We have started the 30th anniversary year of our educational experiment. Just over a generation ago, there was no clearly defined space known as the philanthropic sector. Today, there are more than 400 programs around the country that teach about nonprofits.
As we look toward the future of our school and of philanthropy, we will continue to draw on the strength of our history and the values and principles that have gotten us to this point.
From the 1987 founding of our predecessor, the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy, to the current day, the center and the school have been open, consultative, curious, collegial, and welcoming. Many leading thinkers and practitioners in the field today have spent some time in Indianapolis benefiting from the nurturing curiosity and eagerness to learn that is built into our DNA.
We are in many ways the leader in terms of the depth and breadth of the talent we have gathered, but we are always eager to invite new people and ideas into our community, make new connections and learn from others.
Our community is united in its curiosity about the puzzle of why we give—and what we can achieve through philanthropy. We became a school because the questions that arose from this puzzle demanded more research and reflection and the practitioners whose numbers and sophistication were growing were yearning for more evidence and perspective. What roles do giving and volunteering have in society? And what more impact might they yet have as we learn more about them?
Our culture and our curriculum reflect the multiplicity of perspectives we welcome and use to understand philanthropy. The marvelous diversity of American philanthropy and volunteering, and our liberal arts approach to combining and engaging different disciplines and ideas, will serve us well as we seek to understand the rapidly evolving global context.
As we draw on the strength of the culture and habits of open thought and engagement, we will also remember that we are purposefully in and of Indiana. What we have here is not an accidental first-mover advantage. There is Hoosier hospitality and a deep mutual help tradition within our cultural constitution, combined with a commitment to pragmatic solutions that will be familiar to those who know Indiana.
And it is from our base in Indiana that we aim to expand and increase our usefulness to the world. As we put our master’s degree online, we think we can make an important contribution to building the talent nationally and globally that will help realize the full potential of the philanthropic spirit that manifests itself in all societies. Early indications are positive that there is indeed a deep thirst for the perspective and curriculum that we offer.
And as we mark the fifth year of the school, we are seeing the outlines of the reality emerging out of our founders’ vision. We are regularly recruiting top students from within Indiana, from across the country, and from global locales as different as Hungary, China, Nigeria, and Iran.
Moving from center to school, we are focused on the success of our students as our daily priority. And judging by our alumni, we have not disappointed.
Our alumni, the ultimate outcomes of our enterprise, have attained leading positions at major institutions on both the giving and asking sides of philanthropy. They have also started novel enterprises like Achieve or Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy that are adding new dimensions to our field.
Our faculty have embraced the openness of our possibilities with great energy and dedication as each year brings new curricular improvements and certificates that seek to meet the emerging needs of the field. As with our students, we tend to attract the more adventurous scholars to join our faculty—professors whose eyes light up when they see our multiple disciplines and engagement with practitioners informing our research agenda.
In a time when the business model of higher education is in question wherever we turn, and faculty too often are seen as protectors of archaic privileges, I believe that true and meaningful innovation will occur with faculty (the core of the university) leading the way.
We have earned the right to call ourselves a school, as we have been regularly recruiting excellent new student and faculty talent, including affiliated and nonresident fellows who bring important perspectives to our community. Our alumni have demonstrated the value of the curriculum we have devised—one that will continue to evolve in substance and in its capacity to reach students and professionals where they work and live.
We will be addressing key issues in the philanthropic sector, and working with the growing ecosystem of scholars in our field to inform the work of philanthropy.
In our field, there is much work to be done to bring more evidence and perspective to our work by asking why. And because philanthropy is not only a professional craft but part of every person’s life experience like politics or philosophy, we also want to be useful to the public at large—to be an intellectual home for all who are serious about philanthropy.
So what is next for us? Come join us and help us shape it. We will be having such discussions during the coming academic year with the help of special 30th anniversary lecturers, including Nageeb Sumar of the Gates Foundation, Larry Kramer of the Hewlett Foundation, Scott Harrison of charity: water, and Joel Fleishman of Duke University.
If you are serious about philanthropy, we welcome your participation.
Eugene R. Tempel Dean