Beginning its fourth semester at Chapman University, the Panther Experiential Philanthropy Project (PEPP) has grown over the last year and half in terms of size and scope. By aligning fieldwork assignments with course learning outcomes, PEPP exposes students to the work going on in the nonprofit sector. It offers Chapman students the opportunity to become grant makers and address some of the most urgent issues facing Orange County communities and nonprofits.

This fall, Chapman courses embedding PEPP fieldwork assignments and projects will focus on social justice issues, particularly looking at nonprofits that support anti-racism efforts and serve Black communities.

Experiential Philanthropy Program

PEPP was developed by Alisa Driscoll (MLD ’19) as part of her MLD (MA in Leadership Development) capstone project and is co-run by Attallah College of Educational Studies Associate Professor of Leadership Whitney McIntyre Miller, Ph.D.

“By engaging college students in the local community, we hope to open their eyes to social issues and social causes in their local community,” said Driscoll, who is Chapman’s Interim Vice President of Community Relations.

More than just promoting volunteerism among Chapman students, PEPP fieldwork projects give them practical grant writing experience by entrusting classes with up to $2,000 in grant funding, which they award to one or more nonprofit organizations through a group-based decision-making process. The key is to teach students to seek philanthropic solutions rather than just throw money at problems.

PEPP was initially rolled out in one IES (Integrated Educational Studies) course in the spring of 2019. Since then, seven Chapman courses have run PEPP curriculum and fieldwork projects, with nearly 160 participating students.

IES 103 class group picture with Alisa Driscoll and Friendly Center Executive Director Cathy Seelig

The first PEPP class in Spring 2019 presenting a grant award to PEPP recipient Friendly Center Executive Director Cathy Seelig (center)

Focus on Anti-racism and Black Communities

Both Driscoll and McIntyre Miller are encouraged by PEPP’s growth and have made plans to further expand course offerings across Chapman this fall.

Since its inception, a foundation of PEPP has always been to educate Chapman students about the nonprofit sector and show them how they can be responsive to the community’s needs. Given recent social unrest and current events, this semester the PEPP organizers are encouraging faculty to help students explore organizations in our local community that specifically address anti-racism and support Black communities.

“In doing this work, students will have the opportunity to increase their awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement,” said Dr. McIntyre Miller. “By researching organizations that address these issues in meaningful and practical ways, students can gain deeper understanding of anti-racist work.”

Attallah College Assistant Professor Jorge Rodriguez, Ph.D., is incorporating PEPP into his course, IES 315: Non-Governmental Organizations: Policy and Practice, which explores the nature and function of the nonprofit sector within education, the arts, and helping professions.

The focus on anti-racism and Black Justice within the local nonprofit sector is a natural fit, explains Dr. Rodriguez. As he sees it, students have always led us in difficult times and have historically pushed institutions to be more just and equitable. He looks forward to what his students can learn from their PEPP fieldwork assignments.

“I hope my students learn that racism is embedded systemically across all of society and that being anti-racist is not a temporary movement but more about a lifelong commitment,” Dr. Rodriguez said. “I hope they learn that it is our responsibility to make this world a better place for our Black community.”

Ties to Environmental Justice

From the beginning, Driscoll’s goal was to build PEPP into a larger institutional program at Chapman. The program’s experiential philanthropy approach can be adopted by any course seeking to inform students about solution-based approaches to challenges in their local community.

In addition to three Attallah College IES courses, a Schmid College of Science and Technology course will also be integrating PEPP programming for the first time this fall.

Mackenzie Crigger, Chapman’s Energy Conservation and Sustainability Manager, is teaching a course on sustainability and environmental justice. Crigger’s course, ENV 350: Corporate Sustainability Management, looks at how managers play a key role in advancing corporate sustainability by integrating resource conservation, increasing efficiency, and championing strategic operational changes in their organizations. The course covers traditional business functions, such risk management, supply chains, and profitability, via the lens of sustainability.

Crigger said her ENV 350 class won’t focuses strictly on BLM and anti-racism, but she suspects that will feature prominently.

“Black and brown communities are disproportionately impacted by instances of environmental justice,” said Crigger. “The students in my class will be looking for organizations that address environmental justice issues and what that can look like in terms of the business decisions that companies make.”

Continued Growth

Since the program’s inception, Chapman students have donated more than $10,000 to nonprofits in Orange County. Past PEPP grant recipients include Casa Teresa, a crisis pregnancy center that sponsors mothers in need; Higher Ground Youth and Family Services, an Anaheim-based nonprofit that provides mentoring for youth and their families in at-risk communities; and the Friendly Center, which offers programs and services to low-income families in an effort to end the cycle of generational poverty.

Driscoll notes that all the nonprofits funded thus far are located in Orange County and more than half are based in the City of Orange. In addition, all organizations receiving PEPP awards must be 501(c)3 nonprofits. Although the nonprofits may have separate advocacy arms, the PEPP funding goes toward charitable purposes only.

Combined, the Chapman students in the four PEPP course this fall will distribute an additional $6,000 to Orange County nonprofits before the end of the semester, bringing PEPP total grant awards to over $15,000.


The Chapman PEPP and its courses are supported by Chapman University and private funds. To support PEPP, contact Alisa Driscoll or visit the PEPP Support webpage.