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NKU’s Mayerson Student Philanthropy Project Announces Funding Awards to 14 Area Nonprofits

nku mayerson awards

April 29, 2022 - Completing its 22nd year, Northern Kentucky University’s initiative to add philanthropy to college classrooms has just invested nearly $30,000 in nonprofits locally and internationally. Students announced the awards this week at the spring celebration of NKU’s Mayerson Student Philanthropy Project.

Students in 15 classes representing 12 different academic disciplines awarded the funding to 14 nonprofits as part of the project. For a “Mayerson class,” students research community needs, learn about nonprofits addressing those needs, and then decide as a class where to invest. Since its inception in the Fall 2000 semester, the program has invested over $1 million in more than 400 nonprofits.

“The student philanthropy program at NKU is a shining example of how the classroom blends academics with real world problems helping students prepare for careers while becoming better citizens of the world and stewards of their own communities,” said Donna Mayerson of the Manuel D. and Rhoda Mayerson Foundation in Cincinnati, which helps fund NKU’s program. “This semester, students donated much needed funding to nonprofits in their backyards as well across the world. It is incredibly inspiring to see their passion and commitment.”

The needs of immigrants and refugees emerged as a priority for several classes, with $11,697 invested in nonprofits serving those populations.

“The funding decisions in this project are student-driven. They decide. Our funders give us the resources to operate these classes and then trust the students to invest wisely. And they do,” said Mark Neikirk, executive director of NKU’s Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement, which oversees the student philanthropy project. “Each semester, different needs arise as more pressing, and students gravitate to those. This year, refugee and immigrant needs hit students’ radar, as did LGBTQA+ needs. Alongside those, safety-net services – food and shelter in particular – remain a priority to our student investors.”

In addition to the Mayerson Foundation, funders this semester included ArtsWave, the Elsa Heisel Sule Foundation, the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Horizon Community Funds, the Learning by Giving Foundation, and the Scripps Howard Foundation.

Generally, each class awards $2,000 although the amount varies somewhat. Students in Social Work Practice: Community Organization (SWK 405), supplemented their initial support with a social media campaign and raised a total of $4,697 for RefugeeConnect of Cincinnati.

The intention of the Mayerson Project is to align the giving component with the learning outcomes of each class. So, for example, a communications class studying persuasion listens intently as nonprofits make a pitch for funding, noticing which ones are best at persuasion. Later in the semester, students must persuade each other where to invest.

A class this semester studying German immigration, discussed both German immigration to the United States as well as immigration to Germany, with a particular focus on the refugee crisis -- including of Ukrainian refugees coming to Germany.

“Refugees continue to face particular challenges and the three student groups focused on minorities such as the LGBTQ+ refugee population, refugee women, and the physical and mental health of refugees,” said Dr. Andrea Fieler, who taught the class, GER 480. “The Vereine (German for nonprofits) were all located in Germany, which gave students the unique experience to interact with native speakers on a project level. Being able to offer hands-on experiences to students in their target language is an invaluable contribution to the development of their cultural and language proficiencies.”

Dr. Kajsa Larson, who is the faculty coordinator for NKU’s program, said the benefits of adding philanthropy component to classes is twofold: It enhances learning outcomes while also teaching stewardship.

“Our Mayerson students leave class with a greater understanding of community needs and how to address them, and with a greater personal commitment to contribute,” Dr. Larson said.

Here are Spring 2022 classes and their awards:

ANT 321: Medical Anthropology taught by Jessica Lott supported by Horizon Community Funds of Northern Kentucky

  • Esperanza Latino Center of NKY $2,000

ARTV 415: Visual Communication Design III taught by Hans Schellhas and supported by the Manuel D. & Rhoda Mayerson Foundation

  • Emergency Shelter of NKY $2,000

CMST 340: Strategies of Persuasion taught by Jeff Fox and supported by the Scripps Howard Foundation

  • Learning Through Art, Inc. $1,000
  • UpSpring $1,000

EDU 316: Racism and Sexism in Educational Institutions taught by Kimberly Clayton-Code and supported by the Scripps Howard Foundation

  • Learning Through Art, Inc. $2,000

ENG 101: College Writing taught by Jonathan S. Cullick and supported by Learning by Giving and the Manuel D. & Rhoda Mayerson Foundation

  • DCCH Center for Children & Families $2,000
  • Freestore Foodbank $2,000

GER 480: German Immigration taught by Andrea Fieler and supported by the Manuel D. & Rhoda Mayerson Foundation

  • LSVD - Queer Refugees Deutschland $2,000

HIS 494: Forbidden History taught by Brian Hackett and supported by the Manuel D. & Rhoda Mayerson Foundation and Student Fundraising

  • GLSEN Greater Cincinnati Chapter $1,300

HNR 102: Servant Leadership & Civic Engagement taught by Megan Downing and supported by the Elsa Heisel Sule Foundation

  • Be Concerned $2,000

LDR 160: Leadership Around the World taught by Rick Brockmeier and supported by the Scripps Howard Foundation

  • Nova Ukraine $2,000

MAT 115: Mathematics for the Liberal Arts taught by Axel Brandt and supported by ArtsWave and the Manuel D. & Rhoda Mayerson Foundation

  • Brighton Center, Inc. $2,000

NEU 101: Neuroscience for Life taught by Adam Funk and supported by the Elsa Heisel Sule Foundation

  • Shelterhouse Cincinnati $2,000

PAD 500: Foundations of Public Service taught by Julie Olberding and supported by ArtsWave

  • Esperanza Latino Center of NKY $1,000
  • PONES $1,000

SWK 405: Social Work Practice: Community Organizations (3 sections) taught by Reiko Ozaki & Sakina Grome and supported by the Greater Cincinnati Foundation and Student Fundraising through IMPACT NKU

  • Refugee Connect $4,697

To learn more about the NKU Mayerson Student Philanthropy Project, click here.

About NKU: Founded in 1968, NKU is an entrepreneurial state university of over 16,000 students served by more than 2,000 faculty and staff on a thriving suburban campus nestled between Highland Heights, Kentucky and bustling downtown Cincinnati. We are a regionally engaged university committed to empowering our students to have fulfilling careers and meaningful lives. While we are one of the fastest-growing universities in Kentucky, our professors still know our students' names. For more information, visit