2017 Nonprofit Conference Panel

Browse & Register for Upcoming Training

Sign Up for the Nonprofit Institute Mailing List


Contact Us

Nonprofit Institute
College of Southern Maryland
PO Box 910
La Plata, MD 20646-0910

Charles County
Cara Fogarty

Michelle Sullivan

St. Mary's County

Robin Finnacom

Panel Theme: "Leadership in the Nonprofit Community"

Jumpstarting or refreshing leadership is important to any organization, especially nonprofits that generally are short staffed and have limited training funds.  Board membership changes and employee turnover are struggles for nonprofits due to the impacts of time away from day-to-day work due to position marketing, resume reading, job search analytics, interviews, and new member training.  These time-consuming activities of searching, hiring and training new board members and/or staff, impacts the overall mission of the nonprofit and affects its productivity. 

Jumpstarting leadership is an answer.   Whether it is learning best practices from others, employee recognition and reward programs or tweaking mentoring skills, leadership occasionally needs an “enhancement” for the success and welfare of the nonprofit organization

Meet the Panelists

Kathleen O. O’Brien

Kathleen O'BrienKathleen O. O’Brien, PhD is CEO of Walden/Sierra, Inc., a premier behavioral health organization serving Southern Maryland. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Maryland, and her doctorate in clinical psychology from La Salle University.

Dr. O’Brien began her long association with Walden/Sierra in 1973, serving as the clinical director from 1978 to 1990, when she became the executive director. Her commitment and dedication have been a driving force in the development and expansion of a multi-service behavioral health organization that is respected throughout the state and has received national recognition.

Dr. O’Brien plays a prominent role in her community and throughout the state where she is a strong advocate for quality services for children and their families. She serves on numerous boards and commissions. She is a gubernatorial appointee on the State Drug and Alcohol Council, the Health and Human Services Referral Board, and the State Victim Services Board. She serves on the Maryland Executive Council of AARP.

Additional local and state boards include Healthshare, Camp Maria Board, the Maryland Juvenile Justice Coalition, and the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence. She has also served as a member of the National Council on Accreditation, the Child Welfare League of America Steering Committee, and a subcommittee of the White House Drug policy council. Dr. O’Brien is the founding chairperson of the
St. Mary’s Family Violence Coordinating Council.

Dr. O’Brien is a Weinberg Fellow and was a member of Leadership Maryland Class of ’08. Dr. O’Brien was the 2008 recipient of the National Sunshine Peace Award, from the Buffet Foundation in recognition of her outstanding work on behalf of domestic violence victims. In 2010, she received the Social Impact award from the Weinberg Foundation for her efforts to assist the homeless. During the summer of 2013, Dr. O’Brien participated in the Harvard Business School Nonprofit Leadership Institute where she had the opportunity to work with nonprofit leaders from around the world.

Dr. O’Brien has been married to her husband Paul for 38 years, and they are the proud parents of six highly accomplished young adult children.

Ellen Flowers-Fields

Ellen Flowers-FieldsEllen Flowers-Fields is the Southern Maryland regional director for the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) hosted by the College of Southern Maryland. The SBDC promotes and fosters entrepreneurship and business growth throughout Southern Maryland, providing information and guidance for business owners to help them utilize effective strategies, initiate start-up, or manage growth.

Ms. Flowers-Fields has over 20 years of progressive professional experience in the field of workforce development and human capital management. Her diverse background includes the implementation of various federal, state, and local programs and initiatives that address community economic needs and challenges. She is credentialed as a Global Career Development facilitator from the Center for Credentialing and Education. She is a member of the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals and the Maryland Economic Development Association.

Prior to serving as the director of the SBDC, Ms. Flowers-Fields served as deputy assistant secretary of the Division of Workforce Development and Adult Learning at the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation from 2011 to 2014; regional director of Economic Development at the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland from 2006 to 2011; and executive director for Southern Maryland Works from 2000 to 2006. Affiliations include: former board member, Maryland Broadband Coordination Board; past board chair, Bethel House Inc.; past board chair, Community Foundation of Southern Maryland; and alumni of Leadership Southern Maryland’s inaugural class.

Recognitions include: recipient of 2005 Charles County Minority Business of the Year; 2008 Woman of the Year award from Calvert County Concerned Black Women; nominations for the 2006 Leadership Maryland class and 2006 Maryland’s Top 100 Women; and Calvert County Commissioner’s business owner appreciation recognition for 2008 and 2014.

She is a resident of Charles County and co-owner of RE Fields, LLC. She is married to her loving husband of 25 years, Ricky Fields. They have three children: Joice, Ricky II, and Ross.

Bernie Fowler

Bernie Fowler

Bernie Fowler, Jr. heads a successful building company, offers consulting and management services, and is a principal in several development companies.

In 2012, Mr. Fowler founded Farming 4 Hunger to serve his neighbors in the Southern Maryland community. He wanted to ensure that his neighbors had access to fresh fruit and vegetables, and to augment the nutrient poor, canned and boxed goods are distributed by food banks.

He formed a unique partnership with Feeding America, the Maryland Food Bank, and Serenity Farm owners, the Robinsons, creating an organizational structure that allows Calvert’s citizens to serve, educate, share, fellowship, exercise, rejoice, laugh, learn, and carry out its mission. This mission is to feed the hungry and feed the soul through programs that include a mobile pantry,  a demonstration garden and education center, inmate mentoring and life coaching, and a “Life Sharing” program for middle and high school students.

Farming 4 Hunger works with the Department of Corrections to provide community service to the inmate population; with CAASA to promote alcohol and other drug prevention efforts; and works with the Calvert County Public Schools to provide community service for students, while giving students the opportunity to learn about the benefits of farming and the importance of serving others in need.

Mr. Fowler continued to broaden the impact of Farming 4 Hunger by engaging with United Way of Calvert County, College of Southern Maryland, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Young Marines, local churches, local businesses, and area food pantries and hunger relief organizations.

His efforts have motivated him to lead over 2,500 volunteers a year to harvest and package
1.7 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables, collect produce from the local farmers, and plan for the establishment of a food retail program to serve Calvert memorial Hospital and local restaurants. Because of the success of Farming 4 Hunger and its benefit to the community, it is recognized as a model and is being replicated in seven other states.

The Calvert Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) proclaimed its appreciation and recognized Mr. Fowler as one of its citizens dedicated to improving the lives of Calvert County citizens. The BOCC thanked him for his significant contributions to the county, state, and federal level.

Kathy Franzen

Kathy FranzenMs. Kathy Franzen is the director of Hospice of St. Mary’s. The Hospice House is part of the overall Hospice Department.  She resumed these duties in the fall of 2016 after a short hiatus to work in the administrative offices of Medstar St. Mary’s in Leonardtown. 

Ms. Franzen grew up in Bethesda, Maryland and went to college at Towson University where she met her husband, Carl, a St. Mary’s County native. Upon graduating from the Towson’s nursing program, Ms. Franzen moved to Southern Maryland.

She worked for Medstar St. Mary’s for 21 years with 15 of those years in the Hospice Department. She started out as a staff nurse, then she was promoted to assistant director, and then to director of Hospice in 2006. Ms. Franzen has stated, “My proudest accomplishment was the opening of the Hospice House in November 2009. I learned a lot about fundraising, testifying for bond bills, etc. We built the Hospice House without a mortgage.”

The Hospice House of St. Mary's serves as a place of dignity, comfort, and peace. At times, individuals with terminal illnesses need care which cannot be provided in their own homes. For these individuals, Hospice House offers care and a place to call home.

“I have always said that hospice is the hardest job I have ever had, but also the best job--it is very emotionally gratifying work,” Ms. Franzen said.

Bill Buffington

Bill Buffington

For years, Bill Buffington, a U.S. Navy veteran and a strong advocate for veteran entitlements, has been recognized as a source of information and connections for veterans in the Southern Maryland region. Whether they served during World War II, the Vietnam era, Operation Desert Storm, the Gulf War, or recently separated from the military, on any given day, you can find Mr. Buffington seeking out and helping veterans by providing guidance or connections about available resources and potential benefits.

His interactions with hundreds of veterans who are unaware of potential resources and entitlements available to them led him to move forward with establishing VConnections, Inc. as a resource for serving veterans and their families, particularly in the rural communities of Southern Maryland.

In addition to a military career, which has included two nominations as Sailor of the Year and numerous selections as Sailor of the Quarter, Mr. Buffington has achieved a stellar academic career, as well. His performance in the classroom--where he is studying business administration and recently received a General Dynamics Scholarship to pursue an extended education in Business Law--has earned him a spot on the Dean’s List at the College of Southern Maryland (CSM), and he was elected to the college’s chapter of the National Society for Leadership and Success as well as Phi Theta Kappa, the top National Honor Society for community colleges. In 2014, Mr. Buffington was one of 125 students chosen from 1,500 applicants to attend the Student Veterans Association (SVA) Leadership Institute in Bentonville, Arkansas.  Hosted by Walmart Corporate Headquarters, the Leadership Institute is a cohort-based program for emerging leaders within the SVA and institutions from around the country.

He is a co-founder of CSM’s Veterans Organization and currently serves as  the veterans liaison at the college. Within the community, Mr. Buffington established the VConnection Veterans Coffee Breaks held in La Plata and Waldorf sponsored by Chick-Fil-A and the VConnection Charlotte Hall Coffee Breaks sponsored by Burger King.

A recent quote by Mr. Buffington explains his passion for continued service, “It was a great honor to serve my country and it’s a blessing to be able to serve Southern Maryland veterans and their families.”