Book showcasing NKU engagement funds student philanthropy class

For immediate release…
Tuesday – May 28, 2013

- When “Becoming an Engaged Campus: A Practical Guide for Institutionalizing Public Engagement” hit bookstores in the spring of 2011, no one expected it to compete against “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” or any of the other best-sellers of the time.

But the book written by former Northern Kentucky University President James C. Votruba and two of his NKU colleagues has enjoyed another kind of success. It has generated money to support public engagement – the very thing Drs. Votruba, Gail Wells and Carole Beere were trying to promote when they wrote “Becoming an Engaged Campus.”

In the coming academic year, $2,000 in profits from the book will be designated to support a Mayerson Student Philanthropy Project class at NKU. In Mayerson classes, students first identify a community need and then learn what area nonprofits are addressing the need. Finally, through an evaluative process, the students select one or two nonprofits to receive either the full $2,000 or $1,000 each.

“Becoming an Engaged Campus” is a guide for colleges and universities looking to integrate public engagement into their institutional and instructional structure with service learning, applied research and other classroom/campus collaborations. The book offers practical advice on how to align campus staff and resources to support public engagement, using NKU as a case study.

The authors decided before publication that all profits from the book would be designated for public engagement at NKU through the university’s Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement.

“Gail, Carole and I decided to direct any profits from the book to public engagement at NKU – something all three of us deeply value,” said Dr. Votruba. “The student philanthropy classes sort of double down on the investment, because the money will first fund a class as students learn about community needs and, ultimately, fund a nonprofit meeting those needs. We couldn’t be more pleased to see the book’s profits invested in this way.”

As president emeritus, Dr. Votruba remains at NKU as a faculty member. Dr. Wells is NKU’s provost and vice president of academic affairs. Dr. Beere retired in 2007 as associate provost for outreach and dean of graduate studies. All three are widely known nationally for furthering public engagement’s place in higher education.

Dr. Votruba launched student philanthropy classes at NKU in the fall of 2000 after conceiving the idea with Dr. Neal Mayerson of the Mayerson Family Foundations in Cincinnati. They wanted to find a way to incorporate community stewardship into the college classroom. Since it began 13 years ago, the program has grown at NKU and become a national model, replicated at other universities and in high schools. NKU will have six student philanthropy courses in the fall 2013 semester, including courses in communication, history, political science and biology. Students raise some of the funds that they invest in nonprofits; community donors provide other funds.

“The book’s profits allow us to add a class this fall, while also demonstrating that community stewardship is valued by NKU’s leadership,” said Mark Neikirk, executive director of the Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement. “Academic books don’t, as a rule, generate millions of dollars. But Jim, Gail and Carole are showing how profits can be leveraged well beyond their base value. At least one nonprofit will add value to their gift by using the money to help address a community need. And, along the way, 20 or so students will learn about community needs and how to address those needs. A lot will be accomplished by the generosity of this gift.”

Student philanthropy is a proven pedagogy. Nearly 90 percent of the students who take student philanthropy classes at NKU report increased understanding of the ideas being taught in the course. They also report heightened awareness of community needs and how nonprofit organizations are meeting those needs.

The 2013-14 school year will mark the 14th year for student philanthropy courses at NKU. In that time, about 150 classes have been held and nearly 300 nonprofits supported with small grants made by the students and their community partners.

Future profits from “Becoming an Engaged Campus” will be used for additional classes. If you have an interest in sponsoring a student philanthropy class at NKU, contact Dan Emsicke in NKU’s Development Office at (859) 572-5628 or

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