Posted in Biography

Graduate Student Spotlight: Nicole Phillips, Founder & Program Director

Curious about how the Truman Leadership Project got started? Learn more about the founder, Nicole Phillips, in this student spotlight written by the Academic Programs Office at the University of Missouri’s Truman School of Public Affairs. View Full Article


“Nicole Phillips came to Mizzou in 2011 to pursue a Master of Arts degree in Political Science. Graduating from UMKC with her BA in Political Science, continuing at Mizzou seemed like the next step. Midway through her coursework, she decided that she wanted to study more than that. She turned to the Truman School to learn how she could apply her political science knowledge to generate real change.

While still pursuing her Master of Political Science degree, Nicole began classes in the Truman School in the fall of 2012.

“Nonprofit management is something I never thought about- I thought I would end up in public policy. But the more I looked at the classes and what I was curious to learn more about, I decided that nonprofit management was probably a more natural fit.”

Nicole became an active member in the community as soon as she moved to Columbia, working for the Associated Students of the University of Missouri (ASUM) directing an internship program for undergraduate students. In her work with ASUM she wrote legislation that eventually became state statute, aimed at increasing the number of Missouri graduates in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) by providing more opportunities for STEM education and scholarship.

“Missouri has a need for significantly more graduates in the next 10 years than it is currently educating. We decided to work to plan a better future for the state, in conjunction with higher education stakeholders.”

When researching prospective positions to fulfill her internship requirements, Nicole realized that she wanted to start something to leave her mark on Mizzou. After approaching the Truman School and quickly received the support of the administration, the Truman Leadership Project was born. Nicole works as the Executive Program Director for the nonpartisan, nonprofit day camp for 7th and 8th graders in Mid-Missouri.

The Truman Leadership Project is a series of workshops that look at building leadership skills and civic involvement. It includes service projects, a mini career fair, team-building workshops and many more activities.

“The overall goal of the camp is to inspire more young people to think about how they fit into our community. Even if they don’t actually go into public service, we can help them to be leaders right now at school, on the soccer team or in other programs they’re involved with in the community.”

Nicole knows that the Truman Leadership Project is giving her a great learning opportunity.

“I have an amazing opportunity for real, hands-on experience and I get to do something I love. The Truman School has been incredibly generous and supportive. I can’t think of a more real way to learn public affairs and nonprofit management”

Nicole received her Master of Arts in Political Science in May of 2013 and in December she will graduate with her MPA. She is beginning to think about her career after graduation.

“I want to ultimately work in lobbying or governmental relations. I would love to work in that capacity for a nonprofit or public agency with which I can identify with and work to build something bigger.” 

Interested in studying nonprofit management or  receiving more information about the MPA program at the University of Missouri? Contact the Academic Programs Office at the Truman School of Public Affairs to find out more.