Learning by Giving: Students award more than $22,000 to local nonprofits

For immediate release…
Thursday – May 8, 2014

Awesome. Fulfilling. Exciting. Fun. Amazing.

Those are just some of the adjectives Northern Kentucky University students used to describe their experience in this spring’s student philanthropy classes, which awarded $22,000 to 18 community agencies to support such needs as drug treatment, tutoring, homeless shelters, AIDS awareness, and hunger.

The NKU Mayerson Student Philanthropy Project is in its 14th year, and in that time students have helped to award nearly $825,000 to more than 300 agencies. About 3,000 students have taken student philanthropy courses at NKU, including 273 this spring.

The classes combine philanthropy with learning outcomes. Students identify a need, determine what nonprofits are working in that field, and then award grants of $1,000 to $2,000 to the nonprofits they determine best suited to address the need.

“Our students and faculty do a wonderful job with these classes every semester, but this semester was especially inspiring and creative,” said Mark Neikirk, executive director of the NKU Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement, which coordinates the student philanthropy classes. “One NKU education class partnered with students at Grandview Elementary in Bellevue to determine community needs. Our students then worked hand-in-hand with Grandview sixth-graders to determine where to invest. One of the needs they saw was our region’s heroin epidemic, and so they invested in a drug treatment program.”

Another class raised additional money, so that instead of donating $2,000 they were able to donate $3,000. With support from ArtsWave, their “need” area was community arts. The students split their funds among three local programs. Yet another class combined its philanthropy component with a study abroad course to Costa Rica over spring break.

“What our faculty manage to do, semester after semester, is find new and innovative ways to use this pedagogy,” said Dr. Whitney McIntyre Miller, who taught the study abroad student philanthropy class this semester and also served as the 2013-2014 faculty coordinator for the program. “They’re never stuck in neutral. It is always fun to see the great things they come up with next.”

While the Mayerson classes deliver needed funding to the nonprofit community, the primary purpose of the classes is to enhance learning outcomes. Because of that, all classes aren’t taught exactly the same. One class in communication, for example, is about learning strategies of persuasion. So the emphasis in that class is on formulating and articulating a persuasive case for the nonprofits each student team hopes to persuade their peers to fund. Another class – in the Spanish department – had to do all of their work in Spanish, honing their language skills while also investing in nonprofits.

There were 14 classes this semester in eight different academic disciplines. The typical class begins with $2,000. The funds come from the generosity of community donors. The Manuel D. & Rhoda Mayerson Foundation of Cincinnati has been NKU’s partner since the fall 2000 semester, when the program began, and once again helped fund some of the classes this year. Also providing funding were ArtsWave, Citi, and the Scripps Howard Foundation.

“NKU has become the national model for using student philanthropy in higher education,” said Jeff Seibert, grants officer of The Mayerson Foundation. “This program doubles the impact of our philanthropic dollars by transforming students into astute grant makers while allocating much-needed funding to worthy agencies serving immediate needs.”

Here are the classes this semester and the nonprofits selected for funding:

Strategies of Persuasion, Professor Jeff Fox

  • Free Store Food Bank - $1,000
  • Elementz - $1,000
  • Music Resource - $1,000

Social Work Practice: Community Organization, Professor Jessica Averitt Taylor

  • Redwood - $1,000
  • Health Resource Center of Cincinnati - $1,000

Leadership for Peace & Sustainability, Professor Whitney McIntyre Miller

  • Community Shares - $1,000
  • KAEE - $1,000

Race, Gender and Theatre, Professor Daryl Harris

  • Cincinnati Men’s Chorus - $2,000       

Honors Writing, Professor Jon Cullick

  • Center for Chemical Addictions Treatment - $1,000
  • Faces without Places - $1,000

Racism & Sexism in Educational Institutions, Professor Brandelyn Tosolt

  • Talbert House - $1,000
  • Northern Kentucky Hunger Relief - $1,000

Community and Public Health Nursing, Professor Adele Dean

  • WMATA - $2,000

Spanish Civilization and Culture, Professor Kajsa Larson

  • Covington Partners - $2,000

Grant Writing, Professor Janel Bloch

  • Covington Partners - $1,000
  • NKY Education Council One to One Reading Program - $1,000

Social Work in the Community, Professor Willie Elliot

  • Benchmark - $1,000                              

Multiculturalism, Professor Willie Elliot

  • Family Promise - $1,000
  • Emergency Shelter of NKY - $1,000

### NKU ###

Follow NKU news on Twitter at https://twitter.com/nkuedu.