Finding New Opportunities Through Nonprofit Leadership (Cheryl Richards)

July 2020

As a nonprofit leader, how do you know when it's the right time to make a change?  That's exactly where Dr. Cheryl Richards and I started our conversation in Episode #46 of the Path, as she was only two weeks into her new role as the first female President of Johnson & Wales University's Charlotte Campus.  After great success in her previous leadership role as the CEO & Founding Regional Dean at Northeastern University, she certainly was not compelled to leave, but continued to follow her strategic career vision.  In sharing her story, she offers a literal resource manual for current and aspiring nonprofit leaders.  Cheryl details her goal-setting and self-assessment activities, her approach to fundraising and board development, and perhaps most importantly, how she has volunteered her time to gain invaluable professional and community experience.  She also provides great advice for leading in a virtual environment, identifying and mentoring young leaders, and also throws in a few good books for us to read as well!

"People wait for a title in order to exercise their leadership abilities. You have the ability to be a leader from whatever seat you're sitting in:  that's how you develop the leadership muscle."



Cheryl began her tenure as President of Johnson & Wales University's Charlotte Campus on June 15, 2020. Since 2011, she served as the Founding CEO and Regional Dean of Northeastern University's Charlotte Campus. As their chief academic officer, she championed the licensure and growth in academic program offerings from eight to more than 50 undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs in hybrid and online formats. Prior to Northeastern, Cheryl was a campus and academic dean at the Cato Campus of Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte.  Active in the community, Richards has served on a number of boards, including the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance and MeckEd (Mecklenburg Citizens for Public Education). She currently serves on the boards of Progressive AE, Apparo, the American Heart Association, and Smart Start of Mecklenburg County. She earned her Doctor of Philosophy in Leadership for Higher Education at Capella University in Minnesota. She has a Master of Science degree in Student Affairs in Higher Education and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech Communication, both from Colorado State University.