Diversity & Democracy: Civic Learning for Shared Futures
Diversity Innovations Curricular Transformation
Diversity Digest Volume 9, Number 2

Diversity Digest
Volume 10,
Number 1

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Campus-Community Involvement
Student Leadership: Making a Difference in the World
Access to Education, Opportunity to Serve
Berea College: Learning, Labor, and Service
A Developmental and Capacity-Building Model for Community Partnerships
The Power of a Sustained Relationship between Community Partners and Colleges and Universities
Faculty Involvement
Prequel to Civic Engagement: An African American Studies Research Seminar
Service Learning and Policy Change
Facilitating Student Growth as Citizens: A Developmental Model for Community-Engaged Learning
Student Experience
An Intentional and Comprehensive Student Development Model
Bonner: More Than a Model, a Lived Experience
Relationships First
Commitment to a Cause
Institutional Leadership
Preparing to Serve
Checklist from the President’s Chair
Curricular Transformation
LifeWorks and the Commons: A Model for General Education
The Case for Studying Poverty
Engaging with Difference Matters: Longitudinal Outcomes of the Cocurricular Bonner Scholars Program
Resources for Civic Engagement
Serving, Voting, and Speaking Out: Bonner Students Reflect on Civic Engagement

The Case for Studying Poverty

By Harlan Beckley, founder and director of the Shepherd Program on Poverty and Human Capability, Washington and Lee University, and Stacy McLoughlin Taylor, participant in and former acting director of the Shepherd Program and MA student in European studies in Istanbul, Turkey

The U.S. Census Bureau reported a poverty rate of 12.7 percent in 2004. More shockingly, one in five American children today live in official poverty. Measurements of poverty by health, literacy, or family stability are even more embarrassing. Our infant mortality rate stands above that of all other developed nations and the percentage of U.S. citizens expected to live past sixty-five is lower than in costa rica.

Undergraduate education addresses other significant social problems: the environment, national security and peace, women’s issues, and race and ethnic relations. Why are there not more interdisciplinary programs for the sustained study of poverty? Rigorous and sustained interdisciplinary study deepens commitments, generates new ideas, and inspires new approaches and practices that engage many citizens.

Washington and Lee’s Shepherd Program for the Interdisciplinary Study of Poverty and Human Capability integrates academic study and learning through service and reflection. It endeavors to inform students about poverty and what can be done to foster human capabilities for communities and individuals who have been left behind in domestic and international development. It promotes a structure for student leadership and volunteer service in the local community through the Bonner Leader Program, as well as eight-week summer internships in which students work with disadvantaged persons and communities across the nation. This effort helps our graduates develop a stronger sense of vocation. They become knowledgeable about how their conduct as professionals and citizens will affect the opportunities of disadvantaged persons to contribute to a better life for themselves, their families, and their communities.

Graduates knowledgeable about poverty will introduce new ideas into the political and civic discourse, initiate innovative community programs, and introduce new professional practices into business, education, law, ministry, healthcare, and social work.

Through organizations like the Bonner Foundation, a new generation of college students is involved in serving society. Undergraduate studies of poverty can prepare these students to unite with their less fortunate (sometimes victimized) fellow citizens. Together, they could demand that civic and political leaders on the right and the left think and act differently to diminish persistent poverty in the United States. Over time, we could then alter these shameful statistics.

Questions, comments, and suggested resources should be directed to campbell@aacu.org.
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