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IUPUI commencement includes first students to earn bachelor's degree in philanthropy

First BA philanthropy students Elizabeth Wells (left to right), Arisha Kahn, Hannah Croucher, Brittany Sears, Mark Lighthizer
First BA philanthropy students Elizabeth Wells (left to right), Arisha Kahn, Hannah Croucher, Brittany Sears, Mark Lighthizer

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May 11, 2012

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The first five students to earn a Bachelor of Arts in philanthropic studies will graduate May 13 in Indianapolis.

Less than two years after the program was launched, 21 undergraduate students are now officially majoring in philanthropic studies.

The program is developed and led by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. The degree is awarded by the IU School of Liberal Arts at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, where the center is located.

“The early success of this program reflects well on this generation of college students and is clear evidence that they are searching for a meaningful path for their degrees and careers,” said Julie Hatcher, director of undergraduate programs at the Center on Philanthropy. “They are excited to discover that there is a way they can turn their passion for helping others and giving back into a career and still earn a good living.”

The bachelor’s degree program equips students with knowledge and hands-on experience needed to succeed in entry-level positions in philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. It prepares them for careers in fields as diverse as foundations, health care, human services, community development, education, the arts and the environment. U.S. nonprofits will need to fill 640,000 new leadership positions by 2016, according to a report by Bridgespan, a nonprofit strategy consulting firm.

Graduates reflected on their goals and experiences:

•Arisha Kahn: “I want to work with an internationally based nonprofit that seeks solutions on a larger level. I have the resources, the ability, the education and the passion it takes to help others. I am confident in saying that it is now my time to lead.”

•Mark Lighthizer: “I have seen philanthropy transform the lives of individuals and learned that I enjoy working in an environment that provides social welfare relief. My long-term career goal is to be a social entrepreneur working to empower and enrich all aspects of a community and its people.”

•Brittany Sears: “Working with others toward the greater good is something I will practice for the rest of my life. I will step out into the real world with the knowledge, skills and dispositions to advance my individual and professional goals as a professional fundraiser empowering the cause and well-being of others.”

“This is a degree whose time has come,” said Patrick Rooney, executive director of the center. “Nonprofits comprise about 10 percent of the U.S. workforce and have a growing need for well-educated, thoughtful leaders. Philanthropy is increasingly complex, and working in it successfully demands more deliberate and sophisticated preparation. These students are prepared to meet those challenges.”

The graduates have already made a significant impact through service learning projects and internships. Students developed a summer enrichment program for homeless children, wrote grant proposals, created a new program evaluation method for a social services agency and assisted in fundraising. They served in internships at Central Indiana nonprofits, including St. Vincent Hospital Foundation, Riverview Hospital Foundation, School on Wheels, Mary Rigg Community Center, Horizon House (a service provider for the homeless) and the Athenaeum Foundation.

“It’s exciting to see that students in the first graduating class have had so much success in achieving the impact that they are intent on making throughout their lives,” said Dwight Burlingame, director of academic programs and associate executive director at the Center on Philanthropy. “We are proud of their numerous achievements and congratulate them on being the first to earn this unique degree.”

Two of the students will travel to China this summer to learn about rapid changes in philanthropy and civil society there. Both also are enrolling in the Master of Arts in philanthropic studies program at the Center on Philanthropy.