MSLOC at 15: William Campbell and Non-Profit Coaching

MSLOC at 15: William Campbell and Non-Profit Coaching

William Campbell

We’re celebrating 15 years of the Master’s in Learning and Organizational Change program through a series of profiles highlighting the professional lives and experiences of MSLOC alumni and students. In this first story, meet William Campbell, director of learning and development at Playworks. View the full series here. 

William Campbell has always loved helping people reach their full potential, both professionally and personally. Once he discovered Northwestern University's Organizational and Leadership Coaching Certificate program, he was able to turn his passion into a focused career.

Campbell is currently the director of learning and development at Playworks, the leading nonprofit promoting safe and healthy play in schools across the U.S. He joined Playworks in January, 2018 after serving as senior director for student leadership at the nonprofit Interfaith Youth Core, where he regularly drew upon his coaching skills to help his team train and support students who are working to positively engage religious differences and lead fearlessly across faiths.

Campbell, who received his OLCC certification in 2017, also is enrolled in Northwestern's Master of Learning and Organizational Change (MSLOC) program at the School of Education and Social Policy, which has been incorporating coaching into the curriculum since 2008.

We spoke with Campbell about how he found MSLOC, how coaching can be so valuable in an internal, non-profit setting, and more in the following interview:

Describe what you do at Playworks.

I oversee the strategy and programs for professional and leadership development for Playworks staff nationwide. While at IFYC, I directed the leadership development strategy and programming for emerging leaders in IFYC's network. This involved a mixture of team direction, strategy and program design, strategy management, and learning and development.

What brought you to MSLOC?

Seven years ago, I had been in a different graduate program that wasn't the right fit. I heard from a friend that a mutual acquaintance was an MSLOC alum, so I looked into it even though I wasn't expressly interested in human capital. While attending classes and speaking with classmates, though, I realized I wanted to spend my career helping people find authentic connection to their work and helping organizations develop their employees. It felt like serendipity that I stumbled across MSLOC.

Describe the MSLOC community in three words:

Thoughtful, dedicated, and practical. The MSLOC community uniquely blends an interdisciplinary approach of study with practical implications. This is combined with thoughtful individuals. The MSLOC educational experience is so successful because the instructors are continuously learning alongside the students and dedicated to their success.

Describe a typical way you might use coaching.

I have a weekly check-in with one of my direct reports, and they may bring a challenging situation. Instead of just giving my advice, I will help them come to their own solution. Later in the day, I may be walking to coffee with a colleague and they bring up some feedback they are trying to understand. In that 10-minute conversation, I can use coaching to help them make sense of the feedback and put together some next steps to address it. Finishing the OLCC certificate has also raised awareness in my organization that I am someone people can speak with about their own professional and career goals. I now regularly have lunch coaching conversations with people who are trying to determine their own next steps.

Who was your favorite MSLOC instructor?

Unfair! I have learned much from so many.

OK, then tell us about someone who helped specifically with coaching.

Cassandra Mitchell was an absolutely wonderful instructor and mentor. She is one of the most intelligent people I have ever met and also incredibly successful in her career. Being able to lean on her expertise and wisdom was a highlight of my professional career.

What brings you the most joy at work?

So what makes me excited about my new role at Playworks is the opportunity to help people unlock their potential. These are incredibly smart and ambitious folks, and the nonprofit sector does not get as much financial support for L & D as for profit companies. This is an opportunity to partner with them for the organization’s growth as well as their own.

At IFYC, I loved working with staff to design programs that bring people together who have different religious background and worldviews, and training students to develop these programs. Last year we redesigned our entire core curriculum on interfaith leadership. Instead of a standard curriculum development process that might happen internally, we used concepts from MSLOC to design a hackathon where internal and external stakeholders from campuses were invited to break down our curriculum and design new content.

You're known for reading ten books at a time. Can you recommend just one?

Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin. Though a young adult fantasy novel, it's a powerful story about one person's journey to understand and accept their own mistakes.

Advice to other MSLOC students?

A: You're smarter and more capable than you think. Many of us go through imposter syndrome; just know that comparing yourself to others undervalues your worth. Second, enjoy the coursework for the learning and do not stress about the grades. Save and store everything. I go back to my materials from classes all the time. Lastly, practice what you're learning in class immediately. We learn more when we try it out and test it in our daily lives.

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Find out more about the MSLOC program.

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