2023-2024 University Catalog 
    Nov 29, 2023  
2023-2024 University Catalog

Poverty and Human Capability Studies (POV)

Poverty and Human Capability Studies

The Shepherd Program integrates thought and action to prepare students from different majors, career paths, backgrounds, passions, and political perspectives to understand and address the complex causes and consequences of poverty and inequality in ways that respect the dignity of every person.  

Students weave together poverty-related courses across campus (economics, education, law, philosophy, politics, sociology, and more) and related service and internship experiences across the county, the country, and the world. Those pursuing a minor in poverty studies also complete capstone research that connects their concerns about poverty and inequality with their future civic and professional lives.

Interdisciplinary Learning. Our unique combination of academic coursework and community-based learning complements any undergraduate major or course of study in the law school. Undergraduate students may pursue a minor in poverty studies, which integrates introductory and advanced courses, volunteer and research opportunities as well as subsidized summer internships (local, domestic, and international) in partnership with social impact organizations and their surrounding communities. See Poverty and Human Capability Studies minor  .

Community-Based Learning and Leadership. Shepherd students also participate in and serve as leaders of our community-based learning programs, including the Blue Ridge Mile Clinic, the Bonner Program, the Campus Kitchen at Washington and Lee, the Community-Academic Research Alliance (CARA), Nabors Service League, and Volunteer Venture (a pre-orientation service trip that connects incoming students with one another, with upper-division trip leaders, and with anti-poverty organizations in the surrounding region). 

Career Paths. Whether minoring in poverty studies or not, Shepherd students choose from a wide variety of academic and internship opportunities that help develop insights and skills to inform their future professional and civic lives. There are as many paths through Shepherd as there are students. Common career pathways include business, data analysis, education, health care, law, non-profit management, politics, and social services. Seniors and young alumni continue their learning beyond graduation through the Elrod Fellowship, a one-to-two-year opportunity for employment with a public-interest agency that serves low-income communities in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. areas. Elrod Fellows are supported by alumni mentors and alumni-sponsored seminars for continuing education.

Our History. The Shepherd Program (est. 1997) was made possible through the support of Tom (Class of 1952) and Nancy Shepherd and many other generous supporters. We are committed to the W&L mission to prepare graduates for “life-long learning, personal achievement, responsible leadership, service to others, and engaged citizenship in a global and diverse society.”

Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty. Washington and Lee University is a member of the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty (SHECP) which unites students from consortium-member institutions with agencies that work to benefit under-resourced members of society. Students learn first-hand about the multiple dimensions of poverty in the United States by volunteering for eight weeks alongside individuals seeking to improve their communities. The agencies, located in various urban and rural sites in the United States, focus on education, healthcare, legal services, housing, hunger, social and economic needs, and community-building efforts. Students intern with agencies that fit their intellectual interests in order to develop their experience and skills for future civic involvement and employment.

Program Head: Howard Pickett

Core Faculty

First date is the year in which the faculty member began service as regular faculty at the University. Second date is the year of appointment to the present rank.

N. Melina Bell, Ph.D.—(2005)-2017
Professor of Philosophy and Law
Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania

Timothy M. Diette, Ph.D.—(2004)-2019
Professor of Economics and Executive Director of the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty
Ph.D., University of North Carolina

Jonathan Eastwood, Ph.D.—(2006)-2010
Professor of Sociology
Ph.D., Boston University

Arthur H. Goldsmith, Ph.D.—(1990)-1996
Jackson T. Stephens Professor of Economics
Ph.D., University of Illinois

John D. King, J.D., LL.M.—(2008)-2013
Associate Clinical Professor of Law
LL.M., Georgetown University

Mary C. (Molly) Michelmore, Ph.D.—(2006)-2020
Professor of History
Ph.D., University of Michigan

Karla K. Murdock, Ph.D.—(2005)-2013
Jo M. and James M. Ballengee Sr. Professor of Cognitive and Behavioral Science and Director of the Roger Mudd Center for Ethics
Ph.D., University of Georgia

Marcos Emilio Pérez, Ph.D.—(2018)-2018, 2019
Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology and Adjunct Professor of Law
Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin

Howard Y. Pickett, Ph.D.—(2011)-2019
Associate Professor of Ethics and Poverty Studies
Ph.D., University of Virginia

Katharine L. Shester, Ph.D.—(2011)-2011
Associate Professor of Economics
Ph.D., Vanderbilt University

Alexander C. Sutton—(2022)-2022
DeLaney Postdoctoral Fellow, Shepherd Program
Ph.D., University of Virginia

Erin P. Taylor, Ph.D.—(2016)-2021
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles


Interdisciplinary Minor