Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Thursday, May 12, 2022

Board of Visitors Spotlight: Leslie Ann Howard

Board of Visitors Spotlight: Leslie Ann Howard

Leslie Ann Howard, adjunct associate professor of public affairs and the former president and chief executive of United Way of Dane County, has provided guidance to the La Follette School as a member of its Board of Visitors (BOV) since 2017. 

Since she was 14, Howard has worked and volunteered in the nonprofit sector, where she most recently served as senior advisor to the CEO at United Way Worldwide. Howard started with United Way of Dane County in 1981, and as president beginning in 1989, she worked to address the racial achievement gap, early childhood issues, family homelessness, disproportionate incarceration, use of force by the police, and access to healthcare for the uninsured by engaging the community in assessing its needs and strengths, identifying research and best practices, and focusing on diversity and equity. The organization works collaboratively with government, nonprofits, businesses, community leaders, donors, and volunteers to solve big-picture issues that can only be addressed together.

For over 20 years, Howard has shared her wealth of knowledge with the La Follette School while teaching a course on nonprofit leadership. Students from around the university take the course, including graduate students in public affairs, social work, political science, law, counseling, business, education, environmental studies, and public health.

"Today, nonprofits play a key role in bolstering society and, perhaps surprisingly, the economy," Master of Public Affairs student Amanda Ward noted in a blog entry written as part of the nonprofit leadership course. "The relationship that nonprofits have with business and government is one of interdependence and synergy; a quick look at these relationships will demonstrate the importance of nonprofits to our nation and world."

The class prepares students for work in the nonprofit sector or in a collaborative role with the nonprofit world by diving into the role of the private, public, and nonprofit sectors in society; the challenge of creating change; governance; strategic planning; collaboration among the sectors; and leadership responsibility in a diverse world.

Howard reflects, “What I learned from teaching is how much students want to change the world. Public policy is a powerful tool, and the nonprofit sector is a powerful place to tackle that aspiration. I’m honored to be part of La Follette’s BOV during this exciting time of growth and when as a society as much as ever we need to come together to solve our most pressing issues.” 

Since 2015, the La Follette School BOV has played a vital part in providing guidance to the school. The BOV is comprised of business partners and other collaborators representing the public and private sectors who are interested in seeing the La Follette School succeed. Many thanks to Howard for sharing her leadership expertise with the school!