UGS course gives away $100,000 to charities


Sociology and public affairs professor Pamela Paxton’s “Philanthropy: The Power of Giving” UGS class is donating $100,000 between five charities as part of their last project for the spring semester. The charities include organizations in the U.S. and international associations in Cambodia, Ethiopia and Guatemala.

Photo Credit: Michelle Toussaint | Daily Texan Staff

Students distributed $100,000 among five charities Monday to mark the end of their semester in the UGS class “Philanthropy: The Power of Giving.”

In its third semester, the course allows 41 students to research nonprofit organizations and give away the money after in-class debates and discussions.

Sustainable Harvest, which teaches families of rural villages in Central America how to use sustainable farming techniques, will receive $10,000, Caring For Cambodia will receive $20,000, and $30,000 will go toward building two wells in Ethiopia through the nonprofit organization Charity Water. KIPP Austin, an Austin-based nonprofit that sends underserved students to charter schools, will receive $20,000, and another $20,000 will go to Common Hope, a charity that works to send kids to secondary school in Guatemala.

Each spring semester, $50,000 is given by a foundation outside the University called the Philanthropy Lab to the course’s donation fund, and the rest of the money is raised by the course instructor, Pamela Paxton. Paxton said none of the money that is raised comes from the University.

Paxton, who taught the class for the first time last spring, sees the course as a way for students to evaluate the relative effectiveness of various charities.

“I think it’s different from an undergraduate course in a sense that the students feel how important the learning in the class is because they go ahead and use it immediately,” Paxton said.

The course requires an application process to get in, but Paxton said there is hardly a waitlist because the class is relatively new.

Undeclared sophomore Nathalia Rojas, who began the semester researching Sustainable Harvest International, said she was excited her charity was selected to receive the money.

Rojas said she wanted the nonprofit to receive the money because it would make a direct impact for a community of people in Honduras.

“You really get invested in your charity and realize how much of an impact you can make on the people’s lives,” Rojas said. “The fact that you have the money and the opportunity to do that — you want to do what you can.”

Although some students’ charities end up being selected to receive the money, many do not receive the support of the whole class.

Mathematics and actuarial studies sophomore Austin Nguyen researched a charity called Autism Trust, which did not end up being selected to receive the money.

“It hurts because you spend all your time researching, and you want money donated to it, but, on the other hand, you’re still donating to five other great charities,” Nguyen said. 

According to Nguyen, the final charities were selected after intense in-class debates. He said the most interesting part of the course was realizing it’s not always best to just give your money away without examining the foundation.

The ceremony in which the donations are presented will be held Thursday at 5 p.m. in the Tower.