News & Events

Class of 2023 Owen Board Fellows Reflect

Apr 13, 2023
Vanderbilt MBA students reflect on their year of nonprofit board service through the Owen Board Fellows program

By Lacie Blankenship

Owen Board Fellows is a program rooted in partnership with the Turner Family Center for Social Ventures (TFC) and 100% Owen, the Vanderbilt Business community service and philanthropy club. The program matches local nonprofits with MBA students to serve as non-voting board members for a year, allowing the students to engage meaningfully with the community and strengthen their leadership skills. This past year, 33 MBA students served as Board Fellows, and 31 local nonprofits partnered with the program. Below, 2 Board Fellows from the Class of 2023 reflect on their year of nonprofit board service and what they learned from their experiences.

Ashley Detherage (MBA’23), Sexual Assault Center Board Fellow, VP of External Affairs for Owen Board Fellows 

Ashley Detherage (MBA’23)

What motivated you to participate in Owen Board Fellows? 

I learned about Owen Board Fellows during orientation and immediately knew the program was something I wanted to be part of. Being involved in my community has been a priority for me since I was an undergrad, and this fellowship was the perfect “next step” for me. The program was a way to combine my passion for serving my community with the new skills I was developing as an MBA student. 

What did you learn from Board Fellows? 

I was involved in Board Fellows in 2 capacities: first, as a Fellow, paired with Nashville’s Sexual Assault Center; and second, as a student leader, helping to manage Board Fellows External Affairs. I absolutely loved both roles. As a Director of External Affairs, I was able to meet community and nonprofit leaders that are doing incredible work for the Nashville community. As a Board Fellow with the Sexual Assault Center, I have been able to leverage learnings from Owen to support a team doing absolutely vital work in Nashville. 

What was your favorite part of being a Board Fellow? 

As a student leader, my favorite part of Board Fellows is watching students make connections within the Nashville community via their nonprofit partners. It has been so fun to hear about all of the great work Board Fellows are doing in the community! 

Within my own fellowship, my favorite part has certainly been the people that I have met and the incredible work they do. My Board Fellows experience allowed me to stay on as a full-time Board Member at the Sexual Assault Center, and I love the work I can do as an Events Committee Member on the Board—like the upcoming SafeCity event starting on April 26! 

How do you feel about your experience as a Board Fellow? 

My time at Owen would not have been complete without Board Fellows. I am so grateful for the opportunities it provided and thrilled to be leading the next cohort of Owen Board Fellows on this fantastic journey! 

Devon Macera (MBA’23), Nashville Symphony Orchestra (NSO) Board Fellow

Devon Macera (MBA’23)

What motivated you to participate in Owen Board Fellows?

Community involvement has always been an important part of my life and the Board Fellows program offers an exceptionally unique opportunity to not only engage and be more involved with the local community, but also to gain insight into the inner workings of a nonprofit board. The Board Fellows program helped strengthen my leadership skills by exposing me to nonprofit organizational governance and practices and allowed me to utilize my skills to do good outside of the classroom, in a practical, real-world setting. I believe that applying what I have learned in a real-world scenario will only serve to enhance the quality, breadth, and depth of my classroom learning. Perhaps most beneficially, the Board Fellows program enabled me to form relationships with people with whom I may not have previously interacted. Relationships are at the heart of any industry, whether business or nonprofit and the chance to form these unexpected relationships allowed me to further engage with the Nashville community now and stay connected in the future. 

I have always believed in the power of giving back and nonprofit involvement has been and will continue to be a major part of my life. The experiences of the Owen Board Fellows program will enable me to give back in a more impactful way. By providing me the opportunity to experience the inner workings of a nonprofit board and to observe both nonprofit operations and governance, I will be able to offer so much more to any future nonprofit involvement.

What did you learn from Board Fellows?

I learned a tremendous amount from observing NSO rebuild from an unprecedented crisis (COVID-19). Specifically, I learned about the day-to-day operations of a larger board, how to navigate organization/community issues and relationships, and the interpersonal relationships of board members. I also loved having the opportunity to hear about the organizations with which the other fellows were working and the lessons they learned from their experiences.

What was your favorite part of being a Board Fellow?

I loved seeing behind the scenes of an established organization. It was an amazing opportunity to be affiliated with the NSO when it was at such an inflection point, and see how they utilized the pandemic and being closed for a significant amount of time as a jumpstart to reevaluate the future of the organization. I witnessed the strengthening of community ties and the broadening of community reach while at the NSO.  

How do you feel about your experience as a Board Fellow?

I had a wonderful time as an Owen Board Fellow. Being able to see how an established organization such as the NSO works on a day-to-day level, especially when pivoting to the post-pandemic reality, was an immeasurable opportunity for which I will be forever grateful.

Other Stories

Which program is right for you?