Social work students publish on their Mayerson philanthropy experience

For immediate release…
Tuesday – Dec. 2, 2014

Three social work graduate students at Northern Kentucky University have published an article in a public engagement journal describing a class project that allowed them to invest in nonprofits in order to address needs in an inner-city Newport neighborhood.

“This hands-on approach to learning has provided us with an experience we will remember long after our graduate studies are complete,” the students wrote in the Fall 2014 issue of the Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship, a peer-reviewed international journal published by the University of Alabama Press. 

Jessica Herald, L. Faye Perkins, and Hannah Powers were first-year students in the NKU Master of Social Work program when they enrolled in a class called Communities and Organizations. The class was one of 14 during the 2012-13 academic year that were part of NKU’s nationally recognized Mayerson Student Philanthropy Project (MSPP).

In an MSPP class, students have $2,000 to invest in community nonprofit agencies. The students must determine a need they want to address, find nonprofits addressing that need, and then award the funds to one or more nonprofits that they believe best address that need. 

A number of NKU faculty members have published in academic journals on student philanthropy, but articles by students are rare.

“I am so proud of these students. Their project had a meaningful impact on our community, and then they took that a step further by also publishing their work in a scholarly journal,” said Dr. Jessica Averitt Taylor, who taught the class. “This is a wonderful example of community engagement work.”

Dr. Taylor is an assistant professor in the Department of Counseling, Social Work, and Leadership within the College of Education and Human Services. Her students focused on community needs in Newport’s Westside, a neighborhood where NKU has been focusing some of its community engagement efforts for the past two years.

She and her students pioneered the idea of blending the MSPP, a program now its 14th year, with the newer initiative in the Westside. Blending MSPP with the Westside focus meant the students had to learn more about the neighborhood and its challenges – and the students tell that story in their journal article as well.

“In order to research and select appropriate community nonprofit agencies, we needed to understand the needs of our chosen community…” they wrote. “The first step in this process was a walking tour of the region, organized by students and guided by the leader of the neighborhood coalition. This walking tour enabled us to gain a greater appreciation of the area’s physical characteristics, community needs, and residents. The community is home to approximately 6,000 residents within an area of less than 3 square miles. Despite a rich history of industry and a wealth of architecturally beautiful buildings, this neighborhood struggles with generational poverty, drug abuse, and crime. Over 15% of the housing units are vacant, and of that number, almost half are abandoned.”

Dr. Taylor was teaching two sections of the classes, so a total of $4,000 was invested by her students. The students invested $3,000 in Hosea House, which provides meals to needy families, and $1,000 to Brighton Recovery Center for Women, which operates a 100-bed residential facility for women who experience substance abuse, poverty, and homelessness.

“We had the opportunity to engage in charitable giving and were inspired by the investment made in our community through student philanthropy,” the students wrote. “We were exposed to nonprofit structure and operations, and we participated in the solicitation and review of grant proposals. We expanded our knowledge of nonprofit agencies and their services within our community and were able to advocate among our peers for agencies whose missions are important to us. Many of us maintain a connection to these agencies and have volunteered our time or made monetary donations as a result of this project.” 

About 180 classes have incorporated the MSPP since NKU began the student philanthropy program. Through those classes, students have invested in more than 320 nonprofit agencies and programs. The Manuel D. and Rhoda Mayerson Foundation of Cincinnati has supported the program since the beginning, and support is also provided by Citi, the Scripps Howard Foundation, Vision 2015, ArtsWave, and Toyota.

Students participating in MSPP classes this semester will announce their awards later this month. More than $12,000 will be distributed by the students.

You can read the students’ article at Their story begins on page 92.

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