading, reading. I stay on top of business trends. As we grow, we need to find more partners and more collaborative efforts. I talk to other people who are involved in non-profit organizations, as well as other no-kill shelters. It’s nice to talk to others because I can see how they approach challenges.”

Michalek also noted the role her degree plays in her career, saying “Most importantly, every day I can think of ways to save lives and make Chicago no kill.”

Megan Horst-Hatch is a runner, reader, baker, gardener, knitter, and other words that end in “-er.” She is also the president of Megan Writes, LLC. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.

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