Brian Pusser, program coordinator for higher education in the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, and Christian Steinmetz, assistant professor and coordinator of the higher education M.Ed. program in the Curry School, have begun an 18-month assessment of programing with the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty (SHECP) and at each of its member institutions. Pusser and Steinmetz will be assisted by Malissa Takacs, a graduate of the higher education program at the Curry School.

The assessment will survey students in the gateway or introductory poverty courses and the capstone courses at each institution and survey the impact of the sustained poverty studies programs on students at each institution. It will also examine various collaborative Consortium programs, especially the eight-week summer internship program in which SHECP interns participate together in multiple urban and rural areas across the United States. The value of the SHECP conferences to interns; its symposia faculty, staff, and students; and its website and networking for students and alumni will also be scrutinized.

The Curry School assessment is supported by grants from the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore and the Connolly Family Foundation in Atlanta. This first stage of the assessment will continue through summer 2015.

The Curry School team and the SHECP Board of Directors believe that when completed, this assessment will form the basis for a longitudinal study. We want to know, Harlan Beckley, executive director of the Consortium states, what “influence the Consortium and its member institutions have on how our graduates execute their professional careers in business, health services, education, law, public policy, ministry, etc. and their civic leadership in many of these same arenas in order to diminish poverty.”  The SHECP and member schools leadership also want to learn how to improve courses and programming. Ultimately, this assessment will enable us, Beckley acknowledges, “to inform higher education administrators and potential funders of our distinctive accomplishments in higher education.”

Pusser and Steinmetz are eager to assist the members of the Shepherd Consortium through research that will help improve all aspects of programming, inform administrators at participating institutions about the success of the SHECP, its students, and its individual programs, and provide information useful to current and prospective Consortium members.

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