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A Classroom and Engaged Poverty Education that Continues

“The experiences from that first Shepherd Alliance internship remain with me in many ways, shaping my career and beyond,” writes Calix.

Jasmine Calix graduated from Washington and Lee University in 2005 with a Bachelor of Arts in Politics and a Specialization in Studio Art. The summer after graduating, she worked as an intern at the Canadian Embassy in Washington DC, in the Public Affairs Division. In the Fall, she held a position on the staff of a Virginia Senator before beginning graduate school at the University of Saskatchewan. She graduated with a Masters in Political Studies and International Relations in 2008, and then spent five years working for the University in a variety of capacities such as a Housing Coordinator, Program Coordinator for the International Student Office, and a Research Analyst for university advancement. Since then, she has worked in Saskatchewan for the provincial government and currently the city of Saskatoon’s municipal government. She is also capitalizing on her art skills, which were further developed during undergraduate school and has recently launched her own art website. Her art can be seen at

My Shepherd Poverty Program internship was at the Community Law Centre (CLC) in Baltimore. The introductory poverty course was illuminating, and the internship was a great way to apply the theoretical knowledge about causes of and solutions to poverty to the real world. My placement was a way to combine my legal career interests with the how’s and why’s of poverty. My main project for the summer was interesting, and through a matter of random selection, among the other two interns, I ended up working on a housing project that involved landlords engaging in apartment flipping schemes that victimized tenants. The landlords purchased dilapidated rental housing for rock bottom prices, made perfunctory renovations and then charged high rents. I was responsible for investigating these poor housing conditions. I interviewed tenants and landlords, recorded details of housing conflicts, and assisted the CLC Director in preparing litigation for cases.   Months after I left the internship, my former colleagues at CLC informed me that our case was successful. Check one for improving housing.

Fast forward to 10 years since graduation—yes I was just on the Washington and Lee campus for my 10-year reunion last year, and couldn’t believe how fast time had flown by—and I am once again working in the housing area. The landscape is different, but many things are the same. As the Assistant Coordinator for Crime Free Multi Housing in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, I act as a liaison between the Saskatoon Police Service, other agencies, and the rental property community to develop partnerships, and facilitate communication related to rental apartment safety and security. We assess properties and provide feedback to property managers about adherence to crime free multi-housing and CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) standards. We also train and educate landlords and property managers.

Housing also remains a part of my life in other ways. I still volunteer with Habitat for Humanity (HFH), something I first did as an undergraduate. I remember my initial introduction to Habitat was being up on a roof during my freshman year Spring Term, stapling shingles in place. I went on to be the VP of Education and newsletter Editor for the campus chapter of HFH. Currently, I serve on the board of directors of the housing authority in my city, Martensville. Having a good place to live is one of humans’ basic needs, and I am often surprised how fraught it is with underlying issues. Being an agent of change in this area is valuable because having good, safe housing is such a major determinant of future success in other areas of life.

With a bachelor’s in politics and a specialization in studio art, as well as a master’s degree in politics, I found myself working in a variety of roles, the web of linkages between them common and disparate. I have worked at local and federal government levels, both in the United States and Canada. I have also worked in higher education, as a research analyst, for the University of Saskatchewan. The common theme underlying my work experiences was being an agent for change at the ground level. This past spring, the culmination of all those experiences led me to run for public office. After many years of instilling change at the ground level, I felt there was a lack of balance at the upper level, which can and often does render much of the ground-level work useless. Given my qualifications and experience, I felt I had a lot to offer at that leadership level.

I lost to the incumbent, but along the way, met and listened to countless neighbors and community leaders. I even managed to increase our party’s vote share in my constituency by 33% over the last elections. Now I am more involved in the political party and taking part in planning and debriefing sessions as we prepare and develop strategy for the next elections in 2020. In that regard, I’m now a member of the Membership Committee of the party’s women’s arm, as we seek creative ways to increase our membership.

The experiences from that first Shepherd Alliance internship remain with me in many ways, shaping my career and beyond. As a unionized employee in Canada’s largest union, with over 635,000 members across the country, I was recently appointed to their National Rainbow Committee, which works to combat racism and discrimination and promote employment equity by evaluating and developing policies and programs. As I continue to navigate all the applications and versatility of my liberal arts education, running for office again is definitely still on the agenda; those legal interests that have been continually honed since Baltimore, and in various ways over the past few years, are never far from my thoughts.


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