Inspiring student leaders

Photo by Christopher Huang.

Rebecca Riccio, founding program director of Northeastern Students4Giving (NS4G), has been invited to serve as one of the three inaugural members of the Academic Advisory Committee for the Learning by Giving Foundation.

The foundation — founded by Doris Buffett, the sister of investor and philanthropist Warren Buffett, and launched on Sept. 19 at the second annual Social Good Summit in New York City — promotes philanthropy at the undergraduate level with the hope of inspiring students to become leaders in their communities.

Riccio, who also serves as a lecturer in Northeastern’s human services program, extols the virtues of studying philanthropy, which, she says, “is an amazing platform for exploring the social, political, economic and cultural organization of American society.”

In 2006, she established a consulting practice focused on maximizing the impact of philanthropists and nonprofit organizations in fields such as education, human services and community development.

In 2011, NS4G was formally recognized as a program. The student-led initiative is designed to foster leadership and innovation in the nonprofit sector and promote a campus-wide culture of giving through service-learning courses, a student club and partnerships with nonprofit organizations in the Boston neighborhoods of Mission Hill, the Fenway, Roxbury and the South End.

As part of her role on the advisory committee, Riccio will collaborate with colleagues at other universities funded by the foundation to expand the knowledge base of philanthropy education at the collegiate level. Collaborators will communicate through an innovative online platform developed in partnership with Google.

NS4G will receive $10,000 per year from the Learning by Giving Foundation to make grants to nonprofit organizations that address social and economic challenges such as affordable housing, homelessness and community development.

Last year, students in two service-learning courses at Northeastern — “Human Services Professions,” and “Strategic Philanthropy and Nonprofit Management” — awarded a total of $25,000 to three nonprofit organizations promoting positive youth development in Boston, including STEP Education, InnerCity Weightlifting and Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción.

The grant-making portion of the experiential-learning opportunity adds a personal touch to the academic exercise, Riccio says. “Students grapple with the allocation of resources because their decisions matter,” she says. “Studying philanthropy prepares students to become effective agents of social change no matter what field they end up in.”