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Visionary Sees a Need, Partners With NLU To Create Human Services Management Program Vincent Pettinelli worked as a psychotherapist, started a $350 million company providing human services, found a persistent problem, proposed a solution

By Pam DeFiglio

When Vincent Pettinelli was building PeopleServe Inc., a business he had founded to provide human services to people with disabilities, the elderly and other clients in need, he faced a conundrum.  The enterprise, which eventually grew into a $350 million company, needed management talent.  He promoted competent psychologists and other specialists into management roles, but most of them failed because they lacked management knowledge.

Pettinelli, who had started his career as a psychotherapist and had worked with people with disabilities before he got into management, was explaining this challenge to his financial advisor, Joe Kunze, a couple of years ago.

Kunze, who sits on National Louis University’s board of trustees, had an idea. He put Pettinelli  in touch with NLU’s President Nivine Megahed, Ph.D., and Dean of the College of Professional Studies and Advancement, Judah Viola, Ph.D. They talked about creating a master’s degree program in Human Services Management. 

“We discussed how the program fit with a real need in the Chicagoland area,” said Viola, “and also fit right into the strength areas of the College of Professional Studies and Advancement.”

Pettinelli donated seed money for the university to assess the viability of the Human Services Management program, and eventually to launch it.

“I hope the program will establish a national model for educating people in human services, so that they can run their agencies and companies effectively and efficiently,” Pettinelli said.

“Consumers are looking to human services agencies to provide services, and you can only do that if you know how to manage an organization. This program will provide students with the necessary skills.”

He believes that human services agencies must continuously collect data on the numbers of people they serve and the outcomes of the services provided, in order to measure their effectiveness. In this way, donors’ dollars can do the most good.

NLU performed market research and benchmarking against what other universities were offering in human services management, then put together a proposal and got a green light from the university’s board to launch the program.

“I don’t think it (the program) can miss,” Pettinelli said. “Once human services folks realize that the application of good management practices gives their clients better services than before, they’ll jump on this. There’s not a (human services) program in Chicago that shouldn’t send their managers to this.”

To bolster the program even further, Viola, who taught Community Psychology before becoming dean, tapped into his network of contacts in the human services area and assembled an impressive advisory board for the new program in Human Services Management.  A list of them follows this article.

“They (the advisory board members) are amazingly distinguished, and possess the collective experience and credibility needed to build a world class program,” Viola said.

Board leaders highly recommended Mark Doyle, M.S., a human services expert with 38 years of experience in government, nonprofits, education and his own consulting firm, to be executive director. NLU jumped at the chance to hire Doyle, who is guiding the program to its Fall 2017 launch.

Pettinelli said he chose NLU to realize his dream of a human services administration master’s program because of its agility and strengths.

“NLU has flexibility and organizational structure to grab on to something like this. Larger universities would have required years to get through the bureaucracy. And Judah is amazing. It was just the right place at the right time–a good fit.”

Advisory Board Members

  • Thomas P. Britton, DrPH, CEO of Gateway Foundation
  • Denis Ferguson, LCPC, Counselor, Former Community Health Agency Director, Adjunct Faculty National Louis University
  • Teresa Garate, Ph.D., President and CEO, Anixter Center
  • Michael Gelder, consultant and adjunct faculty, Northwestern University
  • Lynn Gilman, Executive Director, KidsActing Foundation (Austin, TX)
  • Kristine Ginley, Ph.D., Former College Director at ITT Technical Institute
  • Shelton Goode, DPA, Director of  Diversity and Inclusion, Oshkosh Corporation, Alabama
  • Dave Hanson, former director of Illinois Rehab Services and Chicago Commission
  • Michael Janniere, JD, Senior Vice President and Chief People Officer at Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC)
  • Mary Keating, Director of Community Services, DuPage County, Illinois
  • Christopher B. Keys, Ph.D.,  Professor Emeritus, DePaul University and University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Elizabeth Lee, Senior Program Officer at Michael Reese Health Trust
  • Suzet McKinney, DrPH, executive director of the Illinois Medical District Commission
  • Dale Mitchell, Ph.D., Clinical Assistant Professor of Disability and Human Development at University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Gia Orr, Director of Community Rights, Relationships and Resources at Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission, and Cook County Human Rights Commissioner
  • Jim Parker, JD, Principal at Health Management Associates
  • Matt Pettinelli, Founder/President/CEO at CapGrow Partners LLC
  • Vince Pettinelli, Retired, Founder and Chairman of PeopleServe Inc.
  • Lorrie Rickman Jones, Ph.D., Mental Health Policy Advisor, UIC Jane Addams College of Social Work
  • Pamela F. Rodriguez, MS, President, Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities, (TASC)
  • Sean E. Rogers, Ph.D., SPHR, SHRM-SPC, Assistant Professor of Employment Relations, Human Resources and Law, Cornell University, and Faculty Fellow, Cornell Institute for Healthy Futures
  • Sally Sachar, Executive Director, UsAgainst Alzheimers
  • Jose Sanchez, President and CEO, Norwegian American Hospital
  • Sheri Scavone, Executive Director, WNY Women’s Foundation
  • Elliott Triplett, Nursing Home Administrator, Adjunct Faculty, NLU
  • John Walton, MBA, MHA, CEO at Aesthesis, Partners in Anesthesia Care
  • Tara Bryant Edwards, LCPC, Assistant Professor of Counseling and Human Services, NLU
  • Dr. Christopher L. Clemmer, Tenured Associate Professor, Human Services BA and MA in Counseling Chair, NLU
  • Vlad Dolgopolov, Ph.D., Assistant Dean, College of Professional Studies and Advancement, NLU
  • Judah Viola, Ph.D., Dean, College of Professional Studies and Advancement, NLU

For more information, please contact Mark Doyle at, or visit the Master’s in Human Services Management webpage.