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Teaching Philosophy

At its core, philanthropy and nonprofit studies aims to develop civic-minded graduates and reflective professionals. This goal has never been more relevant than today, as more Americans donate to charities and volunteer than vote in political elections. Philanthropy and the nonprofit sector are thus at the center of how we engage in public debates and aim to shape the common good. However, while we rely on consumer reviews in deciding what restaurants to eat at and break down the performance of athletes into multiple performance indicators, we rarely do the same due diligence before giving or volunteering. My goal is therefore to help my students to understand how to contribute to society through philanthropy and volunteering, to apply technical skills to the work in nonprofit agencies, and to engage with our community.

Leveraging teaching methodologies to enhance learning experience. I incorporate high impact practices (HIPs) in my teaching, finding that service-learning strategies are ideal approaches to emphasize the combination of skills, knowledge, and values at the center of my teaching. I employ a combination of active-learning strategies and high-impact practices in structuring assignments and exercises. I use collaborative projects to encourage students to work together in solving problems while benefiting from peer learning. I support this process through short lectures providing students with the tools to analyze the organization from a variety of perspectives (from assessing impact to financial health). Students then apply these tools by working in groups on concrete scenarios and case studies. In the fully revised introductory course (CADS 1700), students complete a short philanthropic autobiography (reflective writing) at the beginning of the semester, which requires them to reflect on the different ways they have engaged with philanthropy, either as givers or receivers. This reflective assignment is followed by ten-to-fifteen hours of service in the local community, which represent for many freshmen the first opportunity to interact with the local community outside the campus bubble and develop a sense of community across campus and local town.

Connecting academic learning and practical application. I structure my courses around clearly defined learning outcomes and problem-based learning. For instance, CADS 2700 Introduction to Nonprofit Organizations provides students with the critical skills and information needed to be strategic in their philanthropies. Relying on backward course design, I use exercises, activities, and lectures supporting this learning goal, helping students to connect the often-perceived abstract academic knowledge and their concrete life experience. As I further develop the PNPS curriculum, I envision students moving through increasingly more structured service-learning projects, helping students in developing specific skills, such as in my grantmaking course (CADS 3780), which as an experiential philanthropy course allows students to grant $3,000 to a local nonprofit organization through a real grant-making process. In this course, students review proposals, conduct site visits, and award the grant at the end of the semester. As part of the process, students develop both soft and hard skills. They learn how to assess the performance of nonprofit organizations, develop effective grantmaking strategies, and best practices in grant writing, while developing professional and teamwork skills

Creating an inclusive and collaborative learning environment. I have greatly benefitted from the opportunity to teach at three very different institutions over the past 10 years. As I have progressed in my career, my growing understanding and awareness of both how diverse students are across institutions of higher learning and the multiplicity of external factors impacting student learning have influenced my approaches to teaching. I learned that effective teaching is rooted in the ability to create a collaborative and challenging learning environment. To this end, I actively work toward improving my teaching methods by evaluating my approaches on an ongoing basis and valuing student feedback. I was excited to be recognized as future philanthropic educator fellow by the Learning by Giving Foundation and service-learning mentor of the year at Murray State University, and to have been selected for the Summer Course (Re)Design program offered by the Biggio Center at Auburn University.

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