As I near the end of my twenty years with the Shepherd Program at Washington and Lee, its intern Alliance that included Berea College, and the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium Poverty, I am increasingly convinced of the need for this movement focused on sustained poverty studies within higher education and of its potential to help meet that need.
I do not recall a time during my professional life when our nation has been in greater need of informed and reasoned dialogue about governmental and community policies and practices to address social and moral issues in general and for a better understanding of poverty in particular. As the U.S. is among the most impoverished developed nations in the world and its policies impinge on global poverty in a myriad of ways, we need professionals in all areas and civic leaders who are aware of how their behavior and leadership diminish or increase poverty. Prominent scholars and educators as well as national anti-poverty leaders for direct action have personally reminded us of the enormous potential for undergraduate and professional poverty studies to help future leaders in health and public health, education, law, business, social work, ministry, and government policy to address and diminish poverty. There is no one solution for this persistent but tractable problem, but multiple solutions emerging from a rich dialogue prompted by interdisciplinary, engaged, and rigorous higher education will make a difference.
With the infusion of funding from generous investors, SHECP has been able to appoint an Academic Director, retain a full-time Internship Director for a second year, increase its Development Director to full-time, and conduct a nation-wide search for a permanent full-time Executive Director. I look forward to handing off the baton to the next Executive Director soon. I am confident that he or she will help other staff advance SHECP’s work and funding for both an expanded and more focused and effective role in higher education. This transition will be among the most satisfying moments in my past twenty years work to advance poverty studies in higher education. Continued leadership and volunteer work beyond the call of duty from faculty, staff, students, and alumni at member schools will support the SHECP staff in augmenting this movement in higher education. I anticipate cheering from the sideline. – Harlan Beckley