Mary Beth CollinsExecutive Director Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies

Mary Beth Collins is the Executive Director of the Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies (the CommNS) at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She brings to this role a passion for understanding and improving the role of the “third sector” and decades of experience working as a teacher, attorney, and nonprofit director. The binding theme from her career and volunteer experiences is the advancement of the well-being of all communities, families, and mission-based enterprises.

At the CommNS, she leverages university assets in collaboration with community partners to promote and prepare change agents to support a better third sector, a better Wisconsin, and a better world. In addition to leading the CommNS and directing its research, outreach, and educational mission, Mary Beth has developed and delivered coursework and other educational experiences for students and community partners in the CommNS network. These offerings include graduate-level SoHE Professional Skills Courses, including nine 1-credit courses, each focused on a different key topic relevant to preparing future change agents for their careers; the Capstone Certificate Program in Community and Nonprofit Leadership; a Board Development course that places students with nonprofit boards of directors; a Community and Nonprofit Operations and Infrastructure course; and a variety of service learning and professional development opportunities. All of these course offerings bring community and practitioner wisdom to the classroom and prepare students for their careers as effective change agents in a complex world.

Recent press

Needs outpace donations: Nonprofits worry ‘donor fatigue’ will hamper goalsWisconsin State Journal, November 22, 2020
The ‘COVID-19 effect’ on the nonprofit sectorWisconsin Public Radio, October 27, 2020
Facing budget challenges, nonprofits get creative to raise money during pandemicWKOW 27 News, October 20, 2020
First-of-its-kind report looks at civic engagement in WisconsinSpectrum News 1, July 9, 2020
Nonprofit sector to be challenged and changed by COVID-19PBS Wisconsin, April 14, 2020

Classes Taught

  • Course number: INTER-HE 815: Course title: Professional Skills Course Units for Graduate Students
  • Course number: MHR 765: Course title: Board Leadership for Graduate Students


  • Civil Society & Community Studies


  • Center for Financial Security
  • Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies Program


  • JD and MA, UW–Madison (dual degree in Law and Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies)
  • BA, English, Appalachian State University


Office: 4285N Nancy Nicholas Hall

Phone: 608-890-0472



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