This fall, students can learn how to be philanthropists Â”“ and donate $100,000 to local nonprofits.
A new course, called Philanthropy as Civic Engagement, will offer 24 students the opportunity to donate a total of $100,000 to nonprofits in the Los Angeles area. It will be taught by Judi Smith, dean and vice provost for undergraduate education, and offered through the Center for Community Learning.
The funds will come from a Texas-based foundation called Once Upon a Time, which approached Smith with the idea for the course in the middle of March, Smith said.
The foundation has sponsored similar courses at Yale University and Texas Christian University since 2009. A representative could not be reached for comment.
While not a trend, philanthropic classes have been seen more often in recent years, said Kathy O’Byrne, director of the UCLA Center for Community Learning said. UCLA will model the course after Yale University’s philanthropic course offering.
“I thought it was a wonderful opportunity for students to understand the process of giving and the common good,” Smith said.
She added that most students will not be in the position to give away such large sums of money until later in their lives.
Students will work in teams to evaluate nonprofits in the greater Los Angeles area. The course will focus on four major areas: arts, civil rights, environmental sustainability and health and human services.
The organizations to be considered will be selected by the Center for Community Learning, which already has a strong relationship with nonprofits in the area, O’Byrne said.
Smith said the emphasis of the greater Los Angeles Area is intentional. She wants students to become engaged in a local context.
Each team of six students will be required to write proposals, visit sites and critically discuss the merits of each organization with the rest of the class. The class will meet once a week and will include readings and guest speakers.
At the end of the quarter, the students will collectively decide which four agencies, one from each area of focus, will receive portions of the donation money.
The goal is to help students be part of a civil society, O’Byrne said.
“(The class) puts the student in the position of the philanthropist,” said Kyle McJunkin, UCLA director of curriculum coordination.
Students are not allowed to give the money equally among the agencies, Smith said. This added challenge requires them to act as a board and make decisions about how to distribute the money, she added.
The class is being offered in the fall, so students who find an interest in philanthropy can continue to work with the nonprofits through internships for credit throughout the rest of the year, Smith said. The class will give students four units toward graduation.
Jinsol Lee, a third-year physiological science student, said he is very interested in taking the course because he thinks that there are underserved communities in the area. Lee said he is concerned, however, that the class will interfere with other classes he needs for graduation.
Students interested in enrolling can apply online through a survey on MyUCLA. The application will require two essays and a resume. Eligibility is limited to third- and fourth-years who have declared a major and have a minimum 2.8 GPA, McJunkin said.