Erica Barnhart

Associate Teaching Professor;
Executive MPA Program Director

Erica Barnhart is a proud Husky. She earned her MPA from the Evans School in 2001 and her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington in honors French and Political Science. She also holds a Certificat d’Études Politique from L’Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris.

Barnhart is known for her work on using language to increase organizational and individual impact. Her Stanford Social Innovation Review article, Good mission. Bad statement: why the social sector should worry about words, was one of SSIR’s top 10 articles of 2016. As a consultant, she has worked with and trained hundreds of organizations, including Art with Heart, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Cloud Mountain Farm Center, Mission Aviation Fellowship, PATH, Splash, Thrive Washington, and the UN Foundation.

Immediately out of undergrad, Barnhart founded a contract paralegal company that supported lawyers focused on immigration and refugee law. Upon returning to her hometown of Vancouver, BC, she left the legal field behind and transitioned to higher education, serving as the Associate Director of Commerce Undergraduate Programs at the University of British Columbia, the largest undergraduate commerce program in Canada. She returned to Seattle to pursue her MPA and had the honor of working with Professors Andy and Margot Gordon on the evaluation of the Gates Foundation’s libraries program.

After graduate school, Barnhart became the Director of Development & Communications at NPower, a social enterprise that put technology  know-how into the hands of nonprofits. In her time there, the organization grew from a local organization to a national network with twelve affiliates across the country. (NPower has subsequently become part of 501 Commons.)

Barnhart began teaching in the University of Washington’s Certificate in Nonprofit Management in 2008 and in 2012, she added an MPA class, Marketing for Mission-Driven Organizations, to her teaching docket. She has taught marketing in Seattle University’s MNPL program, and guest lectured on branding and social innovation at the University of Chicago.

In addition to her teaching, Barnhart co-directs the Evans School’s Nancy Bell Evans Center on Nonprofits & Philanthropy with Professor Mary Kay Gugerty. The Center focuses on elevating the social sector—nonprofits, foundations and social enterprise—through research and leadership development.


Research & News Highlights

Centers and Initiatives