Learning about business can also mean learning to be a good community member. That’s why West Virginia University students at the College of Business and Economics handed out $20,000 to local charities Friday morning in a ceremony at the Mountainlair.

They were participants in the Corporate Social Responsibility class, an undergraduate course that uses actual money to demonstrate the impact of student decision making in the real world.

The class solicited proposals for projects that would benefit the greater Morgantown community (where WVU is located), developed a set of criteria for judging them, and then chose the winners from among 25 proposals. The program is in its 10th year, and students have awarded a total of $225,000 since 2001. Funding for the program originally came from College of Business and Economics alumni who recognize the importance of businesses contributing to the community. It is now funded primarily by the college.

This year, the class had almost $150,000 in requests from more than a score of needy charities, but only $20,000 to work with – on a smaller scale much like philanthropic organizations and corporate foundations that are forced to make difficult decisions about helping their communities.

Students used a spreadsheet with key areas of importance encompassing the beliefs and principles of the class. These areas were then placed on a scale and averaged to assign values to each funding request. Finally, students discussed the ratings and contributions of the agencies and used critical-thinking skills to come to a final decision.

Kerri Fitzgerald, a member of the class and marketing major from Wexford, Pa., said it was difficult to decide which groups would receive grants since all were deserving of attention.

“We referred to our mission statement and focused on who was interested in the same things we were,” she said. “We all visited nonprofits in the area, and when we figured out how they operate it made our decisions so much harder. Each and every one is giving something important back to the community.”

She said the class has taught her the importance of non-profits and volunteering within the community.

“This is so much more than a class,” Fitzgerald said. “It was an entire learning experience that showed us the trials and tribulations of our local nonprofits. Learning how a for-profit business would handle requests for help is amazing. The opportunity to see how many lives are affected is unbelievable. I feel blessed to be able to help the agencies we awarded grants to.”

This year’s Corporate Citizenship Project Grant recipients:

Casa for Kids Volunteer’s Training Program $1,800

Children’s Home Society of WV Playground Equipment $1,040

Christian Help, Inc. Food Pantry $2,250

Friends of Deckers Creek Kid’s Day Program $2,600

Mon County Habitat for Humanity Sub flooring of house $1,180

Make a Wish Christmas Gifts Children’s Hospital $1,050

Milan Puskar Health Right Portable Treatment Table $780

Mon County Child Advocacy Center Therapy Sessions $2,800

On Eagles Wings Therapeutic Riding Scholarships $960

Paws 4 People Prison Program $2,250

RDVIC Pamphlets & Stalk kids $2,000

Scotts Run Settlement House Playground Equipment $1,040

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CONTACT: Joyce Heames
(304) 293-7936