We have a tradition of training students for service, and our key feature is the fact that we train students as advocates,” says Michèle Alexandre, dean of Stetson University College of Law. Six months into her new role at Stetson, Alexandre has helped spearhead a major new initiative, officially announced October 16 and dubbed the Alliance for Advocacy and Philanthropy.
The Alliance is a collaboration between Stetson and the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, a nonprofit that connects people and resources to foster charitable giving throughout Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties. The partnership will provide, among other opportunities, the chance for Stetson Law students to support Tampa Bay area not-for-profits through pro bono work as well as two paid fellowships each semester for students attending the law school. Through their work within this program, students will get hands-on experience working with not-for-profits that organizers hope will help them gain an in-depth understanding of community philanthropy.
“In an area with lots of new nonprofits coming onboard and those who have been here a while growing dramatically in their reach and in their methods of helping in the community,” says Marlene Spalten, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay. “It’s just ripe for this kind of alliance to provide for them an easy, accessible support, both for them – being the nonprofits – as well as our community residents and government leaders. It really will benefit, we think, everyone.”
Spalten says the region is uniquely suited to support such a program, noting the level of growth Tampa Bay has experienced in recent years coupled with the record-breaking levels of philanthropy and the need that the large number of nonprofits in the area have for legal support. She points out the increasing number of students being educated here and the percentage of those students – especially Stetson law students – who go on to stay and practice here after graduation. These young professionals often focus on issues key to this area, issues that the Alliance is keen to address such as elder and senior law, advocacy for veterans, and housing.
“Working together,” says Dean Alexandre, “we can empower the next generation of nonprofit and Tampa Bay leaders to become effective community advocates, which will have a positive impact on our region.”