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Interview: Cydney Topaz

Interview: Cydney Topaz

Alumni Spotlight

Spertus recently caught up with Cydney Topaz, a 2011 graduate of our Master of Science in Nonprofit Management program and the new Director of Development for Hillels of Illinois.

What brought you to Spertus to pursue a graduate degree in Nonprofit Manangement?
I felt that I was missing academic grounding to support the informal learning I had gained through on-the-job experience.

What did you gain from the program?
I became a more confident, polished, and mature professional. My public speaking and writing skills improved. I built lasting relationships with other professionals from whom I continue to learn.

Furthermore, Spertus gave me the confidence to take professional risks. As a result, I had the self-assurance to start my own consulting business and seek new opportunities.

Tell me about some of those opportunities and about your new position at Hillels of Illinois.
I am originally from Skokie. After graduating from Miami University in Ohio, I began my career at the Ohio State University Hillel Foundation. As president of the Columbus Young Jewish Professionals group, I became highly involved in the Jewish community. After some time working for the Children’s Hunger Alliance, I was hired as Young Leadership Director of the Columbus Jewish Federation. 

When I returned to Chicago I joined the staff at Northwestern University Hillel. I spent six years there in various capacities, including Interim Executive Director, a position I started at the same time I began the MSNM program at Spertus. After completing my degree and having my daughter, I became a fundraising consultant, founding Topaz Consulting. I also spent time developing my husband’s business, Golden Ceramic Dental Lab in Northbrook, using skills I learned in the MSNM program.

I just recently returned to working in the Jewish Federation system, accepting the position of Director of Development with the Hillels of Illinois. I’ll be working with Illinois campuses to increase their fundraising capacity.

What advice do you have for other nonprofits professionals or those considering a career in the nonprofit sector?

As a nonprofit professional, I’ve never felt like I was going to work in a traditional way. I have always worked in supportive environments where I’ve been part of wonderful communities, learning and growing while contributing to a greater good. The Spertus MSNM program helped take my career to the next level. It’s designed specifically for working professionals, with professors who work in the nonprofit field and have a tremendous amount of expertise to offer.