Southwestern University and the Williamson County Institute for Excellence in Nonprofits have signed a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) that formalizes the decade-long partnership between the two organizations. The MOU also details the ways the University and the Institute will collaborate to help local nonprofits improve productivity and effectiveness.

“This agreement continues the collaboration between Southwestern and the Institute while strengthening our shared commitment to investing in the future of Georgetown and the surrounding community,” says Sarah Brackmann, senior director of integrative and community-engaged learning at Southwestern, who serves on the Institute’s board of directors. “At the same time, it provides valuable learning and mentorship opportunities for our students.”

Beginning in fall 2022, the Institute will host a student intern and provide training and coaching to students who are interning with other Williamson County nonprofits. The Institute will also mentor community-engaged learning student associates (CELSAs) and deepen students’ understanding of the nonprofit sector. Southwestern will help publicize the Institute’s work and host Institute seminars and workshops on campus. The two organizations are also exploring undergraduate research opportunities.

“Part of our educational mission and purpose is to help students become better citizens and contribute to the well-being of humanity,” Brackmann explains. “This partnership allows students to practice and develop these skills in ways that support and sustain nonprofit organizations.”

The Institute, which was established in 2011, provides education and resources to nonprofits in Williamson County seeking to assess and improve their operations. Its guided self-assessment tool is based on the nationally recognized Baldrige Excellence Framework, which includes criteria and guidelines for evaluating an organization’s performance and identifying opportunities for improvement.

“Oftentimes, when leadership at a nonprofit changes, policies and procedures change as well,” says Institute Founder Vic Figurelli, a retired Shell Chemical Company consultant who has served on the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Board of Examiners. “The principles outlined in the Baldrige model are timeless. By educating nonprofits on these principles, we’re helping ensure they are sustainable and better able to serve the community.”

Southwestern was a founding member of the Institute, along with the Chisholm Trail Communities Foundation, the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce, and the Georgetown Health Foundation.

“Because Southwestern is committed to providing learning experiences outside the classroom and in the community, it was a very natural fit,” Figurelli says. “As we engage students in our work, we are ingraining these concepts and principles in future leadership, whether these students go on to work at a nonprofit as an executive director or enter the business world and serve on the board of a nonprofit.” 

The Institute offers its services on a pro bono basis, and its executive director and subject matter experts are all volunteers. Past clients include Habitat for Humanity of Williamson County, The Caring Place, and ROCK (Ride On Center for Kids).

“We’re excited about this opportunity to work more closely with Southwestern,” Figurelli says. “If we can collectively serve the community better, we’ll have done our job.”

For more information about the Institute, go to

The Williamson County Institute for Excellence in Nonprofits, Inc.