2024-2025 University Catalog 
    Jul 22, 2024  
2024-2025 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 and inequality 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 College, the Williams School, or the School of Law. Undergraduate students may pursue a minor in poverty and inequality studies, which integrates introductory and advanced coursework, 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, Nabors Service League, and Volunteer Venture (a pre-orientation trip that connects incoming students with one another, with upper-division trip leaders, and with anti-poverty organizations in surrounding cities). 

Career Paths. Shepherd students, whether minoring in poverty and inequality studies or not, 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 or two-year opportunity for employment with a public-interest agency that collaborates with and supports 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. In addition, the Shepherd Alumni Mentorship program connects Shepherd seniors with alumni mentors who offer advice and encouragement during the transition to life after graduation.

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 member institutions with agencies that collaborate with and support low-income communities. Students learn first-hand about the many causes and consequences of poverty and inequality in the United States by volunteering for eight weeks with social impact community organizations. 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 cultivate the skills and insights they need to promote a better, more just world through their future personal, professional, and civic lives.

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

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

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
Ph.D., University of Georgia

Marcos Emilio Pérez, Ph.D.—(2018)-2019
Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology
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

Candice C. Robinson, Ph.D.—(2024)-2024
Assistant Professor of Sociology
Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh

Katharine L. Shester, Ph.D.—(2011)-2023
Professor of Economics
Ph.D., Vanderbilt University

Alexander C. Sutton—(2022)-2024
Assistant Professor of Sociology
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