December 3, 2012 - New York University professor of applied psychology Edward Seidman, Ph.D., joins GPPI as this year’s as Waldemar A. Nielsen Visiting Fellow in Philanthropy.

Established in 2000, the Nielsen Chair and Fellowship supports an annual visiting practitioner or scholar at the Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership (CPNL) and GPPI who contributes to the Georgetown community as a professor, researcher and thought-leader on the critical issues facing the field of philanthropy.

Seidman, who spent seven years as the Senior Vice President of Programs at the William T. Grant Foundation (where he remains a Senior Program Associate), specializes in theory and research to understand, measure, and change the practices and norms of social settings where children and youth have many of their formative daily experiences.

"Dr. Seidman's experience as a grant maker and a researcher is an excellent fit for GPPI and the CPNL,” says Kathy Kretman, director of CPNL.

“Philanthropy's influence and impact on public policy are topics of much debate, both in the foundation world and on Capitol Hill. As our 2012-13 Waldemar A. Nieslen Visiting Fellow in Philanthropy, Dr. Seidman offers Georgetown an opportunity to participate in these important conversations.”

Seidman will also serve as a panelist at GPPI’s inaugural LEAD Conference, which focuses on at-risk youth, in January 2013.

Levers of Intervention

Seidman served as the guest of honor for one of GPPI’s Policy Dinners Nov. 29. Policy Dinners, held throughout the year, allow small groups of public policy students to sit down with a leading policy practitioner for a candid conversation. Seidman, who specializes in research inform the creation of programs and policies to promote positive youth development, shared his experiences in both the foundation and clinical worlds.

He discussed his interest in the adolescent phase of children’s lives, particularly the transition period from elementary school – where typically students are with one teacher and the same peer group all day – to middle school, where classes, peer groups, and teachers usually change throughout the day for a given student.

“That’s a time when there are massive biological, cognitive and social changes going on in adolescents,” Seidman said at the dinner. “It’s an ecological transition for them. So one question is, how can you change the nature of that ecological transition to make it more supportive? You also have to be concerned with the daily interactions and climate of an organization, but if you can change the structure to make it more supportive, it enables foundations to have better programs implemented.”

“You’ve got to pay attention to both structure and process,” he added. “And we always have to look for the levers of intervention that are going to make the most effective changes. ”

The Key to Nonprofit Education

Seidman also sat down with a group of students and nonprofit colleagues Nov. 30 for a roundtable discussion on philanthropy, where he engaged participants in a discussion of how foundations are using evidence-based research to determine their strategies for giving. Seidman discussed how foundations determine their giving priorities, the role of research and impact analysis in the grant-making process, and how collaboration among funders improve the quality of the programs they support.

During the discussion, he emphasized the key balance between theory and practice that should inform students’ and practitioners’ work with nonprofits. “The real world and the book learning always have to be integrated to the maximum degree possible for people to really learn and understand. Each of us have different temperaments and different strengths, so it can be hard to do both,” he said.

“But in the collective sense, and to the degree possible in the individual sense, the ability to move back and forth between practice and science improves whatever you end up doing. Whatever the arena is, I think moving back and forth between theory and practice…that’s the key to education.”