Graduate's research on philanthropy receives national recognition

November 9, 2021 (Volume 45, Number 6)
Article by Brian Vernellis

Bev Harkema stands outside in front of a tree

Bev Harkema wrote a master's thesis published in October in the American Society of Public Administration’s online edition of Public Integrity.

Photo Credit: courtesy photo

A 2018 graduate of Grand Valley’s Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership program recently had her master’s thesis published by the American Society for Public Administration. 

Bev Harkema’s paper, “Autonomy in Philanthropy: A Model for Nonprofit Organizations,” was published in mid-October by the American Society of Public Administration’s online edition of Public Integrity.

Her research examined the philosophy behind philanthropy, more specifically how autonomy influences philanthropic missions, decisions and goals.  

“Philanthropy isn’t just charity, and autonomy isn’t just free will,” said Harkema. “There are consequences to it.”

Harkema, who earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from GVSU in 2006, said her interest in philanthropy and nonprofit work began with a moment of self-reflection.

“I was working full time, and job situations changed,” Harkema said. “I thought, ‘What do I want to do?’”

She enrolled at Grand Valley after researching the Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership master’s degree program, eventually working as graduate assistant to Michael Moody, the Frey Foundation Chair for Family Philanthropy at the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy.

“I was looking for the bigger perspective of philanthropy, the philosophy of it and not the practicality,” said Harkema. “I love the theory of it.”

After graduating with a master’s degree in 2018, Harkema joined Bridges of Hope in Allegan County, first as an administrative coordinator, now serving on the board of directors. 

“Perspective, awareness and reflection have a huge influence on decision-making in nonprofit and for-profit settings, and can negate the best of intentions or the best practical skills,” said Harkema.

“The perspective, awareness and reflection that I learned in the (Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership) program enabled me to write a published paper that basically is advocating for their use in nonprofit organizations.”


Across Campus

This article was last edited on November 9, 2021 at 1:1 p.m.

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