Driven by innovation, connection and engagement, SHECP’s Academic Program continues to evolve in order to better serve the needs of our students and their impact on the alleviation of poverty. Recently, SHECP’s Academic Director, Stephanie Rolph, sat down to share some details about changes that have been brought to the Internship Program, including its new, virtual approach.

What changes have been made to the 2020 Academic Program?

A: The living cohort is not part of this year’s program. However, to keep the principle of the living cohort and connect the interns across diverse institutions, cities, and professional interests, the SHECP cohorts will be working with staff and faculty from SHECP member schools to build a research project over the summer that focuses on the city where their agency does their work.

Rather than delivering these projects as individual accomplishments, we have built the development to require collaboration from members of their cohort for feedback, suggestions, and ideas that come out of different cities. Part of what we want to see our students grasp as they become familiar with antipoverty work is that partnership and collaboration across institutions is critical. By embedding this in the cohort learning model this year, we start practicing that from the very beginning.

How have these changes impacted the SHECP 2020 Summer Internship Program?

A: We have had the opportunity to bring in more speakers, build out the research component of the summer, and really drill down into location-based work. Outside of the living cohort and mid-summer meetings, it was difficult for students to truly experience the learning opportunities outside of their cohort and outside of their city. We’re actually leveraging the remote option to pull together our SHECP community in ways that just haven’t been practical in the past.

We’ve also been able to secure participation from some of the leading organizations doing antipoverty work because we’re bringing them in through a virtual format—Together for Hope; Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty; and the Kellogg Foundation will be leading keynote events throughout the summer, so that students can get a “big picture” view of how antipoverty strategy and community-based leadership works as a formula for effective intervention.

There are several pivotal perspectives the students will be occupying this summer because the remote environment provides more fluid connections. There is absolutely no replacement for face-to-face direct service work under the mentorship of our community partners, but we tried to design a robust program that embodied all of the elements of poverty education that ground our mission.

What are the key goals for the SHECP Academic Program beyond the Summer Internship Program?

A: The work these students are going to be doing this summer is so important, but a key goal for SHECP is to only be one part of an individual’s lifelong commitment to disrupting poverty. My hope is that this summer truly grows our commitment to move the interns into the next stage of their vocational exploration with some experiences and artifacts that will help them think about what’s next.

We’re doing that by helping the interns put together portfolios of their work—from application to self-assessment surveys to academic research—that will result in a solutions-based white paper for the city where their agency is located. With these artifacts in hand, they can review how they learned—what worked and what didn’t—and hopefully gain some insight about the skills and competencies needed to do effective antipoverty work.

Some of our alumni will go on to full-time social justice work, but many of our students will go into other fields where, hopefully, they will hold a consistent commitment to contributing to poverty’s alleviation. Ultimately, it’s going to take all of us to chip away at this problem. And I see our interns as ambassadors for translating what they’ve learned into meaningful dialogue with whatever communities they find themselves in. The internship is a significant and critical part of that, but it’s what they do after that will truly bear fruit.

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