When the Center for Philanthropic and Nonprofit Leadership — now the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy — was founded at Grand Valley State University in 1992, there were approximately 32 universities in the U.S. offering graduate degrees or concentrations in nonprofit management.
Today, as we at the Johnson Center reflect on 30 years of work and impact and stretch forward into the future, there are more than 400 undergraduate and graduate programs in philanthropy nationwide. Across that landscape, some 50 or more academic centers on philanthropy — our peers in the field — conduct research, provide community-focused services, and engage with the nonprofit sector’s many actors.
Philanthropy’s interplay with research and teaching in higher education has ensured that our practice, as a field, has disciplinary boundaries and hones skills and knowledge that elevate the effectiveness of the work, nurture advanced learning and context-setting, and ensure new knowledge creation. Our relationship with higher education has been and, I believe, will become even more essential to philanthropy’s future.
“At home at GVSU, we are uniquely positioned to serve as an interpreter and nexus for the ideas, practices, successes, challenges, and opportunities of philanthropy and its study.”
I believe this because we are experiencing a pivotal moment in the evolution of both philanthropy and higher education, a moment that, like the pandemic itself, may be seen as what Arundhati Roy called “a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.” The needs of our communities, our workforce, and the next generation have always been complex. Yet today we face challenges — in technology and access, social and structural resilience, in equity and justice — unlike any we have faced since the advent of the Industrial Revolution. We must meet this moment with ingenuity, determination, and — most importantly — a profound sense of humanity and generosity of spirit. I am privileged to join the Johnson Center as its executive director, and therefore to be a part of the GVSU community, at such a moment.
In the months and years ahead, the Johnson Center will continue to invest in the power of applied research — combining the rigor and resources of the academy with the immediacy and wisdom of communities — to spur meaningful transformation in the public interest. At home at GVSU, we are uniquely positioned to serve as an interpreter and nexus for the ideas, practices, successes, challenges, and opportunities of philanthropy and its study.
I am eager to engage and connect across the field; you can reach me at email@example.com. I look forward to our partnership as we collectively navigate these extraordinary times and seek out innovative and truly human approaches to addressing our shared challenges — and our shared promise.