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UMD Philanthropy Class Donates $7,000 to After-School Group that Teaches Problem Solving through Chess  

December 18, 2012

Jennifer Talhelm - (301) 405-4390 

MSPP logo(Updated Dec. 18, 2012)

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The 28 students in Professor Robert Grimm’s Art and Science of Philanthropy class in the School of Public Policy began the semester faced with a dilemma few college students experience: They had $7,000 to make a real difference by giving to a local charity focused on educating low-income children.
The question was which one – and how to reach a consensus.
The students, who take the class through UMD’s Honors College, learn about charitable giving by operating as a mini philanthropy; the class makes a real grant award.  They wrote a mission statement and a request for proposals, reviewed applications for 13 charities, conducted six phone interviews, made five site visits, and debated for four full class hours.  Ultimately, they settled on Chess Challenge in DC, a group that uses chess to teach strategic thinking to elementary school-aged children primarily from disadvantaged backgrounds.
On Monday, Dec. 17, 2012 the students awarded the grant for $7,000 to Chess Challenge at a ceremony in Taliaferro Hall Library on the UMD campus.
Chess Challenge in DC operates in 21 sites throughout Washington where chess coaches, who also have youth development experience, use chess as a stepping stone to teach reading, math, critical thinking and other skills – even poetry writing.
UMD Student Kyle DaileyThe Art and Science of Philanthropy students’ grant will enable Chess Challenge in DC to open a new site and serve 20 more children through its after-school program.

(Photo - UMD Philanthropy student Kyle Dailey holds DC Chess Challenge T-Shirt during the award ceremony. Photo by Jennifer Talhelm.)
Harrison Bridge, a sophomore finance major from North Potomac, Md., said he was initially skeptical that chess could resonate with young kids who face enormous challenges in life.  But he changed his mind when he saw the group in action.  The coaches use questions like “what chess piece would you most want to be” to encourage the kids to think through problems and defend their decisions.
“I’ve never taken part in a course where the culmination is so satisfying,” Bridge said.  “I wasn’t expecting it to be as rewarding as it was.  Chess Challenge is an amazing organization.”
Grimm, who teaches the class and directs the Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership at the School of Public Policy, said that hands-on experience makes the class a powerful learning experience.  This will be the eighth grant award made through Grimm’s class, which has rapidly become one of the most popular courses offered on the UMD campus.
The first part of the class, which was first offered in spring semester 2010, is “philanthropy boot camp” and covers how to set up a grant program.  The class then reviews applications, interviews applicants, does site visits, and finally makes the tough group decision about which applicant most deserves funding and why.
Along the way, students learn about the evolution of philanthropic giving in American society.  They also learn about the importance of consensus building in order to make an impact as a group.
Bridge said the skills he learned will serve him well long after the class is over. “It’s so much more than just donating $7,000 to an organization.  And it has definitely inspired me to want to become involved in philanthropy for the rest of my life.  In learning to look at philanthropy from a strategic approach, we were shown how to most effectively make the greatest impact, and that is what has made this course such a rewarding experience.”
Grimm said that’s exactly what he hopes to accomplish through the class.
“It's not so much a class as an experience,” Grimm said.  “By the end of the semester, I want students to be using their heads as much as their hearts, to think objectively about which applicants are a good investment and how to work together to reach their goal.”
About the UMD School of Public Policy
The School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland is an internationally renowned program dedicated to improving public policy and international affairs.  It is the only such school in the capital area embedded within a major public research institution.  The school prepares knowledgeable and innovative leaders to make an impact on the profound challenges of the 21st century.  Faculty include the 2005 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics;  former officials who have held key positions in Democratic and Republican administrations, including U.S. trade representative, undersecretary of defense, commissioner of the Social Security Administration, and director of the U.S. National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect; and leading researchers in a host of public policy disciplines.
Media interested in covering the award ceremony should contact Jennifer Talhelm at the School of Public Policy: (301) 405-4390 or jtalhelm@umd.edu.