Community and charity come to the classroom


Sam Boggs

Haley Weigman designed logos for The Devoted Barn handbooks, posters, and even wine bottles.

In multiple departments, students are engaging in the donor-funded pilot Student Philanthropy and Community Engagement Program, turning existing philanthropy-based projects into reality.

“For this current semester and the previous two, I run my final project assignment pretty much as usual,” said Joyce Havstad, a philosophy professor. “Then the college also makes an additional, sizable donation to the winning charity.”

Students from the philosophy, criminal justice and graphic design departments are tasked with projects such as these and a $2,000 donation to a charity of their choosing as the prize.

The student does not see any of that money, but it’s a donation of behalf of the student’s hard work and the university.

“I asked them to choose a non-profit that was local to them, within, say, a 50 mile radius to school, that they cared about or were passionate about,” said Meghan Barry, a graphic design professor at Oakland University. “They then had to use graphic design to better aid that organizations mission.”

For the students, this is a semester long project with research and required volunteer time included. Each discipline has different requirements.

“They could create new programs that were mock trial things, or they could take things that the non profit already had and tweak it,” Barry said. “All the students were tasked with this through the semester. They did a lot of research and then at the end of the semester they all presented and the students in class actually voted for each other.”

Haley Weigman was the winner in the graphic design department in the 2017 fall semester, donating her winnings to The Devoted Barn in Newport, Mich., an animal rescue and rehabilitation center.

“I chose it because I saw that they were doing really amazing work for animals from all over the world,” Weigman said. “I thought how they ran their rehabilitation center was really unique and different from any other humane society.”

Weigman, for her project, made a new logo for The Devoted Barn, a volunteer handbook, a 24×36 poster, a wine bottle, a dog adoption kit and matching dog and owner apparel—the wine bottle becoming her favorite creation.

“With the wine bottle, my target audience was millennials,” Weigman said. “Millennials are the biggest consumers of wine and the most charitable group of people. I thought that if there was a wine bottle with a dog on it and the proceeds go to benefit charity, it’s a no brainer.”

The other winning charities were Detroit 4 Puerto Rico in Terressa Benz’s criminal justice class and The New Day Foundation for Families in Havstad’s philosophy class.

There are plans to include the political science major in this program, as well.

“What’s so interesting about this program is that it’s in criminology and philosophy and, now, political science,” Barry said. “These three very different programs in the college that are doing something that falls under the same umbrella. The ways that everyone is handling the assignment is very different.”

The professors involved hope to have a day in which students from the classes can view each others’ work.

The program will be running again next semester, providing the opportunities to students looking to make a difference in their discipline.

“For one, it’s a great portfolio piece,” Weigman said. “But you are actually able to make a difference in the world through design, that’s what design’s all about.”