Money and influence are not often associated with college freshmen, but students in the Signature Course “Philanthropy: The Power of Giving” are given $100,000 to donate to charities across the world. The money comes with one stipulation: the students must work all semester debating and vetting charities to ensure the money is well spent. Students presented the funds to charities in a ceremony Thursday evening.
- Charity Water received $30,000 to help build two wells in Ethiopia
- Caring for Cambodia received $20,000 to build schools for Cambodian children
- Common Hope received $20,000 to further education in Guatemala
- Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) Austin received $20,000 to help further free college preparatory charter schools in Austin
- Sustainable Harvest received $10,000 to promote sustainable land use in Honduras
A Transformative Course
At the beginning of the semester, professor Pam Paxton divides the class into groups based on their shared interests. Each student picks several charities for the group to evaluate. After a semester of in-class debates, research, and evaluations, each group picks one charity to receive money.
“I think a lot of people don’t research charities when they give,” said Christina Draughon, a first-year human development and family sciences major, whose group donated to Common Hope. “Through this class, I’ve learned a lot about how it’s less about what your heart feels and more about what is truly effective.”
The course was created by School of Undergraduate Studies inaugural dean Paul Woodruff and has donated over $300,000 to charities since 2012. The Once Upon a Time Foundation has created The Philanthropy Lab to support courses like this at 12 universities across the country.
“It’s a unique class, both for me to teach and for the students who take it,” Paxton said. “The students did a careful and thorough job researching and debating the charities. I think they did a wonderful job and will come away from the class with great skills that they can use in the future.”
A story about “Philanthropy: The Power of Giving” was recently published in the College of Liberal Arts magazine Life & Letters.