Service learning is an engaged learning process where students “learn by doing,” combining learning objectives inside the classroom with community service—the result? A deeper understanding of what is being taught to better identify community needs.

Mount St. Joseph student philanthropy group holding check for non profit

This spring, 24 undergraduate students ranging from first-years to seniors in two different classes at Mount St. Joseph University participated in The Student Philanthropy Project, where they learned about awarding funding to non-profit organizations. Each class is given $1,000 to award to an organization of their choosing at the end of the semester.

Each MSJ faculty member for these courses begins by applying through the Career & Experiential Education Center to build student philanthropy into their curriculum. Then, faculty are able to develop the philanthropy requirements of each course, setting parameters for service-learning students to research nonprofits and solicit proposals for grants of $1,000.

This spring, courses participating in student philanthropy included Cincinnati Arts Scene, as well as Curriculum & Methods for Students with Mild/Moderate Needs. The students then collaboratively decided on a nonprofit to invest in after researching the nonprofits and examining the proposals.

student philanthropy group project holding check
In photo: Cincinnati Arts Scene students

Dr. Elizabeth Bookser-Barkley, chairperson of the Department of Liberal Arts and professor of one of the project’s courses, Cincinnati Arts Scene, emphasizes the benefits of its outcomes for MSJ students.

"Involving our students in The Student Philanthropy Project has been enriching for them and the community,” she affirms. “Our students got to integrate life and learning by moving out into the community, meeting nonprofit arts organizations, and learning tools to evaluate the organizations' financial status. Then, they brought their energy and passion for those programs into the classroom."

Putting Passion into Action to Resolve Community Burdens

Students were divided into groups where they researched and narrowed down a nonprofit organization they believed deserved the grant, and presented their chosen nonprofit to the class at the end of the semester. After the presentations, the class voted on which organization most deserved the funding.

Student Terrin Jackson, first year dual biomedical sciences and biochemistry major, was a part of the winning team in the Cincinnati Arts Scene course. He and one of his project teammates both work at a long-term senior care facility, so the team was inspired to find an organization that supported the individuals they work with on a daily basis.

As a result, they identified Creative Aging as an organization that was doing meaningful work within the community. 

“Learning about non-profits and identifying one that aligns with your passion is the cornerstone to successfully fulfilling a student philanthropy project,” asserts Jackson. “Recognizing a need within the community, researching that need, and being able to directly assist in resolving the burden is so impactful and goes beyond what words can express.”

The Student Philanthropy Program is funded by the Cambridge Charitable Foundation, providing $500 - $1,000 to a few MSJ courses each semester. Since 2016, MSJ students have contributed over $55,000 to 35 nonprofit organizations through the student philanthropy project.

Whether it's by earning a plus one credit, collaborating on a group project, or participating in student philanthropy, the Mount’s campus offers a diverse range of opportunities for students to actively engage in service learning.

“These avenues provide exceptional pathways for students to connect with the community and fortify their classroom knowledge,” says Service Learning & Engagement Coordinator, Caroline Meyer. “Student philanthropy, in particular, grants students the invaluable chance to explore and appreciate the remarkable efforts made by other community members, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation for their work."

About the Nonprofit Recipients: 

student philanthropy group holding check
In photo: Cincinnati Arts Scene students

Course: SED 380-02 Curriculum & Methods for Students with Mild/Moderate Needs taught by Dr. Megan Dinnesen:
Recipient: NewPath Child & Family Services
For the individuals facing behavioral and specialty healthcare, educational treatment, and child welfare needs – NewPath ignites hope and changes futures by providing access to and results from expert, specialized, and comprehensive trauma-informed care.

Course: HON 260 Honors: Cincinnati Arts Scene taught by Dr. Elizabeth Bookser Barkley and Dr. Pete Robinson
Recipient: Creative Aging
Lifelong interests and talents connect us to the outside world and foster a sense of purpose, accomplishment and community. As we age, memories remind us that life is good and our experiences are meaningful. Oftentimes, when physical and cognitive changes occur, these limitations may decrease our participation in activities we once enjoyed.  Creative Aging Cincinnati addresses these challenges and presents inspiring, educational and enriching programs on site, promoting communication, interaction and a positive mindset, vitally important for healthy aging.

Interested in Applying Knowledge within the Classroom to Community Service?

Check out our Service Learning & Civic Engagement page here to learn more about our offerings to increase your involvement, gain practical skills beyond the classroom, and to promote meaningful civic change for causes you care about.