By Raegan Turner l Staff Writer
Baylor University has created a special course for its undergraduate students that focuses on more than just the educational requirements needed in order to complete their majors. Philanthropy and the Public Good (PPS 4310) is a full-credit course lead by Dr. Andrew Hogue that provides an opportunity for students to learn more about the challenges associated with responsible charitable giving. During their time in their class, students have full authority over granting thousands of dollars to various non-profit organizations.
After having multiple successful careers as CFO of Texas Exchange Bank, portfolio manager at Q Investments, Vice President at Koch Industries, and Product Manager for Skid Steer Loaders at Case Corporation, Pat Dunne wanted to donate some of his wealth to charity. There was only one problem– he didn’t know enough about issues, their causes and their solutions in order to give away his money in an effective way. In response to this, Dunne created the Philanthropy Lab, a Fort-Worth based program that introduces a course aimed at educating students about financial generosity to universities across the nation. The course became available on Baylor’s campus in fall 2014. Similar versions of the class have been instituted in 27 universities across the country, through which over $8.4 million dollars has been donated.
Hogue, a senior lecturer in the Honors Program and the director of the Philanthropy & Public Service Program, describes the course as a unique and highly beneficial opportunity for students to not only get hands-on experience with choosing where, why and how large sums of money are donated, but also to develop as a person.
“This is a course about becoming people who are generous. It’s one thing to think about how to do that with someone else’s money that you just walk in the room and are given — it’s another thing to actually think about that for yourself, to cultivate generosity as a virtue, as character trait, as something that is part of who you are.” Hogue said.
Each individual student involved in the course will fill various roles as the semester progresses, as well as collectively operating as a board of directors that have the ultimate decision on how, why, and where the donated money will be allocated. The formation of assigned small groups within the overall team requires students to act as program officers that cultivate relationships with non-profit and non-governmental organizations, assess the nonprofits’ needs and effectiveness, and possibly advocate on the behalf of their favored beneficiaries. Later in the semester, students function as an employee of an organization and draw up grant proposals that will be presented to the entire body of directors for final consideration.
The program focuses on addressing seven categories of public concerns; health and wellness, hunger and homelessness, children, youth and education, culture, arts and the environment, human services and civil rights and community improvement and development. Each of the organizations that have received money, as well as any others that are considered to become recipients, are categorized based on these.
After months of evaluating and personally conferring with various organizations, The final decision of where the money goes is fully decided upon by the students. Mission Waco, The Cove and UnBound are just a few of the organizations within Waco that have been selected to receive varying amounts of financial assistance by course participants in past semesters.
Since the fall of 2014, Baylor students in this course have given away over $600,000 to 42 distinct organizations in the Waco community. The money is donated from Baylor alumni and financial partners as well as provided by the Philanthropy Lab. Some of these donations have been the funds used to get a new organization off of the ground, while others have been contributions desperately needed to continue the charitable work that has and will continue to support the needy people of Waco and across the country.
Houston senior Katie Chilton enrolled in the course after hearing about it through a friend of her sister before Chilton even came to Baylor. Throughout this semester she has learned how to think critically about the practice of philanthropy; she now views this kind of generosity not only as a personal donation, but as a lifestyle of kindness.
“Etymologically, the word “philanthropy” means “love of humankind”. I feel that this is a perfect way to sum up the shift in my thinking as a result of this class.” Chilton said. “As opposed to seeing philanthropy as merely a donation of money or time, this class helped me to understand the ways in which I can live my life in a philanthropic way, both directly through involvement with nonprofit organizations, but also simply in the way that I am generous towards others in kindness.”