The beginning of a new semester always brings a mix of excitement and nerves for professors and students alike. Students face the unknowns of group work, interpersonal relationships, grades and student-teacher dynamics, while professors consider, well… many of those same things. On top of all that, this semester’s Strategic Philanthropy course is tasked with the incredible responsibility of deciding how to distribute $100,000 to nonprofit organizations. The issue is not “what” we are going to do, but it is more focused on “how” we are going to get

Approaching this course is like approaching a new golf course without ever having viewed the course layout. The basics of golf are easy: Hit a small ball into a small hole 18 times. It is that easy right?  Not quite. Adding unknown variables to an already difficult activity is especially challenging.

Many may disagree, but the beauty of golf exists in this infinite number of unknowns along the way. There are always challenges and opportunities around the corner, or over the next hill, which test your physical and mental abilities. In a span of four hours, you are frustrated, humbled, overjoyed and probably frustrated some more. Walking away from the round, though, you realize that you’ve overcome challenges, had great conversation with friends and enjoyed much-needed time in the great outdoors. You knew your end goal all along, but the journey to the 18th hole was formidable and exhilarating.

Likewise, I know where this class is going. At the end of this class we will join in celebration with nonprofit partners as we honor the work they are doing. That is a known quantity that is easy for me to wrap my head around. The journey, though, is much less clear. This semester, my role as facilitator places much of the decision-making process onto the students. Our students make many important and life-changing decisions throughout this course – many of which have no clear right or wrong answers. I am confident that this talented group of 25 Mays students is ready for the challenge and to face the unknown. In order for this class to be successful, my students will need to collaborate with each other, compromise when it’s hardest to do so, and commit to an experience that can significantly alter their perspectives.

Please join us this semester as we venture into the unknowns of philanthropic giving and pursue impact in our local community!