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Robert Spitzer, Ph.D.
Old Main, Room 207
Phone: 607-753-4105
Fax: 607-753-5760
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Philanthropy Course Again Awards $10,000

SUNY Cortland political science major Matthew D’Alesio is quick to point out the key quality that distinguishes POL 129, a special topics course offered at the College, from any other one that most students have sat through.

“No class I’ve ever taken has given us $10,000,” said D’Alesio, of Yorktown Heights, N.Y.

The large cash sum is not D’Alesio’s to spend on himself or his friends. It is, however, competitive funding from the Learning by Giving Foundation that he and 15 other SUNY Cortland students soon will award to deserving community not-for-profit groups as part of the College’s Philanthropy and Civic Engagement: Teaching Students How to Give course.

Henry Steck

SUNY Distinguished
Henry Steck

The class, led by SUNY Distinguished Service Professor Henry Steck, will announce four local agencies — out of 16 that applied — to receive at least $2,000 each during a special awards reception Tuesday, May 7. The ceremony begins at 4:30 p.m. in Brockway Hall Jacobus Lounge.

“In other classes, we talk about what we would do or what we might do,” said Louisa Frick, an international studies major from Red Hook, N.Y. “In this class, we actually get to do something — something that’s really important.”

SUNY Cortland joins a 32-member group of colleges and universities to earn the $10,000 in funds from the Learning by Giving Foundation, which aims to promote the study of philanthropy at the undergraduate level. The select class also includes institutions such as the University of California at Berkeley, Columbia University and Stanford University.

“I personally feel really proud for the College and for (the State University of New York),” said Steck, a professor of political science. “I’m proud for our students too because this demonstrates that we’re on the cutting edge of doing things.”

The course, which is backed by the competitive funding for the second year in a row, also receives support from the College’s Political Science Department and Institute for Civic Engagement. None of the money from the Learning by Giving Foundation could be used on course-related expenses; all of it will split among the four community agencies.

Sixteen students, coming from nine different majors that included business economics, professional writing, and exercise science, learned quickly that awarding grants would not prove as easy as handing out someone else’s money.

D'Alesio and Frick
International studies major
Louisa Frick and political
major Matthew

“I was expecting it to be hard, but I didn’t realize it was going to be so hard choosing between different organizations,” said Lizaury Rodriguez-Marin, a political science major from Freeport, N.Y., noting that many of the not-for-profit agencies showed similar needs.

Guest lecturers in the class spoke to the importance of prioritizing specific needs. Among the many transferable skills students learned, they were trained in real-world ways to debate effectively, work collaboratively and write efficiently to a request for proposal.

“We also learned how stressful it is for the organizations on the other side just to get money for their programs,” said Katherine Wick, a sociology major from Lockport, N.Y. “They’re constantly looking for money, constantly applying for grants.”

D’Alesio, a student who aspires to a career in politics, said that the course introduced him to the community’s specific needs and that he’s more likely to give to not-for-profit organizations in the future.

“The proposals we saw all showed a lot of need,” he said. “They definitely made me want to spread the wealth through philanthropy.”

To learn more about the course’s awards reception, contact the Political Science Department at 607-753-4105.