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Rice UniversitySpring 2017Giving to Learn: Philanthropy in Theory and PracticeDepartments: Center for Civic LeadershipVida L. Avery14 students
Rice UniversitySpring 2018Giving to Learn: Philanthropy in Theory and PracticeDepartments: Center for Civic LeadershipVida L. Avery13 students
Rice UniversitySpring 2019Giving to Learn: Philanthropy in Theory and PracticeDepartments: Center for Civic LeadershipVida L. Avery15 students

Giving to Learn: Philanthropy in Theory and Practice
Taught by Vida L. Avery
Department of the Center for Civic Leadership

Vida L. Avery holds a Ph.D. in educational policy studies, with a major in higher education and a concentration in philanthropy from Georgia State University, an Ed.S. and M.Ed. in education from Brenau University, and a B.A. in economics with a concentration in business administration from Spelman College. Her professional career spans 20 years in the educational arena with 10 years in the nonprofit sector as a former teacher, adjunct professor, foundation program officer, and a grant writer. Avery’s latest work, Philanthropy in Black Higher Education: A Fateful Hour Creating the Atlanta University System (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), won the Outstanding Publication winner for the 2014 CASE John Grenzebach for Outstanding Research in Philanthropy for Educational Advancement. Her desire to preserve the stories of black nonprofit leaders also led her to coauthor a previous book, Race, Gender and Leadership in Nonprofit Organizations (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) that centers on the lives and experiences of female and black leaders of foundations and nonprofits. Currently, Avery lives in Houston, Texas where she is a Resource Development Specialist at the Center for Grants Development, Harris County Department of Education and teaches classes at Rice University, The Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership.

Students run a formal board meeting to make final decisions

  • Class picks students for specific roles – Board Chair, Secretary, Statistician and Parliamentarian
  • Professor teaches them how to run a true board meeting – created templates for Chair and Secretary
  • Class creates an agenda and keeps minutes

Use personality test to help form groups

For one class, students must pick 1 person in philanthropy from a list provided by professor and be prepared to discuss that person in class.

Guest Speakers

  • Tonyel L. Simon – Program Officer, Houston Endowment
  • Ronnie Haggerty, PhD, CFRE – Asst. Vice President of Community Relations, United Way of Greater Houston
  • Carme Williams – Executive Director, The Harris Foundation

Students write award/deny letters

About a 3 hr class – first 2 hrs for lecture, discussion, guest speakers, etc; last 50 mins set aside for group work (“lab activity”)

Partner with Center for Civic Leadership (CCL) to vet orgs

2 students work with the CCL to plan Giving Ceremony

Reflection papers at beginning and end of semester (philanthropic autobiography at beginning of semester, and experience of grant-making process at end of semester)


Latest News

September 9, 2020

Rice course teaches students about philanthropy

September 9, 2020

Giving To Learn: Rice students award $50K to local nonprofits

Student Testimonials

I think my biggest takeaway from both the class and the conference is that giving responsibly and effectively is a challenge. Not only have I learned to be critical of philanthropy and power structures, but also to appreciate the impact that strategic, thoughtful giving can have.

Sara MeadowRice University