Dear SHECP Community,

As we all navigate the persistent uncertainties that surround all of us in this moment, I am regularly reminded that numbers are more meaningful to me—and perhaps more maddeningly indiscernible—than they have ever been. Every morning around 11:00 CST, I pick up my phone, pull up my bookmarked pages, and get updated on Mississippi’s “daily counts.” I’m not entirely sure what that does for my sense of certainty or predictability, except to say that it is the one thing that seems sure to appear, like clockwork, every day.

Like my daily screen ritual, when I try to make sense of what we did this summer, numbers seem like a logical place to start. 84 interns. 18 schools. 64 agencies. 21 new partners. 27 cities. 30 cohort mentors. 6 medical school mentors. 2 virtual conferences. 4 keynote events. 9 keynote speakers.

One book. 7 reflection prompts. Hundreds of Flipgrid posts, self-assessments, and other artifacts.

A dozen partners stepped forward as professional practice mentors in their field of expertise—most of them at both the Opening and Closing Conference– to prepare and reflect with our interns about vocation. Our alumni—22 of them—participated in both conferences, led cohort sessions, and in some cases, mentored our 2020 interns at the agencies where they now work!

Numbers are good. They provide a point of departure when we’re asking a big, complicated question. But they can conceal as much as they reveal. The number of demonstrators who have turned out to demand justice cannot begin to reflect the depth and extent of our nation’s record of injustice. Much like the case counts I consult each morning, they are only one measure.

This summer, the Consortium did what the Consortium was designed to do—collaborate across diverse talents, professional acuities, and passions to demonstrate a shared commitment to undergraduate education about poverty. Even as all of us were thrown into an unexpected spring transition, faculty, staff, and students from across our institutions—all of whom were managing their own institutions’ transitions—showed up, stepped forward, and made a summer commitment not knowing exactly what making that commitment was going to mean. SHECP alumni—most of whom are in the earliest years of their careers—led cohorts, participated in alumni panels, and attended community-building events. Our summer scholar, Dr. Scott Allard, not only presented the final keynote, he hosted a student conversation and engaged with staff and faculty in separate events. Our Community Partners mentored our students throughout the summer through their internships, but they also facilitated sessions at our Opening and Closing Conferences. They did all of that as their daily work responsibilities multiplied and shifted.

SHECP is not the only thing that any of us do. It is only one of multiple and overlapping communities within which we all work and live. My hope, however, is that this summer’s experience and the successes that our students had reinforces why we continue the work. The incredible demonstration of commitment we witnessed this summer is evidence, in my mind, that we share a sense of belonging and responsibility for our mission.

Thank you for being part of our community this past summer. I can assure you that among the multitude of contributions, each was vital. None was more critical, in my mind than the courage, commitment, and endurance of our interns. With investments like yours, our future is assured.

Best wishes for health and comfort in the coming months.

Sincerely,

Stephanie R. Rolph, PhD, Academic Director, SHECP

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