Partnering with the Learning by Giving Foundation (LxG), a national organization whose mission is to “inspire and educate a new generation of philanthropists,” Thornton’s course is one of 312 LxG-sponsored philanthropy courses taught in colleges and universities across the nation.
“I first learned about the Learning by Giving Foundation 10 years ago when I read a profile of a sociology course that examined philanthropy,” Thornton says. “I thought a philanthropy course certainly fit into Hampden-Sydney’s mission of forming good men and good citizens.” Instead of approaching the topic from just one academic discipline, however, Thornton harnessed the power of the liberal arts and created an interdisciplinary survey of philanthropy. Today, the course studies everything from the philosophical roots of philanthropy to its permeation across all cultures and religions, its economic implications, and even contemporary influences like social media.
But as a hallmark course of Compass, H-SC’s experiential learning program, students do more than just analyze academic theory—they also work side-by-side with Farmville-area community members serving as volunteers and learning how to manage and run nonprofits. Students this semester worked with six local organizations: Farmville Area Community Emergency Supply (FACES), a local food bank; Heartland Horse Heroes, an equine-therapy program for middle school students; Heart of Virginia Free Clinic, a free healthcare clinic for low-income citizens; Virginia Children’s Book Festival (VCBF), an organization that champions childhood literacy; Piedmont Senior Resources, a home-healthcare service for the elderly; and Piedmont Habitat for Humanity, an organization that builds homes for housing-insecure individuals and families.