Vanderbilt class donates $60,000 to area nonprofits

John Russell/Vanderbilt

by Kurt Brobeck

Vanderbilt students gave $60,000 to three Nashville charities on April 25, the final day of a spring semester class on philanthropy.

Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of education and human development partnered with The Philanthropy Lab to create the unique class, Philanthropy and Social Problem Solving, as a part of the Community Leadership and Development track in the Department of Human and Organizational Development (HOD). The Philanthropy Lab provided funds for the students to donate to charities of their choosing at the conclusion of the class.

Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos and Camilla P. Benbow, Patricia and Rodes Hart Dean of Education and Human Development, were on hand to present checks to Rocketown ($22,108.96), the Nashville International Center for Empowerment ($20,000) and the Nashville Food Project ($17,891.04).

The class was designed by Paul Speer, HOD professor and department chair, along with HOD professors Marybeth Shinn and Douglas Perkins.

“We are very excited about the opportunities this class presented to students for real-world experience in philanthropy and analysis of the best nonprofits in Nashville,” Perkins said. “We hope to offer the class every spring.”

HOD is known for its applied orientation, which focuses on learning and using developmental and organizational theory to solve problems in real-world organizational and community contexts.

During the semester, students identified different social problems in Nashville, researched approaches to addressing needs, identified organizations working to meet those needs, analyzed their capacity to be effective, and determined how to allocate the financial resources at the class’s disposal to maximize their impact. The students then chose recipient organizations and determined the amounts each would receive.

“The Philanthropy Lab provided us with an incredible opportunity to examine and address some of the most critical issues facing our community—both in Nashville and our entire country,” said Alex Bogdon, a Vanderbilt senior. “I wish every student in the United States had the opportunity to participate in this course, as it has truly reshaped the value I place on philanthropic giving, no matter the size of the gift.”

In June, Bogdon and Rachel King, a senior majoring in HOD, will represent Vanderbilt at a national gathering of students from similar courses sponsored by the Philanthropy Lab at other top institutions. Students at the conference will share experiences and information about the organizations they selected and will give away an additional $100,000.

Started in 2011, The Philanthropy Lab and its donor partners have given more than $4.8 million to build philanthropy education at 17 universities across the United States. More than 1,500 students have participated in philanthropy courses affiliated with The Philanthropy Lab.