Dr. Harlan Beckley
Director of the Shepherd Program for the Interdisciplinary Study of Poverty and Human Capability and the Fletcher Otey Thomas Professor of Religion
Washington and Lee's Shepherd Program for the Interdisciplinary Study of Poverty and Human Capability began in 1997 with support from Nancy and Tom Shepherd '52. It integrates academic study and learning through service and reflection; it endeavors to inform our 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; and in keeping with our university mission to cultivate a readiness to sacrifice on behalf of others, the Shepherd Program seeks to offer opportunities for students to acquire skills and qualities of character that dispose them to serve communities and disadvantaged individuals.
In combination, this threefold effort helps our graduates develop a stronger sense of vocation. We hope they will be conscious of 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. Thus, the Shepherd Program is integral to the total education on which Washington and Lee prides itself.
Students combine interdisciplinary and disciplined-based coursework on poverty with direct service in their areas of special interest (for example, business, education, health, law or community organizing) in order to supplement their major areas of study. Some students receive a minor or concentration in the study of poverty and human capability. For many, their coursework culminates in a capstone seminar and research project that connects their concerns about poverty to their future careers, such as papers on financial credit for vulnerable families or micro-lending in developing nations.
The program promotes a structure for student leadership and volunteer service in the local Rockbridge community and summer internships across the nation as a part of Washington and Lee's effort to accentuate student honor, leadership and learning.
Students are able to receive direct service experience through a variety of activities:
• pre-orientation service trips for entering students led by upper-level undergraduates
• eight-week summer internships for law and undergraduate students
• intense community engagement through a Bonner Leader Program
• a Campus Kitchen that retrieves unused food in order to join persons at multiple agencies for meals or snack time
• a Nabors Service League that organizes student service in the local community and at other locations during University holidays
• direct service and focused community-based research linked with courses
• a post-graduate Elrod Fellowship Program for continuing education after graduation.
Many of these activities enable student involvement in the Rockbridge area community and with alumni in their communities across the nation. Graduates of the Shepherd Program are sensitive to the serious problem of domestic and international poverty and informed about how their future conduct as professionals and engaged citizens will make a difference for impoverished communities and persons.