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Undergraduates to Donate $100,000 as Part of Class

Northwestern class explores policies, politics and practice of philanthropy

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March 25, 2013

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Thirty-three Northwestern University undergrads will be giving away $100,000 as part of a new class in the School of Education and Social Policy (SESP). The interdisciplinary class, “Learning Philanthropy and Engaging in the Study and Practice of Giving,” begins Tuesday, April 9, on the Evanston campus.

Taught by Penelope Peterson, dean of the School of Education and Social Policy, and former Spencer Foundation director Lauren Jones Young, “Learning Philanthropy” will examine the history and practice of philanthropic giving and, in a very real way, demonstrate the impact that charitable giving can have.

“Our students are the leaders of the future,” said Dean Peterson. “Many of them will be making important decisions about charitable giving, and some will be directing nonprofits. This class will give them a chance to approach philanthropy from different angles, especially from the perspective of giving to improve the lives of children and families.”

To apply what they learn in the course, students will decide whether to donate $100,000 to a single nonprofit or to split it among multiple nonprofit organizations. In the process, they will explore the policies, politics and practices that influence giving decisions. 

The $100,000 at the core of the course comes from the Once Upon a Time Foundation of Fort Worth, Tex. That organization, which has given money to other universities for similar classes, maintains that courses in philanthropy help students better understand the importance and process of charitable giving as well as the challenges involved in selecting worthwhile organizations to support.

The students in the class were selected on the basis of an application that included this question: what would you do if you were given $10,000 to donate to a cause?

Dean Peterson is also the Eleanor R. Baldwin Professor at Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy, which is consistently nationally ranked in the top schools of education. A psychologist, she is the co-author of “Restructuring in the Classroom: Teaching, Learning and School Organization” and “Learning from Our Lives: Women, Research and Autobiography in Education.”

Young is the former director of the Spencer Foundation’s program on teaching, learning and instructional resources. She is chief executive officer of LJYoung, a consulting firm in education and philanthropy, and former associate professor of teacher education and educational administration at Michigan State University.