Since 2017, students at the University of California, Irvine have been able to take what is known as the ‘Philanthropy Class,’ an experiential philanthropy course that allows students to learn the fundamentals of philanthropy. This unique class allows students to act as donors by allocating real money to nonprofit organizations in Orange County. 

“The course is a great experience for our students,” said Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning and Dean of Undergraduate Education, Michael Dennin. “This is another example of how active learning can help students gain practical applied knowledge, which is a wonderful thing and it really fits our current goals and traditions of being in partnership with the community.”

By researching the local nonprofits and participating in site visits, students get first-hand experience in learning the societal impacts of philanthropy. Not only does the Philanthropy Class promote empathy, compassion, awareness, and empowerment in UCI’s student body, but the class also serves a benefit by awarding funds to Orange County organizations. This creates a triple impact of the course on the students, the organizations, and the local community.  

Originally a collaboration between UCI’s Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning (OVPTL) and the Philanthropy Lab (a national organization whose goal is to increase student understanding of philanthropy), the impact of the Philanthropy Class has already been felt. Over the last three years, students in the class have awarded over $140,000 to local nonprofits like Project Kinship, The Wooden Floor, Human Options, and over a dozen more. 

This year, the Philanthropy Class is teaming up with the Orange County based OCCares, a local nonprofit working with high school clubs and dedicated to growing compassionate leaders through social entrepreneurship. Last month, OCCares founder, Dr. Katherine Ahn Wallace, established a permanent endowment with a gift of $125,000 for the UCI Philanthropy Class to expand its impact even further. This generous gift provides an opportunity to grow the reach of philanthropic teachings beyond the UCI campus. The partnership between OCCares and UCI will build a pipeline into local high schools allowing for future generations of youth leaders to learn about the teachings of community philanthropy and partnerships while supporting the growth of UCI students who will act as mentors and coaches for the high school students.   

“My daughter goes to UCI, and when I learned about the Philanthropy Class, I was interested in the hands-on approach to learning about philanthropy,” said Wallace. “With the work I do for high schools in the community, I immediately saw an opportunity for synergy with five high school-based clubs with a mission to develop socially responsible youth leaders.”

Philanthropy Class students want to become many things in their careers: nonprofit professionals, community leaders, funders, etc. – and are all aware of the positive impact philanthropy can have on their community and in their lives. By making these ideals a permanent part of the UCI and high school experience for the Irvine community, the new partnership between UCI and OCCares will support creating a culture of compassion, empathy, and service in our future generations.

With her gift, Dr. Wallace joins other local supporters of the Philanthropy Class, like Chief Strategy Officer of ENO Brands, Kevin Tsao, a UCI alumnus who is passionate about philanthropy. 

“This is the type of class that keeps on giving,” said Dennin. “When our community contributes directly to student learning that impacts the community, it is a win-win.”

To learn more about UCI’s Philanthropy Course or to become a sponsor, email UCI’s Director of Development, Matthew Princetta at or call him at (949) 824-2974.