Why I Chose An Experiential Philanthropy Course

February 10, 2020

Each semester, Learning by Giving asks students to write about their experiences in the classroom. For this exercise, incoming students were asked why did they choose experiential philanthropy as a course. Our winning blog post is from Brendan Hurley of Binghamton University. 

If you’ve ever touched someone’s life in a way you never thought imaginable, held someone’s hand through a tough time, or given your time to something that you believe in, then you are a philanthropist. It took me years to come to this realization. There are many common misconceptions about philanthropy. Among them is the notion that philanthropists are only comprised of an older generation of upper class men. Naturally, that makes many of us feel as though we can never become philanthropists. Of course that could not be more inaccurate.

However, there is one thing that all philanthropists share. You need to care about where your time and money are going. You need to educate yourself. And in my current position as a sophomore at Binghamton University, what better way is there to do that than to take an experiential philanthropy course?

As soon as I saw the course appear, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. My mind immediately went off to the races as to what I hoped to gain from the course, to how it was going to help make me a philanthropist in my life. But I was also intrigued as an economics major, as I had never considered the impact philanthropy has on the larger economic community.

My personal opinion, and a point I have discussed in my class, is that I have never believed that donating money here and there to organizations makes you a philanthropist. I believe that in order to give yourself that title, you have to see the impact you are having with your own eyes, see the smile of the person you helped build a home for, see the community garden you helped plant, come to life. Philanthropy is not just about the money. There is so much more. Especially as a student, it's not always easy to have extra money to donate. But we do have time. Or at least, we can make time.

I am extraordinarily thankful to be able to attend a university, and I recognize that many others do not have this chance, so I wanted to fill my schedule with classes that mattered, and this was one of them. Although I am just starting out with this class, I can already feel that it is teaching me something that is more valuable than any of my other classes can teach me. It’s teaching me how I can be a better human.

That is intimidating. The class is not designed to test your knowledge on a mathematical formula, or medieval kingdoms, but instead it is meant to make you think about your position in society. How can you help the world at the level of your community? It is a course created to help you understand the needs of your community, and how you can help to satisfy them. And that is exactly why I wanted to take the class. It gives you the power to make a difference. Of course it will be difficult to decide who we will give our contribution to, but being given the opportunity to make new connections with like-minded students and staff, eases the weight. That is why I love this course already. I am surrounded by people who actively want to help the world. 

If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is.