Nineteen students in the College of Business and Economics at West Virginia University are learning how to think like corporate philanthropists this semester. During the first part of the spring semester they accepted applications for grants and in late April the class will hand out $20,000 to local non-profit organizations.
The program, called Corporate Social Responsibility, is in its 11th year. Students have given away more than $220,000 since 2001. Funding for the program comes from the College and alumni who recognize the importance of businesses contributing to the community.
Bob Reitman, a B&E alumnus, proposed the class idea to teach future business leaders the value of contributing to society and the community. This year, Dr. Joyce Heames is leading the program.
The students received nearly $70,000 in requests from 24 organizations this year. They deliberated for three hours just before spring break (March 23) to make a decision on which ones would receive funding, Dr. Heames said.
"The students' passion and commitment was obvious from the first minute of the discussion," she commented. "They have been wonderful students. They have had perfect class attendance and chose a second site for community service when the first didn't have enough for them to do." Students are required to complete community service in a variety of local non-profits in addition to working on the grant program.
The class solicits proposals for projects that would benefit Monongalia County, develops criteria for judging them (including each program's track record and the impact a grant would have), and then chooses the winners during the final days of the semester guided by their mission statement to have long lasting impact while providing quality service to the community.
Each year, as part of the class, the students make a trip to Cleveland, Ohio, to meet Reitman, who graduated from the college in 1955 and provided funds to start the project. They will leave on April 19. There they hear from community philanthropists and fundraisers; last year, notably, the CEO of Sherwin Williams and the director of the Cleveland United Way.
Last year's recipients were:
- CASA for Kids
- Stepping Stones
- Christian Help, Inc.
- PACE Enterprises
- Rape & Domestic Violence Info Center
- WV Family Grief Center
- Milan Puskar Health Right Clinic
- Children's Discovery Museum of WV
- Scotts Run Settlement House