Pepperdine Law is proud to announce the creation of the Student Philanthropy Council (SPC) and the Student Emergency Fund (SEF), both of which will officially launch at the 44th Annual School of Law Dinner. The drive to create a Pepperdine Law Student Emergency Fund grew from recent efforts to help a 3L student in need. After an emergency loan for the student was successfully acquired, discussion began to create a fund available specifically to law students in the event that emergency situations arise. Alex Caruso (3L), President of the Student Bar Association, and Caelan Rottman (2L), who began the SPC as a student at Seaver College collaborated with Dean of Students Steve Shultz and Assistant Dean of Admission Shannon Phillips to make the fund tangible.
“I am beyond excited at the prospect of a fund to help students who are most in need during a tremendously difficult time in their lives,” Schultz commented. “I am grateful for the initiative of Alex and Caelan in taking an idea, and making it a reality. I see this as an enduring way for students and others to give back to law students in the most direct way possible.”
As of now, two anonymous donations have been generously gifted to begin the Student Philanthropy Council and Student Emergency Fund. This effort will launch alongside Pepperdine’s March 8th Giving Day, “Give2Pepp.” Alex and Caelan spoke on the creation of the new Philanthropy Council and Emergency Fund at the School of Law, to give more insight into initiatives and goals.
Can you explain a little about the purpose behind the Student Emergency Fund?
Alex: We wanted to engage the law student body to be involved in giving. We know how wonderful Pepperdine students and alumni are at donating their time, intellect, and service. But when it comes to giving money, our numbers don’t reflect how much we all care about this school. Students don’t usually have the financial resources to give. We felt that if the school was going to try and increase student giving, the cause had to be exceptional. As students, Caelan and I could think of no better cause than to give directly back to students in need. The Student Emergency Fund was the perfect place for us to inspire student giving. The fund previously only existed at Seaver College, and was directed to any student in need. While this obviously serves a great purpose, at the law school we wanted a fund that would be exclusively of benefit to law students in extreme need. That’s why this year, the Law School Student Emergency fund was created. We’re excited to have a place for students to give to the school, and know that the money will be going directly to their friends, peers, and future Pepperdine law students.
Caelan: Aristotle once said “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” It is important to recognize that a University is nothing more than the people that make it up. If we want to see Pepperdine grow and succeed, we need to cause that. The intention [behind] the Student Philanthropy Council is [to create] a culture of giving at Pepperdine that recognizes a donation…is a gift that benefits the value of your degree. Students [here] care about each other. This fund creates a clear way of giving that directly impacts students. Law School can be incredibly overwhelming and can leave little room to manage unforeseen emergencies. This fund is here to take a little bit of the stress off of students that are facing one of these emergency situations. The best part of this fund is that it was created by students, for students. We are here to help each other succeed.
And the Council?
Alex: The council will carry on the legacy of student philanthropy and hopefully grow to have a stake in Pepperdine’s pro bono work, collaboration with other law school student bodies regarding service and outreach, and help the Student Bar to be creative in putting on events with philanthropic outcomes
Can you elaborate on your background with starting organizations similar to this?
Caelan: It is nearly impossible to not recognize the unique community that Pepperdine fosters. As an undergrad at Seaver, I felt as though I was constantly receiving and I wanted to give back. This caused me to walk into the Advancement office to meet with Cynthia Ware and discuss how I can participate in some form of giving back to the university. Cynthia mentioned that she had been thinking of creating a student lead council to help create a culture of giving at Pepperdine. Cynthia and I were on the exact same page and it was as if the [Seaver Student Philanthropy] counsel was destined to be created. Both students and administrators quickly realized the importance of this council and it continues to be a great success today.
Most current students have a lot on their plate with studying, classes, and externships. What is an easy and simple way to help out with the fund, without feeling overwhelmed?
Alex: The last thing we want to impose on our classmates is another burden. I would only ask that If you believe in the mission of this fund, and want to help a current or future student in need, a small gift to help this fund establish itself will make a huge impact.
By giving even $5, you become a stakeholder in the Student Emergency Fund, and you’re helping to leave a legacy of giving to this school. Giving at the upcoming School of Law Dinner, a night where we celebrate the accomplishments of the law school and our community, shows alumni and friends of Pepperdine how much we personally care about each other. Because of our engagement, we will undoubtedly inspire others to give and support the school.
Editors Note: Dean of Students Steve Schultz has pledged to donate a matching gift, the amount of which will be announced at the upcoming School of Law Dinner.
As SBA President, what role do you take on regarding the development/integration of the SPC and SEF?
Alex: As SBA President, I’m going to create a new Executive Board Position for a Student Philanthropy Officer. This officer will carry on and help lead student philanthropy at the law school. They will also work with law school and Seaver administration to grow our student emergency fund and engage more alumni to become involved. The Student Philanthropy Officer will be the link between the law students, the law school, and the alumni.
Why is it important to have the fund and council under SBA’s leadership?
Alex: The SBA helps gives students a collective voice on a variety of issues. In order for Student Philanthropy to be successful, we need it to genuinely come from the students. Who better to lead this effort than a current Pepperdine Law student who is passionate about student engagement? By incorporating Student Philanthropy into our Student Bar Constitution*, we are ensuring that the SEF and student philanthropy will be an enduring cause that has the appropriate resources to make a real impact on student’s lives.
Can alumni or others give to the SEF?
Alex: All are welcome to give to the SEF. As a student initiative, we need the help of alumni, faculty, and friends of Pepperdine to support this fund. Giving to the SEF will have the most immediate of impact on student’s lives. We sincerely appreciate support from both Pepperdine and non-Pepperdine contributors.
*Incorporation of the SPC into the Student Bar Constitution is a current work in progress.
The Student Emergency Fund and Student Philanthropy Council are two of many efforts students, alumni, faculty and staff are working on together to improve the health and happiness of Pepperdine Law students. The creation of the fund and council coincide with Pepperdine’s inaugural Giving Day, Give2Pepp, occurring on March 8th. Pepperdine Law is trying to ensure that donation impact the students in the most direct and helpful way possible.
Students to be assisted by the SEF will generally be referred via a mentor, professor, or close friend. An independent Pepperdine Student Care Team will further determine if the candidate qualifies, and the level of assistance needed.