Notre Dame philanthropy class assists Michiana nonprofits

Twenty-four students in Notre Dame’s Philanthropy and the Common Good course are picking several Michiana non-profit organizations to award grants. The course receives $50,000 to $70,000 each fall, and students act as a board of directors to research organizations to receive the funds.

Philanthropy and the Common Good is offered in the fall semester by the political science department, the Hesburgh program in public service and the constitutional studies minor. The course is designed to teach the history and importance of philanthropy in the U.S. through an experiential learning style.

Current students say they appreciate the class’s immersive approach. 

“It’s one of my favorite classes I have ever taken,” senior Rachel Stockford said. “Especially as a senior being able to be involved in the communities.”

Sophomore Liam Redmond said the class was a good opportunity for him to expand his boundaries as a student.

“It’s a great avenue to get out of the Notre Dame bubble and really serve people. It’s been my favorite class and so rewarding,” he said.

The non-profits chosen by the class address a range of causes. St. Margaret’s House and United Religious Community in South Bend are two organizations they have been in communications with this semester.

“It’s clear how much of a variety in these different nonprofits there are, whether it’s food related or people related,” Redmond said. 

The students work in groups and each research two organizations. They must conduct one in-person site visit and one virtual interview to gather adequate information that can be reported back to the class. 

“It’s a very unique experience to be able to go out to these and see what these nonprofits are like,” Redmond said. 

Afterwards, the class reviews the organizations’ funding requests and holds two to three board meetings as a class to make their final decisions. 

Grants will be given to three to five charities at an award ceremony scheduled for December. The minimum grant amount the course awards is $5,000 and the maximum is $20,000. Last year’s recipients included the Youth Service Bureau, Motels4Now, Cultivate Food Rescue, Center for Community Justice and A Rosie Place for Children.

The 2022 sponsors for the course include The Philanthropy Lab (a Texas based program that sponsors similar programs nationally), Notre Dame public affairs, the de Nicola Center, Center for Citizenship and Constitutional Government and Brian Hegarty, class of 1976. 

Jonathan Hannah, who has taught the course since it was first offered in 2019, said he expects the “fall class will award just over $50,000.”

It will be offered in fall 2023 for its fifth year, and Hannah expects to be teaching it again. 

“We have so many amazing nonprofits in the Michiana area, and the students always put in a great deal of effort to ensure that these grants advance the common good in our community,” Hannah said in an email to The Observer. 

Supporting the Michiana area, Redmond said, is important and necessary work.

“There are people really struggling only miles away from campus, and they really need our help,” he said. “They need our funding, and they need our support.”

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Saint Mary’s event highlights South Bend’s Covid-19 Struggles

Monday night, Saint Mary’s looked to highlight the struggles of the height of the Covid-19 pandemic with a program titled, “Listening to Pandemic Narratives: Selections from Covid-19 Oral Histories in the South Bend Area”. The oral program featured audio clips from interviews conducted with members of the South Bend community to get different accounts of what pandemic life was like for residents.

“No one’s collecting our stories here in South Bend,” Jamie Wagman, a history and gender studies professor said. “Julia and I had noticed that other oral historians were doing these collections but no one was documenting South Bend. So we thought, would the stories of people here be mirroring national trends?”

The program was started a year ago by Wagman and Julia Dauer, an English professor, as well as her students from the spring class ‘Doing History.’

This course focused on different historiographical methods and students put their new knowledge to use by interviewing South Bend residents about their pandemic experiences.

“We were thinking a lot about what humanities perspectives can offer in times of Covid-19 as we continue to process the events,” said Dauer. “We were also thinking about how we could better understand and record and preserve some accounts of experiences in our specific local community of the past two years.”

The unusual presentation took its shape from the audio medium. “It’s so powerful hearing people say things in their own words,” said Wagman.

Jaden Daher, research and administrative assistant, concurred, saying “You can hear the emotion in everybody’s voices of like going back to this time and having to almost relive it by retelling it.”

The presentation started with two minutes of photography from the New York Times that highlighted pandemic life, with pictures of hospitals, social distancing, the Black Lives Matter protests and other sights associated with early pandemic times. “I feel like we’ve forgotten so much of what happened,” said Daher. “This makes it all come back to the front of our mind like, ‘Oh my gosh, we did live through that.’”

The audio program began with people recounting the early days of the pandemic, with messages of realization of the horror to come. It then moved on to different people relating how they had to change their lives once the pandemic hit South Bend. A nurse talked about changes in the healthcare field and starting with the Covid unit. A teacher talked about sending children home, not knowing that they were never going to be back in that classroom, as well as the adjustment that came with virtual teaching.

The program continued with sessions called ‘Caretaking and Equity’ and ‘Sociality and Isolation’. The people in these audio clips talked about the struggle and loss of community that came with isolation. A few parents in these clips expressed concern for not only their child’s physical but also mental health. 

If you were not able to attend Monday, the program will be publicly displayed for free at the Civil Rights Heritage Center on Tuesday, October 11 at 6 p.m. Additionally, Saint Mary’s students and staff contributed to an exhibit at The History Museum in South Bend. ‘Fight Fear: Pandemics Past and Present’ addresses historical illnesses and the fears that came with them as we experienced Covid-19. The display is open until July 2023.

You can contact Katelyn Waldschmidt at