This fall, supported by a grant from the Once Upon a Time Foundation, students at Tulane will be able to enroll in a new course “Philanthropy and Social Change” in which they will study philanthropy and ultimately allocate $50,000 to worthy New Orleans nonprofits.
The Fort Worth-based foundation is funding the course as part of its program, The Philanthropy Lab, which supports philanthropy education at universities.
“I think students are going to walk away from this experience with a much better understanding of how they participate in the public good,” says Michele Adams, an associate professor of sociology at Tulane and chair of the department.
The Philanthropy Lab, explains program director Lauren Wolter, aims to “teach students to understand the problems that exist in the community, how different organizations are solving those problems and how philanthropy can help.”
Started in 2011, The Philanthropy Lab and its donor partners have given $3.5 million to build philanthropy education at universities. Since the creation of the organization, over 1,200 students have participated in philanthropy courses. Tulane is the fourteenth university currently partnering with The Philanthropy Lab and joins such universities as Harvard, Yale, and Stanford.
Adams foresees that the class will be capped at 25 students who will work in teams to become thoughtful, “socially responsible” philanthropists. They will study the history of philanthropy, learn why philanthropy is sometimes described as the “third leg of the American economy,” visit nonprofit agencies, and devise strategies to distribute foundation dollars most effectively.
“I want the students to think about what it means to give away money,” Adams says, adding that she hopes students who take the course will come away with an awareness that philanthropic decisions deserve sustained thought. “Whether you are involved in a big foundation or giving away $5, you must give philanthropy careful and systematic consideration.”
Philanthropy and Social Change will be cross-listed in both the newly created School of Liberal Arts Management Minor (SLAMM) and the Department of Sociology. It will serve as a service-learning class.
According to School of Liberal Arts Dean Carole Haber, the Once Upon a Time partnership with Tulane is a natural fit. Haber notes that, “Our students come to Tulane with a desire to become involved in the community and make a difference in the lives of New Orleanians. The Philanthropy Lab gives them unmatched, first-hand experience.”
Lou Franchina, senior development officer in the Office of Corporate and Foundation Relations, agrees. “This course perfectly complements our students’ community service graduation requirement,” he says. “This grant will transform theory into practice and provide a real-world introduction to philanthropy. It will benefit not only Tulane faculty and students, but also some of the most disadvantaged—and most deserving—citizens of New Orleans.”
The course will be uplifting for sociology students whose education about social problems can be depressing, says Adams. “This is going to actually give the students a chance to mitigate some of these problems,” she says. “They’re going to actually help make things better. That is an amazing opportunity.”