Auburn University College of Human Sciences, College of Liberal Arts collaborate to host 2023 NACC Biennial Conference

Graham Brooks | Communications Editor

For three days in late July, The Auburn University College of Human Sciences Philanthropy and Non-Profit Studies Program in collaboration with the College of Liberal Arts Master of Public Administration Program hosted the 2023 Biennial Conference of the Nonprofit Academic Centers Council (NACC) at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center. The conference served as a valuable opportunity for those dedicated to the philanthropic/nonprofit sector to collaborate, exchange ideas, and share their expertise.

Dr. Peter Weber, Associate Professor and Program Coordinator of the Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies Program (PNPS), and Dr. Kelly Krawczyk (Associate Professor and Ph.D. Program Director) co-hosted the conference that brought together a global network of researchers and practitioners for discussion, reflection, and sharing of research, resources and best practices surrounding nonprofit/NGO higher education. Weber is a board member of NACC and currently serves as the VP of Governance.

This year’s conference theme was internationality, diversity, and responsiveness in nonprofit curricula and it was the first in-person NACC conference held since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Around 40 program directors and educators in nonprofit studies visited Auburn to engage in critical conversations that will shape the future of nonprofit higher education and research. Two of those leaders who attended the conference included Dr. William Brown, NACC president and professor and director for the Center for Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Texas A&M Bush School of Government and Public Service and Executive Director, and Dr. Robert Ashcraft, saguaro professor of civic enterprise at the Arizona State University Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation.

Brown said the purpose of the NACC Conference is to equip organizations and individuals to address a variety of problems confronting our society. “Texas A&M serves as the institutional host for NACC and we serve as an administrative home for NACC,” Brown said. “It’s thinking about how do we teach the people who lead and contribute to civil society organizations? It helps us think about how do we help educate those individuals that have the kind of capacity and influence to be able to make the kinds of things happen to address the social problems that are confronting our society? There’s a lot including civil engagement, to environmental concerns, to economic equity concerns and these organizations are on the front lines for many of those justice questions.”

The NACC is an international membership association comprised of academic centers or programs at accredited colleges and universities focused on the study of nonprofit/governmental organizations, voluntary action, and/or philanthropy. Representing Arizona State, Ashcraft was able to explain the impact universities have coming together for the conference and how it’s important to prepare students for the future.

“It’s a network of universities that are engaged in education and research in the nonprofit and philanthropic area and we’re delighted to be at Auburn,” Ashcraft said. “When I think of the role of universities I think it’s very interesting because these programs nest in different places. Most universities have a business school or something like a school of government but this is the third sector, meaning nonprofit sector, which is complimentary to government and for profit but it’s also distinctive. We’re helping to define a field and we also have students that want to change the world and they’re purpose driven. Our challenge is how do we best prepare them?”

Erin Casolaro, who received her bachelor’s degree in nonprofit and philanthropy studies and accounting in May, presented at the NACC Conference. Casolaro served as the president of the Student Philanthropy Board from fall of 2021 to spring 2023 through the Cary Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies and she is currently working on her master of accountancy at Auburn.

“I presented a study that I have been working on alongside Dr. Peter Weber and Dr. Portia Johnson titled ‘Student Philanthropy: The Perspective of Grantee,’” Casolaro said. “The study analyzes the impact of student philanthropy on community partners, a perspective often not included in current studies of this emerging teaching methodology. It relies on a survey with nonprofit organizations submitting a grant proposal to an experiential philanthropy course and focus groups with both nonprofits that participated in the course and agencies that did not from 2022 and 2023. This study points to how we can improve the student philanthropy course while also enriching the experience of participating nonprofits.”

When describing her experience at the NACC Conference, Casolaro noted she was able to receive valuable feedback while also building her network in the process.

“This conference was extremely impactful for my understanding of Nonprofit Academic Centers and their importance on university campuses and communities,” Casolaro said. “I was able to network with practitioners and academics while gaining valuable feedback on the paper that we were presenting. Overall, this conference emphasized the transformational power of collaboration and highlighted the incredible work that members are doing across the nation to strengthen the nonprofit sector.”

For more information on the 2023 NACC Conference, visit For more information on philanthropy and nonprofit studies in the College of Human Sciences, visit For more information on the Cary Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies, visit