We’re within the first month of the semester here at IUPUI and the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, and classes are in full swing.
We’ve done a preview of some of the classes we have this fall (as well as other semesters), but what’s an inside look into some of the classes philanthropy students take?
Well, I’m one of those students (a master’s student to be exact), so I think I have an “insider perspective,” and can give a peek into what I’ve learned.
This semester specifically, I’m taking Economics of Philanthropy, and Community Foundations, both online courses. I originally signed up to just take Economics, a required core course for the master’s degree. Believe me when I say that I was not looking forward to it. I avoided Economics at all costs during my undergraduate days, thinking I’d never have to take it.
I turned out to be wrong, finding myself signed up for the course in my penultimate semester. I turned out to be wrong on another front too – we’re less than a month in, and I’ve already found concepts and theories useful that I never thought I would. If you had told me a month ago that contract failure theory, information asymmetry, and regression analysis would be helpful in understanding the nonprofit sector, I would have laughed.
However, these concepts (and more!) definitely provide framing for what I’ve already learned. I found that to be true about my law of nonprofits class as well – it wasn’t the most enjoyable class I’ve ever had, but I still think of cy pres, deviation, and the duties of care, loyalty, and obedience, and actually understand what it means when I read about them in the news.
So getting back to my point – I had just signed up to take Econ. I thought that would be plenty. Then, I found out about this new, hybrid, elective course called Community Foundations. The course takes place mostly online, and concludes at the National Conference for Growing Community Foundations in Wichita, Kansas in late October. I had an internship at a community foundation last summer, and community philanthropy and leadership fascinates me. I believe that strong community leadership in philanthropy can activate diverse networks and bring people together. In other words, think of what we can accomplish when we work together in an inclusive and collaborative manner.
Plus, the students in this course have the opportunity to network with amazing leaders in the field in Wichita.
In addition, our large project for the semester asks us to work with an innovative leader in community philanthropy. Dr. Laurie Paarlberg has a connection to a community foundation association in Romania, so naturally, I immediately volunteered to work with a Romanian foundation. As someone fascinated by community and international philanthropy, this is a perfect combination of my interests.
I also experienced that through going abroad with the elective course Philanthropy in Comparative European Perspective this past summer. We learned all about philanthropy in Germany and the Netherlands, and I took special note of the role of institutional philanthropy and how government impacts giving and volunteering in those countries.
I may be (okay, am) biased, but from a student perspective, the school constantly innovates and features new courses in addition to those required. Last spring, I took an elective called Institutional Fundraising. It was another “first-time” course and while I’m not a fundraiser, I believe that knowing how to fundraise from foundations, corporations, governments, giving circles, federated institutions, etc. would serve me well in the long run. The course was thorough, well-explained, and very interesting.
We also got the practical experience of writing a grant proposal, which for a non-fundraiser, was an incredibly helpful and insightful way to understand 1) how to do it, and 2) why it can be a burden on nonprofits seeking institutional funding.
This course coincided perfectly with the required core course Grantmaking and the Role of Foundations, as well as another internship this past spring and summer at a small, private foundation in Indianapolis. I was learning about both sides of foundation work, while also seeing that in practice in my internship.
You can’t ask for a more thorough and better learning experience.
I could go on for a while, but I’ll leave it here. Hopefully, you can see that as a philanthropy student, you can tailor your degree to your interests. There’s a class this semester on Next Gen Tech and Social Change. There’s one on donor motivations and behavior behind major and planned giving. They’ve created a new “study away” course where students can learn about innovative foundations and travel to Sarasota, Florida to work with The Patterson Foundation during spring break. There are courses on gender and philanthropy, religion and philanthropy, the history of international humanitarian assistance, racial equity in philanthropy, and more.
These electives help you learn about philanthropy in very different ways. And if you’re more interested in research, you can choose to write a master’s thesis focusing on a passion and interest of yours instead.
Variety also extends to the bachelor’s and Ph.D. programs. I’ve met a bachelor’s degree student with a double major in Business, and one minoring in Community Health, and one with two language minors. Like master’s degree students, bachelor’s degree students have a variety of electives to choose from and can tailor the degree.
Ph.D. students have minors and varied interests as well – I know someone interested in global service learning. Another is interested in oceans and philanthropy. Another looks at organizational effectiveness. Another is interested in evaluation.
There are so many ways to learn about philanthropy. Faculty here have interdisciplinary interests and that comes through in the courses they teach. Philanthropy isn’t just about fundraising and giving money – there’s so much more to learn.
I’m looking forward to graduating in May, but also a bit sad to know that at this point, my formal education in philanthropy will be completed.
I do know, though, that I’ll be prepared and equipped for any role in philanthropy moving forward.