NKU students learn by giving

Northern Kentucky University students have helped award nearly $825,000 to more than 300 agencies in the past 14 years through the NKU Mayerson Student Philanthropy Project. Students awarded $22,000 to local nonprofits in just this year alone and will be awarding more funds this fall.

The project started at NKU in 2000 as way to teach students about philanthropy and nonprofits with the hope that graduates would be lifelong stewards of their communities. Since then, approximately 3,000 NKU students have taken courses as part of the philanthropy project. During Spring 2014 semester, there were 14 classes in eight different academic disciplines. 

The classes are designed to teach students a “learn by giving” approach. Professors combine philanthropy with learning outcomes—students identify a need in the community, such as drug treatment, tutoring, hunger, AIDS awareness and homeless shelters, and determine which nonprofits in the area are working to fulfill that need. Students award between $1,000 and $2,000 to the nonprofits after analyzing which agencies are likely to have the maximum impact. 

“These classes reflect NKU’s commitment to community engagement and especially to our efforts to connect classroom learning to real-world experiences that deepen stewardship immediately and after graduation,” says Mark Neikirk, Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement executive director.

The classes deliver funding to the community, and each one focuses on a different skill set needed for social engagement. A communication class, for example, might emphasize the power of persuasion, while an English class might focus on honing language skills. The kind of class also influences which needs are addressed. A social work class is more likely to look at social service agencies while a theater class is more likely to consider community arts agencies for funding.

NKU partnered with The Manuel D. & Rhoda Mayerson Foundation of Cincinnati at the inception of the program to make the project possible, and since then, funding has also come from ArtsWave, Citi, Vision 2015 and the Scripps Howard Foundation as well as other various donors in the community.

“We want students to be great in their chosen fields, whether that’s biology, English, history, nursing, marketing or any of the other disciplines,” Neikirk says. “But we also want to graduate students who care about their community’s needs and are prepared to help address those needs.”

Do Good:

•    Check out the student philanthropy handbook if you're interested in starting a similar program at your institution.  

•    Give a Buck to Mayerson Student Philanthropy.

•    Instead of giving away money, gave away your time by volunteering at a local nonprofit. 

Here is a list of the classes and the nonprofits chosen for funding by classes in the Spring 2014 semester:

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
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