Editor's Note: Amir Pasic, Ph.D. is dean of the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Originally published on March 14, 2019, this article speaks volumes about how possibilities and opportunity open when there is alignment in leadership, willingness, readiness, capacity, and culture.
When The Patterson Foundation proposed a partnership specifically for our master’s degree students to compete for a fellowship at the foundation after graduation, we did not yet know that we had found a natural partner. Philanthropic partnering is not usually this easy. However, I think the fact that we both thrive on partnerships as part of our constitutional makeup and the fact that we are united around the mission of individual and organizational growth through learning made our collaboration evolve quite naturally.
The Patterson Foundation approaches its grantmaking through intense strategic alignment with its partners with whom they pursue a common vision. Its rigorous yet open-ended approach to philanthropy matches the school’s commitment to thoughtful study, innovation, and collaboration with various partners. Our curriculum invites students to ask questions about what they are learning, consider various ways of thinking and doing, and engage with the question of “why philanthropy?”
The interdisciplinary, flexible nature of our program sets us apart – our faculty includes renowned sociologists, economists, historians, psychologists, political scientists, and public affairs specialists, all of whom study philanthropy from diverse angles but contribute to a growing understanding of the “why” question.
Hannah Saeger Karnei, the inaugural Patterson Foundation Fellow, says, our program ties together approaches from every sector to challenge and expand the thought horizons.
Throughout her time at our school, native Virginian Saeger Karnei has asked thoughtful questions and demonstrated creativity in her consideration of philanthropy. She exemplifies the characteristics that we prize in our students. They are adventurous spirits who apply their learning in diverse communities while expanding their career potential.
Saeger Karnei doesn’t simply accept philanthropy as is, but sees the sector as one that can truly innovate and “think outside the box.” In this venture, she’s found a willing partner in The Patterson Foundation, an organization that “places emphasis on connective tissue, both within their local community and throughout the foundation world,” as she puts it. “I think this year will be a great opportunity to learn more about community building and responsible funding.”
We find the same spirit at The Patterson Foundation. It takes a thoughtful approach to understanding philanthropy and the dynamic processes underscoring the study and practice of the field. As Saeger Karnei mentioned, the foundation focuses on strengthening people, organizations, and communities. Its emphasis on collaboration with its partners results in diverse initiatives that generate sustainable, long-term impact.
We anticipate wonderful outcomes from this partnership and look forward to hearing about Saeger Karnei’s work throughout her year. We also know that our work with The Patterson Foundation will continue to evolve as we invite future graduates of our master’s degree program to apply for this hands-on, learning opportunity.
The future is indeed bright and open to others who are curious to learn the whys and motivated to make a difference in novel, more effective ways. As future students consider this unique opportunity, we all stand to learn how education and practice can work together in partnership to improve philanthropy.