Researching AUM - Roger Ritvo advises NGOs

Roger Ritvo at a 2014 conference in Riga, Latvia 

Although he began his career at Auburn University at Montgomery in 1997 as Vice-chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs, Professor of Management Roger Ritvo turned his focus to teaching and research in 2005 and now studies how to effectively create and manage nonprofit organizations.

More broadly, these groups fall under the category of NGOs – nongovernmental organizations – which are often nonprofit groups and generally not controlled by governments, although they may still offer services or influence public policy.

“My Ph.D. dissertation was on hospital governing boards and that sparked the interest,” said Ritvo. “So my major research and training interests have been on corporate governance with special attention to nonprofit boards.”

Today, Ritvo travels the world teaching and training NGO leaders. His work facilitates top leadership skill development in a half-dozen areas of focus:

- Educational: Instructing the nonprofit top leadership about what is happening in their organization.

- Strategic: Guiding the leadership to develop a clear 3-5 year set of plans, goals, and ways to implement and assess progress.

- Analytical: Evaluating how the board reviews pending decisions using multiple criteria such as impact on clients, community need, system priorities, and finances.

- Interpersonal: Explaining how the board can manage differences of opinion, get to know each other, and include new members.

- Contextual: Expanding how the board uses what is happening in the broader service area or country, as appropriate in their decision processes.

- Political: Helping top leadership reconcile different value systems which may focus on money or other needs.

A recipient of the two prestigious Fulbright awards, Ritvo visited Azerbaijan and the Republic of Georgia on the U.S. cultural exchange program to train leaders of NGOs and teach undergraduate and masters students.

“Two research awards from Auburn Montgomery helped me do similar work in Latvia and Ukraine, and I’m currently publishing research results with students from Ukraine based on this work,” said Ritvo. “I have made post-Soviet countries a special area of interest, but the competencies also apply in Montgomery!”

Off-campus, Ritvo is a collector of somewhat unique items – flat irons and masks.

“The irons really show how form impacts function – steam iron, fire heated, water filled, etc.," he says. "And masks are wonderful objects that reflect rituals and cultures.”

Nick Thomas teaches at Auburn University at Montgomery (aum.edu) and has written features, columns, and interviews for over 700 newspapers and magazines (getnickt.com).