IU students' Virtu Project combines business skills with philanthropy
NOV. 14, 2007
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Students in the Liberal Arts and Management Program at Indiana University Bloomington are setting out to help some of the world's most vulnerable children at the same time they develop their own skills in business and problem solving.
They have created the Virtù Project, an original social entrepreneurship initiative that will use pledges to a mock investment portfolio to raise money for the Indianapolis-based Timmy Foundation, which works to secure health care and education for children in poor regions of Central and South America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia.
IU students are working with the Timmy Foundation, which seeks to secure health care and education for children in poor regions.
After almost two years of development and planning, the students will debut the project Friday (Nov. 16) with a by-invitation gala from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the University Club of the Indiana Memorial Union at IU Bloomington.
"The motto of LAMP is that one perspective is not enough. This project is a brand new perspective on fund raising and a brand new perspective on education," said Eli Isaacs, a junior from Indianapolis and a co-founder of the Virtù Project.
More than two dozen students from LAMP, an honors-level interdisciplinary program in the IUB College of Arts and Sciences, are participating in the Virtù Project. They will ask donors to make pledges to a mock portfolio that the students develop and manage. With the pledge, the donor will agree to make a donation to the Timmy Foundation equal to what the investment would have earned in one year. For example, if a donor pledges $10,000, and the fund yields a 10 percent return, the donor will write a check for $1,000.
Students are working in three teams, each with its own responsibilities. The development team builds relationships with donors and garners pledges. The investment team works with IU faculty and staff to develop an ethical investment strategy, analyze the market and select stocks. The accountability team prepares contracts and reports and keeps records. In preparing to launch the project, students conducted research, prepared written and oral presentations, and participated in an investment workshop led by IU Treasurer MaryFrances McCourt.
"This is essentially a business. We have developed skills that I never thought I would develop in college," said Abbey Stemler, a senior from New Albany, Virtù Project co-founder and former Timmy Foundation summer intern. Other co-founders and principal board members are Melissa Bailey of Nineveh and Vic Simianu of Carmel.
"In many years at IU, I've never seen a group of students work with such passion and intensity on a project that has no class credit and no grade," said Jim Madison, the director of LAMP and the Thomas and Kathryn Miller Professor of History at IU. "I've never seen a group project in which so much learning occurred. That this knowledge and experience is pointed toward raising money for the Timmy Foundation makes this all the better."
Adam Clevenger, associate director for development with the Timmy Foundation, said the organization has had a longstanding relationship with Indiana University. IU was the site for the first Timmy collegiate chapter, numerous IU students have traveled with the Timmy Foundation, and the foundation has hosted several summer interns from the LAMP program.
"The Virtù Project is an example of the dynamic field of social entrepreneurialism," Clevenger said. "This new field will reshape how the nonprofit sector builds sustainability in an environment already crowded by several organizations. The Timmy Foundation is proud to work with the students of Indiana University on this project."
The students intend for the project to continue indefinitely, with new teams of LAMP students taking over leadership roles year by year.
For more information, see http://www.indiana.edu/~virtu. To learn how to support the Virtù Project, send an e-mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org. News media who want to talk to participants in the project may contact Abbey Stemler at email@example.com.
The Timmy Foundation was established in 1997 by Dr. Charles Dietzen to help medically underserved children he had met while conducting medical missions in Haiti and India. Working with local partner organizations, the foundation conducts international service trips, distributes medical and educational supplies and funding, and empowers young people by providing service opportunities for students.
The Liberal Arts and Management Program at Indiana University Bloomington is an honors-level interdisciplinary certificate program offered by the College of Arts and Sciences in cooperation with the Kelley School of Business. It lets students integrate any major in the College with specialized training in management and business concepts. Approximately 100 students are admitted to the program each year.