College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences

USM Students Win Philanthropic Video Award

April 12, 2013

Contact: Jeanne Curran, (207) 780-4198

PORTLAND, Maine -- Two University of Southern Maine (USM) students who took part last fall in an innovative course on philanthropy have won a national award -- plus an extra $500 -- for their video on the work being done by The Center for Grieving Children in Portland.

The video created by Franck Mujyanama, of Portland, formerly from Rwanda, and Kyle Frazier, Lisbon, was chosen as a finalist by college students across the U.S. who took the Learning By Giving courses sponsored by the Learning By Giving Foundation, according to Adam Tuchinsky, associate professor of history at the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (CAHS) and course instructor.

So successful was the USM philanthropy course, “Thoughtful Giving: Philanthropy in American Culture,” that Tuchinsky, who also is CAHS associate dean, will offer the class again this coming fall, he said. Interested students already are being sought for the upcoming class, he said.

“We’re very proud that Franck and Kyle won the video award and will be able to donate the additional funds to The Center for Grieving Children,” Tuchinsky said.  “Their efforts epitomized what we wanted the students to gain from the course.”

“We’ve just had such good experiences working with USM students,” said Susan Giambalvo, the Center’s program director. “We really value the educational partnership.”

The idea for the philanthropy course first came from Deedee Schwartz, a member of the CAHS Advisory Board and former executive director of Maine Humanities Council, who knew about the national Learning By Giving Foundation. The foundation, created by the Buffet family, sponsors the philanthropy course at 32 universities around the U.S. Each course receives a grant sum of $10,000, which the students then are expected to distribute at their discretion to worthy non-profit organizations.

Tuchinsky and Lynn Kuzma, CAHS dean, successfully applied to the foundation and won a three-year grant to sponsor the course at USM. Schwartz joined Tuchinsky in teaching the course and will continue next fall.

The USM course not only had a strong emphasis on community service and real-world experience for students, but it also had a humanities component that required an analysis of the concept of philanthropy, Tuchinsky said.

The class examined philanthropy as a means, both positive and negative, to solve serious societal problems and had numerous guest presenters. They included prominent Maine experts on philanthropy, Meredith Jones of the Maine Community Foundation, Carol Wishcamper, a well-known philanthropist, Janet Henry of the Maine Philanthropy Center and Suzanne McCormick, president and CEO of the United Way of Portland. 

In contrast, David Wagner, a USM scholar and a nationally known expert on poverty and homelessness, discussed the limits of philanthropy, Tuchinsky said.

“We were trying to present the nuts and bolts of how to work with a non-profit and to look at other modes of problem-solving,” Tuchinsky said. “We also wanted to give students the experience of both writing grants and distributing grants. We actually wanted our students to be thinking about their own values and their own ethical frameworks regarding philanthropy and human problems.”

The students broke into teams, and working with nine organizations, prepared grants to compete for the course funding, which grew to $12,000 with an additional donation from the Maine Community Foundation. Four area non-profits were chosen to receive the grant money, but students Mujyanama and Frazier didn’t stop there.

The two students created their video about The Center for Grieving Children, directed by Laura Powers, a USM alumna from the Media Studies program, and submitted it this March to the foundation’s 2013 Decision with Impact video contest. The video was one of five finalists shown recently at the Northeastern Students4Giving Social Impact Conference in Boston.

Giambalvo said the class funding was used by the center to support its multi-cultural peer support program in two Portland schools. The program serves refugee and immigrant children. The additional $500 from the video award will be used to support all the center’s programs.

“Community donations like theirs let us keep our services free of charge to the community,” the program director said.

Tuchinsky said he hopes that more students will take the philanthropy course next fall and continue the work of those who participated in the first class.

“It was really good to have students taking the course who were interested in this sector,” the professor said. “We would like to use the class as a networking source and as a springboard for future career opportunities.”

The student video can be viewed here:

For more information about The Center for Grieving Children, go to:

For more information about USM’s College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, go to:

For more information about USM, contact:

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                  USM students Franck Mujyanama (left) and Kyle Frazier (right)