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Rising to the Challenge

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This is our 20th year for the Mayerson Student Philanthropy Project at Northern Kentucky University, making us the nation’s oldest such program.

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To mark the occasion, we had scheduled 20 classes this semester – a new record.

Then, with a global pandemic staring us down, NKU switched after spring break to online classes. Seventeen of our classes pressed forward. One, a College of Law class, even added a new component: an extra $1,000 earmarked for COVID-19 response.

Going online made us, as a university, focus not on what we could not do – but on what we could do. You will see in the stories on this page that our classes rose the challenge.

The classes are awarding just over $28,000 in direct grants this semester. That will push us over the $900,000 mark in grants made to nearly 400 nonprofits since our program started in the Fall 2000 semester.

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Innovating
Through COVID-19
This month, we are launching our first ever 7-week online student philanthropy class. It is being taught by Whittney Darnell, a communication professor. It’s a Heath Communication class and it will be working with a nonprofit to COVID-19 needs.
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Celebration Messages

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Thank you to our
Generous Sponsors

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A Unique Challenge

COVID-19 Required Rapid Adjustment


The conversion at mid-semester to online instruction required faculty and students in the Spring 2020 Mayerson Student Philanthropy Project classes to adjust quickly. Here are reflections from our faculty on the experience:
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“When everything changed, we were ready for our nonprofits to come to campus to present. I switched the format to Zoom presentations, and instead of students presenting to each other afterward, I used discussion boards for arguments, and then students voted using Survey Monkey."

CMST 340-001: Strategies of Persuasion
Professor Jeffrey Fox

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“We were halfway through the MSPP. Presentations advocating for the vote and the vote was done online. Challenges with the presentations were the teamwork and technology for the students being online."

ENV 493-001: Environmental Science Seminar
Professor Kristy Hopfensperger

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“I am proud of this group of students. Given the difficult circumstances, they took the process seriously and worked diligently.”

ENG 101-002: College Writing
Professor Jonathan Cullick

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“The students' assignment was to create an year-long engagement plan for the NPO. Since we were a week away from their presentations, students were asked to record their presentations and upload them to Canvas.*"

GER 202-001: Intermediate German II
Professor Andrea Fieler

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"It was challenging, but we did it."

LDR 160-001 & 010: Leadership Around the World
Professor Megan Dowing

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"The students had previously been exposed to some online learning tools while engaging in the class in a face-to-face or blended delivery for learning. While dialogue was limited, discussion boards in an asynchronous manner were presented to the students who did have an opportunity to experience and therefore learn how this online form of learning, though different, can provide certain benefits that face-to-face learning does not."

LDR 160-008 & 009: Leadership Around the World
Professor Rick Brockmeier

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An Idea is Born and Nurtured

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For those of you new to our program, let me give you a little background.

Student philanthropy is an experiential approach to teaching that uses the power of giving to teach course material. Students begin with a sum of money provided by a donor. Then, working as a class, they explore community needs, learn about nonprofits addressing those needs and, in the end, decide collaboratively where to invest their funds. Each step is integrated into the course and designed to amplify learning outcomes while also developing a commitment to stewardship of place.

When NKU began designing  a program, student philanthropy was barely more than an idea. In the years since, the idea has expanded on our campus and nationally.

Adding philanthropy to our classes is not something we did simply because giving money to nonprofits is good – though, of course, it is. Acting as donors who invest in community change contributes to our students’ grasp of community needs and to their long-term commitment to stewardship.

But adding the giving component to college courses also seemed, from the start, a smart way to teach course content, whether the course is business or biology, math or music, theater or social work. That premise, too, has held up.

Bottom line: The value of student philanthropy is both of civic and academic.

Today, there are student philanthropy classes at dozens of universities. There also are at least four multi-university programs. Additionally, a high school version of student philanthropy in our region, Magnified Giving, was patterned after NKU’s program.

All of those accomplishments matter but perhaps nothing speaks more to the value of student philanthropy than the words of our students, who, year after year, talk of the experience as something special. Spend some time on this website, which  celebrates our Spring 2020 classes. I think you will see what I mean.

Thank you,

Mark Neikirk, Executive director
Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement

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