Feature Stories Campus Events

Interns at Work: Ryan Brink ’18 The Campus Kitchen at Washington and Lee, Lexington, VA

“By the end of this summer I hope to have developed a new set of relationships in the Rockbridge community.”

What attracted you to this internship?

I had worked with campus kitchen all year and really loved the work I was doing, so when the opportunity arose to stay in Lex for the summer and work in the kitchen full-time, I couldn’t say no.

How did you learn about it?

Being fairly close to the Pov program at school, I found out about this opportunity fairly quickly from Jenny Davidson.

What gave you the edge in landing this internship?

A big part of it was just the fact that I already had so much experience in the kitchen. The transition was fairly seamless.

Describe your daily duties.

Depending on what day of the week it is, we are usually running around between the kitchen and a variety of our delivery sites. In addition we teach nutrition lessons to children four to five times a week and cook food for the deliveries three times a week.

What are some tasks/projects you’ve been working on?

A big part of the summer has been spent in the Campus Garden either teaching nutrition lessons or working in the beds.

Have any courses and/or professors helped you prepare for this internship? Which ones?

Pov 101 and 102 really helped me view service in quite a different manner, and forced me to really consider why I was doing the service that I was. This reflection aided me significantly in learning about the mindset that is necessary when doing work such as what I am doing with the kitchen.

What do you hope to learn by the end of your experience?

By the end of this summer I hope to have developed a new set of relationships in the Rockbridge community through greater exposure to it. In addition I hope to continue improving my adaptability.

What was your favorite part or perk of the internship?

The best perk of the internship has to be just getting the ability to explore this great county that so many W&L students never get to see, and there is a sweet farmer’s tan that comes with working in the garden so much.

What did you learn from city where the internship was located?

Staying in Lexington over the summer really helped me appreciate the people that I was with a lot more than during the school year.

What key takeaways/skills will you bring back to W&L?

The biggest thing I will bring to W&L after this summer has to be a new ability to deal with the huge variety of people and problems that can arise in daily life.

What advice would you give to students interested in a position like this?

I would make sure that it is something you really enjoy and really feel passionate about, because there is a lot of time and energy that goes into a summer with an organization with a kitchen. Food insecurity and other problems that arise in our society don’t take days off, which means neither can you.

Has this experience influenced your career aspirations? How so?

If nothing else, this summer introduced me to the fantastic organization that is the national Campus Kitchens Project, and exposed that as a possibility for the future.

Hometown: Mequon, WI
Major: Undecided

Company Name: The Campus Kitchen at Washington and Lee
Location: Lexington, VA
Industry: Food Insecurity Relief
Position: Summer Intern

Interns at Work: Faith Pinho ’18 WBUR, Boston's NPR News Station, Boston, MA

“Before this summer, political journalism was a bright idea but a far-off goal. It has finally become an exciting reality, and now there is no doubt in my mind that it is the path for me.”

What attracted you to this internship?

I am a born and bred NPR listener. I was the kid in the back seat who listened to public radio every time my dad was in the driver’s seat. Around eighth grade, I began tuning into the local public radio stations myself. Every time I was in my room or in the front seat of my parents’ car, I would turn the knob to WBUR. I always say it was the reporting and the stories I heard on NPR that inspired me to pursue political journalism. When I decided to stay at home in Boston for the first summer of my college career and do a local internship, I immediately looked up available positions at WBUR.

How did you learn about it?

From years of listening to NPR, I knew that their stations offered internships. I did a little research on Google and learned the necessary information for applying to the WBUR internship. I also found stories and reviews from past interns at NPR stations, all of which described amazing journalistic experiences in glowing detail. I had a good idea of what I would be getting into when I applied.

What gave you the edge in landing this internship?

The internship coordinator at WBUR — the guy who reviewed all resumes, conducted all interviews and made the hiring decisions — said it was my resume that initially peaked his interest and my interview that got me through the door. I didn’t have much journalism experience to date, but my work for various Massachusetts government offices and political campaigns apparently convinced him that I was versed in the Boston political world and would be a good fit. In the interview, I expressed my passionate desire to learn the ropes of Boston’s news scene and to work for one of the country’s largest NPR stations. And, of course, I showed that I was comfortable interacting with strangers — an important skill for an aspiring journalist!

Describe your daily duties.

The first thing I do is “read up”: go through all the news stories of the day and familiarize myself with the main ideas and important details of each one. The station uses a database that keeps track of the various stories and their most recent updates.

From there, I am usually assigned to write “a reader.” The Newscast section of the newsroom is responsible for producing a rundown of important Massachusetts news at the beginning of every hour. The whole newscast only lasts between four and six minutes, so each story is usually less than 30 seconds long. The reader that I write is a short script summing up one news story. That reader is printed out — along with several of the other important news stories of the day — and given to the host, who reads it on air.

Throughout the day, I write several readers and do any research that is necessary for the completion of a story. That may involve calling a few people or scouring the Internet for more information. Everything, of course, has to be confirmed with a source. I also interview people directly through the phone and get sound quotes to put in the newscast.

On some days, I will be sent out to get sound at some city event. That is absolutely my favorite duty. So far I have attended press conferences and events at the Massachusetts State House, covered a rally celebrating the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage and recorded sound at a breaking ground ceremony for a new development project in Boston. Back in the newsroom, I edit the sound into short clips and write a reader to accompany them for the hour’s newscast.

What are some tasks/projects you’ve been working on?

There aren’t many long term projects to be working on since the newscast is produced every hour and the stories must be timely. In my spare time though, I am working to produce an entire newscast myself. That means researching several stories, writing readers for all of them (some with sound quotes), organizing the stories according to importance and, finally, recording them. None of this will be sent out on WBUR’s airwaves, but I will keep them in my personal journalism portfolio.

Have any courses and/or professors helped you prepare for this internship? Which ones?

I took Journalism 101 with Prof. Kevin Finch my first semester at W&L. Not only did he teach me the basics of different types of journalism (including the complexities of networks and their affiliate stations — I never was able to understand that before!), we got to know each other well enough that he wrote a wonderful recommendation for me, boosting my application to WBUR.

John Muncie, W&L’s intern coordinator for the journalism department, was also very helpful in securing this internship. He reviewed (and re-reviewed and re-re-reviewed) my resume and cover letter and gave a lot of invaluable advice during the application process. It is because of his suggestion to pursue small, local journalism that I am also working this summer for ECTV, the community television station for the City of Everett.

These two were instrumental in helping me to enjoy a summer packed full of amazing journalism learning experiences.

What do you hope to learn by the end of your experience?

I hope to hone my ability to localize a story. Whenever big, national stories are happening, WBUR reports on it from a Boston-focused angle — often in creative ways I wouldn’t imagine. By the end of the summer, I want to be comfortable reporting on a story from any local angle.

I also want to develop my questioning skills. Journalism is a fast-paced industry and one can never think of questions fast enough!

Lastly, I hope to improve on critical thinking. A journalist should be able to detect untruths — or simply not-quite-true truths — in an interview and ask provoking questions that will draw out the real, true truth.

I know I have already learned much in these three fields, and I plan to get even better by the end of the summer!

What was your favorite part or perk of the internship?

My favorite part is definitely the field assignments. Usually right after a public event at the State House or City Hall involving important government officials such as the governor or the mayor of Boston, there will be an intimate press conference called a “media scrum.” Journalists from news stations across the city of Boston press together (press, ha, ha) around the governor or the mayor with microphones extended, asking hard-hitting questions about important issues. I always feel simultaneously blessed and starstruck to be in such close proximity to news gatherers and government leaders, people who are so integral to the success of this country’s democracy.

Bumping into Tom Ashbrook on my way to the bathroom is pretty cool, too.

What did you learn from the city where the internship was located?

I have always lived in Everett, a neighboring city to Boston. Growing up, I spent a lot of time in the capital city, whether for work or play. This summer, I am becoming much better acquainted with city officials. Now, instead of hearing about them on the news, I am the one calling them to ask questions! They are no longer simply a voice giving speeches or a face in newspaper pictures. I see them on a more personal level, as real people in real working positions.

What key takeaways/skills will you bring back to W&L?

Honestly, I think one of the most useful skills I will be bringing back to W&L with me is the ability to write succinctly and quickly! After writing for an hourly newscast, I have no excuse for procrastination on future college writing assignments…

On a more serious note, I know I will be more inquisitive going back to school. In this journalism internship, it is necessary that I understand every facet of a story for me to write about it. I am growing comfortable in persistently asking questions until I receive an answer. I’m sure I will apply this skill in classes next year during times when I don’t understand the material.

What advice would you give to students interested in a position like this?

Be a news junkie. Read, listen, watch — do whatever is your most comfortable form of news consumption, but just make sure you consume. One of the questions in my interview was “What is your daily news diet?” Every day on the job, I realize how helpful it is to have background information on the stories that make the news. It is also a good idea to be a regular consumer of the publication where you would like to work. If you want to intern at a TV station, watch some of their news shows everyday. If you want to work for a newspaper, read their articles everyday.

Write regularly — all different forms of writing. Radio newscast writing is different than a feature article in a magazine, which is different than a newspaper opinion piece. Journalistic writing is an acquired skill that can always be improved!

Has this experience influenced your career aspirations? How so?

I am so, so thankful to work at WBUR this summer for many reasons, one being that I am now confident in my ambition to pursue political journalism. I wake up everyday excited to go to work and I go to bed every night reeling with new ideas about how to improve myself and further my career goals. Before this summer, political journalism was a bright idea but a far-off goal. It has finally become an exciting reality, and now there is no doubt in my mind that it is the path for me.

Describe your experience in a single word.


Hometown: Everett, MA
Major: Journalism and Mass Communications

Company Name: WBUR, Boston’s NPR News Station
Location: Boston, MA
Industry: Radio Journalism
Position: Newscast Intern

Changing Perspectives: Phillip Harmon ’17 Changing Perspectives, Capital Area Partnership Uplifting People, Inc., Richmond, VA

“The most invaluable part of my summer work with CAPUP is a newfound drive to help those in need.”

I wasn’t sure what to expect my first day working in the Food Pantry, but it certainly wasn’t this! As a college student, I thought I had an understanding of what it meant to live on a budget. In fact, my friends are always teasing me when I talk about my studies with the Shepherd Program saying things like, “Don’t all college students minor in poverty?” Speaking to the girl across from me, I quickly grasped just how privileged I am. From the questions she answered when checking herself in, I learned that the girl had no income. Although searching, she could not find a job. She was fortunate in that she had secured temporary housing, but it sounded like it would not be a long-term solution. Even if she hadn’t told us that she desperately needed the food we gave her, it would have been apparent from her worn-down figure. I was helping one of the poorest of Richmond’s poor and in a startling realization noticed that we could easily have been sitting in different places. We were born within two weeks of each other and both graduated from high school in the spring of 2013. Each of us wants to lead a happy life and be able to provide for ourselves. Quite frankly, the biggest difference in our current situations stems from birth. I grew up in a very supportive family with the time and resources to support me in any endeavor. This girl’s family wanted to support her, but simply could not afford to and was forced to kick her out of the house following her graduation. By consequence of birth, I am lucky.

Working at Capital Area Partnership Uplifting People Inc. (CAPUP) this summer, I had the opportunity to interact with people in different capacities to confront the problems facing the impoverished in and around Richmond every day. Observing local politicians and other leaders in the community in conjunction with CAPUP’s clients helped me to not only better understand the lives of the impoverished, but to see what problems they face and how they are not being addressed. As a community action agency, CAPUP works to identify and put into place programs to remedy these problems. It came as no surprise to find that topics I had previously discussed in classes such as food and housing insecurity and inadequate access to transportation are the focuses of many of the programs that CAPUP oversees. Still, it came as a shock to me just how much this organization does. I was fortunate to interact frequently with the clients in CAPUP’s many programs. Every day was different from the one before as I raced between diverse placements such as the food pantry or the Musical Youth summer camp. What came as a larger surprise, however, was not just how much CAPUP succeeds in fighting poverty, but how much still needs to be addressed. CAPUP has helped thousands of people. This does not even take into consideration the awesome work that the local government and dozens of other great nonprofit organizations have done in the Richmond area. On the national scene, Richmond has become a model for other cities hoping to fight socioeconomic injustice. With this in mind, I was struck when I met the girl in the food pantry who had seemingly slipped through the cracks of our system. Surely more could have been done to prevent this girl from reaching her current situation. My interaction with her showed me the flaws of our society in a way that I could never have understood from reading a text.

The most invaluable part of my summer work with CAPUP is a newfound drive to help those in need. My daily interaction with CAPUP’s clients has given me a deeper understanding of the diverse manifestations of poverty and social exclusion by allowing me to form concrete frames of reference for them. It is often easy to ignore or forget the fact that statistics concerning poverty or related issues show the conditions of real human lives. In my opinion, stripping away the humanity from discussions about such problems fails to respect the dignity of the people most affected by them. My work with CAPUP gave me a sharper understanding of problems in our society and a greater passion for finding solutions to these problems. I am lucky to live such a privileged life. My summer made this clear to me. Now, however, I better understand why I have an obligation to help those who are less fortunate.

Hometown: Roanoke, VA

Majors: Mathematics and Economics

Extracurricular Involvement:

  • Varsity Cross Country
  • Varsity Track and Field
  • Catholic Campus Ministry
  • Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity
  • Volunteer at Yellow Brick Road Early Learning Center

Off-Campus Experiences:

  • Community Action Intern at Capital Area Partnership Uplifting People Inc. (CAPUP)
  • Employee of Northwest True Value

Why did you apply for this particular internship? For a number of years prior to this summer, I spent my breaks away from school working at hardware stores. My job was to go through the stores peeling off old labels and replacing them with fresh ones. While many aspects of the job were great, the work itself was tedious and not very rewarding. In the Shepherd Internship Program, I saw an opportunity to spend my summer helping other people. I applied to CAPUP because it offered me the ability to try my hand at a wide variety of new things while doing work that I find meaningful.

How did your work apply to your studies at W&L? Working with CAPUP’s clients helped me to better grasp many of the problems and ideas I learned about in my introductory Poverty Courses.

What was the most unexpected aspect of your Shepherd Internship experience? At the beginning of the summer, I did not have a firm grasp on how Community Action Agencies work. More specifically, I did not understand how much they do. As a result, I was surprised by how varied my work was. No two days were the same, and I was always learning about and helping with something new.


Favorite W&L Memory: This might sound silly, but my favorite memory at W&L is of a cross country practice. On the day that comes to mind, my whole team had an easy run together and it was pouring outside. Everyone was joking and smiling as we sloshed through the mud. Toward the end we got into a small race to get back to the track. I remember thinking about how proud I was to wear the trident and run with such a great group of guys.

Favorite Class: This is a three-way tie between Microeconomic Theory with Professor Guse, Fundamental Concepts of Mathematics with Professor Keller, and Introduction to Poverty and Human Capability Studies with Professor Brotzman.


Changing Perspectives: Ram Raval ’18 Changing Perspectives, Cooper's Ferry Partnership , Camden, N.J.

“By the end of my internship, I began to view economic development as a comprehensive implementation of infrastructure that will create capabilities for the area’s citizens.”

Interestingly enough, one of the most memorable experiences I encountered while working at Cooper’s Ferry Partnership (CFP) in Camden, N.J., occurred even before my first day of work. Eager to begin our journey of cooking for ourselves on a budget, my roommates and I decided to buy groceries immediately after settling into our apartment. Shortly after beginning our search, we quickly realized that the nearest supermarket was not only outside of Camden, but also inaccessible by public transportation. We then learned upon arriving at the supermarket that it also lacked any fresh produce, forcing us to shop at a nearby, more expensive store.

Knowing that around 35 percent of Camden households lack access to their own vehicle, I quickly began to understand the extent to which food deserts plague Camden and similar urban environments. Having been raised in a suburban community with cars readily accessible, I never truly understood the severity of food deserts as an issue, despite countless readings and discussions in my poverty studies classes that argued otherwise.

Still, looking back, it seems rather peculiar that the most pronounced memory I have concerning Camden’s problems is from my very first day in the city. I eventually realized that this is so because while my first week may have served as an introduction to Camden, its history, and its issues, the subsequent seven weeks of my internship focused on its bright future and the necessary steps to achieve it.

An integral component of CFP’s mission is to change the conversation regarding Camden. Instead of introducing Camden by listing its crime and poverty statistics, it is our responsibility to focus on its potential. For example, a mere 1.5 miles separates Camden from Philadelphia, the fifth largest city in the United States; Camden has a long stretch of waterfront property with panoramic views of Philadelphia; and Camden is serviced by excellent transportation infrastructure such as the RiverLink Ferry, the PATCO Speedline, and nearby I-295 and I-76.

CFP is a not-for-profit corporation that leverages partnerships with public, private, and other not-for-profit entities to execute long-term, sustainable economic development in the city of Camden with the goal of making the city an attractive place to visit, live, work and invest. As one can imagine, this broad mission statement has led CFP to possess a diverse portfolio of projects. For example, my projects for the summer included promoting recreational trails throughout Camden, helping execute components of a neighborhood plan for East Camden, improving the business model of the Camden CoLab small business incubator and helping to draft and edit grant proposals for each of the preceding initiatives.

After working on these projects for eight weeks, one of the primary takeaways I gained was an appreciation for the importance of creating “capabilities,” a notion developed by Martha Nussbaum. Nussbaum’s concept of capabilities argues that poverty extends far beyond a mere lack of financial resources; it is also a deprivation of resources and rights such as education, health and healthcare, recreation, safety, cleanliness and political power, all of which work together to promote welfare. CFP works to equip Camden to provide its residents with these capabilities by improving green space within the city, implementing trails, cleaning its streets, improving roadway conditions and safety, implementing cultural programming and facilitating investment. By the end of my internship, I began to view economic development as a comprehensive implementation of infrastructure that will create capabilities for the area’s citizens; in other words, an economic development firm aims to outfit its city with the groundwork necessary to ensure the welfare of its citizens. By improving the quality of life for its citizens, Camden will in turn attract investment, which will eventually work to mitigate financial hardship, thus working to solve poverty from both a capabilities and purely financial perspective.

In retrospect, my experience this summer supplemented my pre-existing knowledge by adding another dimension to it: I now understand and respect the importance of focusing on solutions to poverty rather than merely its existence. I went into the experience expecting it to primarily be a means of becoming acquainted with the nature of urban poverty, but living and working in Camden taught me much more about the hope and potential within the city than it did about its struggles. At the risk of sounding youthfully optimistic, my experience working at Cooper’s Ferry Partnership in Camden taught me that there is an abundance of realistic, feasible work that can be done not only in areas of concentrated urban poverty such as Camden, but throughout the United States and globally in order to make the world a better place to live for all. Not only am I now considering economic development as a potential career path, but I have also begun to view the world differently. For example, while driving through my hometown of Virginia Beach, I now envision potential development opportunities by considering how projects being done in Camden could extend elsewhere to improve quality of life. Economic development does not necessarily have to serve only as an anti-poverty measure, but can be a means of improving the world in general.

Photo: Ram Raval ’18 (far left) with his fellow CFP interns and Donna Redd, mayor of Camden (third from left).

Hometown: Virginia Beach, VA

Major: Undecided — Possibly Economics or Business Administration and Accounting major with Poverty Studies minor

Extracurricular Involvement:

  • College Access Mentor and Tutor
  • Member of Real Estate Society
  • Habitat for Humanity volunteer

Why did you apply for this particular internship? Cooper’s Ferry Partnership offered me the opportunity to work in a variety of fields in which I have always been interested. For example, I wanted the opportunity to work to implement parks and recreational trails, attract business development, revitalize a waterfront area and execute community development.

How did your work apply to your studies at W&L? The economic development internship provided a perfect marriage between my coursework in economics and my coursework in poverty studies.

What was the most unexpected aspect of your Shepherd Internship experience? I would have to say that the most unexpected aspect of my Shepherd Internship experience was the extent to which I fell in love with the city of Camden and its communities. I did not expect to gain such a strong admiration for the city and believe so strongly in its potential for a bright future. It is almost impossible to not join the positive momentum that is occurring within the city at this time.

Favorite Lexington Landmark: Chessie Nature Trail

Why did you choose W&L? I chose W&L because I believed it would provide me with unparalleled attention, access to resources and opportunities, and relationships that would help me succeed not only in college, but in the future as well.

Changing Perspectives: Hannah Gilmore ’16 Changing Perspectives, Mobile Oasis Farmer's Market, Greensboro, N.C.

“The Mobile Oasis team recognizes that, regardless of community status, everybody eats. And shouldn’t everybody deserve to eat well?”

Alana Babington and I pored over a map of Greensboro, N.C., divided into wobbly little shapes by bright, bold yellow lines. The yellow lines started in the center of the city and stretched outwards toward more suburban areas, covering at least a quarter of the map. As interns with the Mobile Food Oasis Farmer’s Market, Mark Smith, an epidemiologist with the Guilford County Health Department, had invited us to a meeting of the area’s Hunger Task Force to learn more about different efforts aimed at alleviating hunger in Greensboro. As we studied the shapes and pointed to the areas in which we lived, worked and shopped, we realized that the bright and cheery yellow lines were indicative of something much darker: these were the boundaries of food deserts, areas in which there is limited to no access to affordable, fresh, healthy food.

In the past several years, Greensboro has consistently been ranked among the top cities in the nation with the greatest food insecurity. But in 2015, the Food Research & Action Center named Greensboro-High Point area the hungriest city in America. Greensboro has 24 food deserts and is the only city with over 25% of the population reporting food hardship. So I began to understand the urgent need for effective solutions to combat the area’s hunger epidemic.

Enter Mobile Oasis Farmer’s Market. Our goal is to provide access to fresh, local affordable produce to low-income families. But instead of asking people to block out three hours of their day to take three different buses to the grocery store, Mobile Oasis brings its produce right into the heart of the poorest neighborhoods in food deserts. Aside from its locational flexibility, Mobile Oasis also offers customers an incentive to use their SNAP/EBT (food stamp) money at the market. When customers use SNAP/EBT to purchase Mobile Oasis produce, they receive vouchers redeemable at the next market matching the amount they spent, effectively doubling the value of their money. This not only encourages people to use their SNAP/EBT on healthy produce rather than fast food, but it also encourages people to make return visits to the market. The market isn’t out to make a profit, but rather to provide reliable locational and economic access to healthy, high-quality food.

As I became more involved with the market and spoke with different team members about the project’s vision, I came upon the realization that the work we were doing with Mobile Oasis was considerably more valuable in the eyes of the area’s poor compared to discussions about hunger and poverty. In a classroom, we sit down for an hour or two and propose how best to remedy people’s hardships. But the hypothetical situations posed in discussions lack that sense of urgency that instigates real, effective and creative action. In a discussion, it is appropriate and sometimes encouraged to admit that we don’t know how to solve a problem. But for the single, homeless, jobless mother of three whom I watched spend three hours on the phone trying to find more than $104 to feed her family for the month, telling her that we don’t have a solution is not good enough. Asking her to talk to us about it won’t do much to solve her crisis. She needs to find food and a safe shelter in which to raise her children. She doesn’t need a conversation: she needs action.

The Mobile Oasis team is not only talking about what Greensboro’s hungriest needs and wants: they are doing something about it. They order the freshest and healthiest produce, and even started an urban garden in Greensboro’s poorest neighborhood so that people in the area can literally watch their food grow. They note customer’s requests for lower prices, greater selection, and more convenient hours of operation. For us as interns, the team quickly became role models, then mentors, then friends.

People often come together over food: lunch meetings, dinner parties, holiday meals. But this summer, I saw how food unites people in a different way. At the market, we met people from all backgrounds, races and socioeconomic statuses. But they were all buying the same produce. They were all supporting local farmers by buying food grown down the road from their neighborhoods. They were all willingly spending their money, in whatever form they had, on healthy, high-quality foods and making an investment not only in their health, but also in their community. The Mobile Oasis team recognizes that, regardless of community status, everybody eats. And shouldn’t everybody deserve to eat well?

Hometown: Wilmington, N.C.

Major: Environmental Studies

Extracurricular Involvement:

  • Chi Omega Fraternity (New Member Educator and Recruitment Chair)
  • Student Faculty Hearing Board
  • Peer Counselor

Off-Campus Experiences:

  • Environmental Education Intern at Airlie Gardens (2013)

Why did you apply for this particular internship? Professor Howard Pickett recommended that I apply for the Shepherd Internship and suggested that it would be a unique experience to study the relationship between environmental studies and poverty.

How did your work apply to your studies at W&L? The internship with Mobile Oasis Farmer’s Market built on my studies of the local food movement and issues with food security, and I was able to do some marketing and book-keeping projects, too.

What was the most unexpected aspect of your Shepherd Internship experience? The positivity and excitement! I never imagined I’d have so much fun shoveling dirt, selling vegetables, and watching kids try new foods. It was hard work, but the people I worked with always made market days seem like a party!

Favorite Class: Too many to list! Any class with Professor Green (particularly Eco-Writing), or Environmental Poetry and Thoreau and Transcendentalism with Professor Warren.

What professor has inspired you? Professor Green inspired me to pursue both Environmental Studies and Creative Writing. I’ve never met someone with more thoughtful words, brilliant patience and support, and unwavering dedication to her craft.

Summer Research: Caroline Birdrow ’16 Community-Based Research with Maury River Home Care, Lexington, VA

“My service experiences allowed me to embrace my research with a more personal interest, and my research is making my service more informed and intentional.”

Briefly describe your community-based research (CBR) project.
Over the summer, I partnered on a CARA community-based research (CBR) project with Maury River Home Care (MRHC). MRHC is an organization that provides professional in-home care and services to the elderly in the Rockbridge area, but which is also increasingly interested in providing support to informal caregivers. The goal of my CBR project was to help MRHC figure out how to best support these informal caregivers, a growing need as our population ages. In addition to conducting a literature review on the needs and challenges of caregivers in general, I also designed and piloted a survey instrument that will be used to assess the particular needs and stressors of caregivers in the Rockbridge area.

What interested you about this project?
As a Bonner student, I have spent numerous hours serving in the local community. One of the first community partners with which I served is an assisted living facility in the Rockbridge area. Since I started visiting the home, I have come to know and care for many of the individuals who live there. They each have very unique, fun personalities, and getting to know them has been a pleasure! However, even though they always were glad to see me, some of them expressed that they were unhappy or generally not feeling well, which was upsetting to learn. Sometimes I left feeling that the residents were not experiencing the quality of life and care that they deserved. What I came to realize is that a positive atmosphere in such a facility is not always easy to maintain. The challenge of caring for the elderly who are in different stages of aging can create a strain on the employees of a facility who may not always be able to meet everyone’s needs in a timely manner. Over time I began to understand that the staff have stressors of their own inside and outside of the workplace. It was my interest in understanding how to better support caregivers and, in turn, the elderly that led me to investigate the needs and challenges of caregivers in this CBR.

Which faculty offered guidance and how did they enhance your CBR project?
Professor Julie Woodzicka and Professor Karla Murdock, although not official advisors for this CBR project, offered valuable advice as I developed an appropriate survey intended to assess the needs and challenges of caregivers. As they both are psychology professors and have devised similar instruments of their own, they helped me to think about and understand the nuances of putting together an effective survey. Many of these factors I had not considered before, and they helped me learn how language and structure affect the capturing of accurate and desired data. Additionally, Professor Howard Pickett worked with me on understanding ways of making a survey accessible to individuals of varying visual ability, something I also had not considered. Overall, these professors guided me throughout my project and allowed me to gain a deeper knowledge of what community-based research (CBR) entails.

While these professors offered invaluable advice, so too did my community partner, Laura Simspon. Ms. Simpson has an intimate knowledge of caregiving issues, in both professional and informal realms of caring for the elderly. She also works with caregivers every day and therefore knows them on a more personal level. Thus, my professors helped me devise a survey that would be academically sound, but Ms. Simpson guided me in putting together an instrument that would be well-received by and valuable to our community.

What was the most interesting thing you learned while working on this project?
What I thought was most interesting is how emotionally taxing it can be for caregivers to watch their loved ones age and experience physical or personality changes. At the assisted living facility with which I worked, I mainly met individuals later in their lives or later in their illnesses. Thus, I forgot about what it must feel like to know someone before aging or the onset of illness and to witness their transformations.

What was your favorite part of creating this CBR project?
Talking about it with others. When I explained my project, listeners would share related personal stories or the experiences of their friends and relatives. This made me realize that my project was addressing an issue that everyone will face at some point. Theoretically, everyone ages, and everyone must develop a plan for their care for later years of life. Understanding this helped me see the importance of conducting research about caregivers and their relatives and friends.

In what ways do you think this CBR project allowed you to integrate your service and academic experience? How did one inform the other?
My service was the motivation for pursuing this project and gave me some idea of what potential stressors exist for professional caregivers such as low wages, insufficient training, and lack of workplace flexibility. My research, although focused on unpaid and informal caregivers, provided a larger context in which to view the lives of the residents and the staff members at the assisted living facility. The residents once may have had informal caregivers, and the staff members also may serve as unpaid caregivers in other aspects of their lives. In addition, my service experiences allowed me to embrace my research with a more personal interest, and my research is making my service more informed and intentional.

What impact do you think this CBR project will have in the community?
I think my project laid part of a foundation for conducting similar research in the Rockbridge area and, much further down the line, implementing new policies and long-term care models that will address the needs and challenges of caregivers and the elderly they serve. In many ways, my project helped to initiate conversation and thought about this particular issue, and hopefully others will take this many steps further.

Describe your experience in a single word.

This project was conducted under the umbrella of the Community-Academic Research Alliance (CARA). CARA supports community-based research (CBR) partnerships between Washington and Lee University students and faculty and non-profits in the Rockbridge area to address pressing community challenges.

Hometown: Gulfport, MS
Major: Mathematics
Minor: Poverty and Human Capability Studies

Organization: W&L Community-Academic Research Alliance (CARA)
Location: Lexington, VA
Industry: Research

My W&L: Rebecca Dunn ’16

“As a senior, I look back at my four years and can see how much the Shepherd Program has shaped my passions, worldview and career aspirations.”

Washington and Lee’s Shepherd Poverty Program has truly defined my college experience. Through enrollment in the Poverty and Human Capability Studies minor and involvement in co-curricular activities the Shepherd Program has to offer, I have been able to take classes with inspiring professors, participate in two fully-funded summer professional experiences, meet new and interesting students, and become immersed in the Rockbridge community. I am proud to say that I attend the founding institution of the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty (SHECP), which unites nearly two-dozen institutions to fight poverty across the U.S. and around the world. I believe that the niche the program occupies, the meaningful work it carries out, and the passion it inspires in students is unmatched by any other undergraduate institution.

It didn’t take long for the Shepherd Program to permeate into my coursework, define what I would do in my free time, and eventually go as far as shape my identity — in fact, it started in the first semester of my freshman year with Dr. Beckley’s Poverty 101 class. The rigorous coursework allowed me to understand the complexities of poverty and what can be done to foster human capabilities in ways I did not previously understand. Not only was I intellectually stimulated in the classroom, but I also later found that volunteer opportunities falling under the Shepherd Program’s umbrella — namely as a leader at Campus Kitchen — allowed me to deepen my academic studies and expand them beyond the scope of W&L’s campus.

The Shepherd Program later afforded me opportunities to intern for organizations in Kampala, Uganda and Washington, D.C. over consecutive summers. This work allowed me to gain technical knowledge regarding the nonprofit sector as well as participate in a variety of rich cultural experiences; some of which included playing barefoot soccer on a dirt pitch, teaching a class of 7-9-year-old refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo about the ocean, working with a single mother to help her secure stable housing, and carrying out research for my sociology honor’s thesis on concentrated disadvantage and racial segregation across Washington, D.C. My internship experiences continue to push me to grapple with challenging domestic and international issues related to poverty, race, inequality, and policy.

Back when I applied to Washington and Lee, I never would have guessed how many learning experiences and opportunities that I would gain from the poverty and human capability studies minor. As a senior, I look back at my four years and can see how much the program has shaped my passions, worldview and career aspirations. I am truly grateful to the donors and professors who make it possible and cannot wait to read about the incredible experiences of Campus Kitchen leaders and Shepherd interns in the future.

Hometown: Houston, TX

Major: Sociology

Minor: Poverty and Human Capability Studies

Extracurricular Involvement:

  • Women’s Soccer Team
  • Campus Kitchen Leader
  • Writing Center Tutor
  • GenDev Project Manager
  • Questioning Passion Seminar Participant
  • Kappa Alpha Theta sorority member

Off-Campus Experiences:

  • Shepherd International Internship (Soccer Without Borders intern in Kampala, Uganda)
  • Shepherd Domestic Internship (LIFT Community Advocate in Washington, D.C.)

Post-Graduation Plans: Pursuing a fellowship abroad

Favorite W&L Memory: Beating Virginia Wesleyan in women’s soccer in double overtime my sophomore year

Favorite Class: International Development with Professor Dickovick

Favorite Campus Landmark: The view from Watt Field of the Shenandoah Valley

What professor has inspired you? Professor Eastwood-to pursue a PhD in Sociology

Advice for prospective or first-year students? Hike House Mountain!

Changing Perspectives: Elena Diller ’17 Changing Perspectives, New American Pathways, Atlanta, GA

“As a health intern, I learned that the American medical system is not well-equipped to deal with refugee health because of the rigidness of our social structure.”

I sit in the passenger seat of a 15-person van, listening to 90’s rap music on a hot July Wednesday. Perhaps it’s just my imagination, but the van squeaks up onto its two right wheels as we round the corner, my case manager rapping to an old-school Usher song. The van lets out a sigh of relief as we straighten onto the road. We had just dropped off a client at a doctor’s appointment. The young man is from Uganda, yet due to his sexual orientation, he is not safe in his home country. Up on the main road, I see a banner waving above a red food truck in an otherwise empty parking lot, partially surrounded by abandoned buildings. The words “Refuge Coffee” fly in a white print and I can’t help but wonder if the banner is connected to the thousands of refugees which are resettled in the neighborhood.

* * * *

Clarkston, GA is one of the most diverse cities in the United States. Over 2500 refugees every year find themselves relocated in the small town just miles outside of metro-Atlanta. From the outside, Clarkston seems to be filled with run-down strip malls, apartment complexes teetering on top of each other as they compete for space among the overgrown grass and cracked sidewalks. Yet, from an insider’s view, a status I have earned by working as Shepherd intern this summer, Clarkston is the world condensed into square feet. Congolese mothers walk with their children to Thriftown, the local discount grocery where a Bhutanese woman stocks the shelves. Twenty feet away from the store, Ethiopian and Nepali restaurants serve hungry customers during the throes of lunch hour. It was not, however, until I visited Somali plaza, a strip mall of Somalian-owned stores, that I understood the vitality and resistance of refugees. How little countries may form anywhere in the world so long as there is culture and community.

I called my visits to Clarkston “field trips” from my daily health internship at New American Pathways (NAP), a refugee resettlement service in Atlanta. To be honest, most of my days at NAP consisted of paperwork and logging case notes in paper format and online. Though NAP is funded primarily on donations and grants, the Georgia Department of Human Services is also a source of funding. Such paperwork is therefore integral to the success of the organization, as funding from the government requires documentation of services provided. By the time case managers at NAP provide comprehensive services, which range from picking up a refugee family at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta airport to renewing their Medicaid and Food Stamps, they have little time to case note. Often, I would serve the agency by doing the deskwork of the case managers, scheduling doctor’s appointments (read: being put on hold for 10-90 minutes at a time), prepping case files and making copies.

These seemingly mundane tasks proved to be exceedingly difficult at times. As a health intern, I learned that the American medical system is not well-equipped to deal with refugee health because of the rigidness of our social structure. Our medical system, and to a larger extent, American social welfare, lacks the flexibility to understand personal circumstances. Government welfare requires that refugees follow the same rules as American citizens, yet refugees have extenuating circumstances that prevent them from receiving the same benefits as native-born Americans. For example, all Americans must apply for Medicaid using state paperwork, a process that takes up to a month. Because refugees lack health insurance when they first arrive, they use the Emergency department for the most basic of healthcare needs. They frequently utilize ambulances because they lack the knowledge and ability to transport themselves. The result is thousands of taxpayer dollars wasted, as the refugees cannot pay the medical bills. If the state government was to amend certain welfare assistance programs to accommodate for these unique circumstances, refugees would receive better health care upon arrival to the United States, and the healthcare would be cheaper for the state.

Even with laws in place to specifically help refugees, refugee resettlement services are left to align healthcare disparities. For example, although medical providers are required by law to provide interpreters if they accept Medicaid, a majority of providers do not provide this needed interpreter. Thus, I found myself calling Medicaid to schedule interpreters on behalf of my clients. Other times, I would run around the office and persuade one of our multi-lingual staff members to attend the appointment with the client. Sometimes, these attempts would be in vain as refugees would arrive late or completely miss their appointments. Public or even Medicaid-provided transportation would delay my clients’ arrival to appointments, as would different cultural understandings of promptness. Therefore, the duty of our organization, and arguably the moral duty of all of those who engage with refugees, is to provide that needed flexibility.

For example, case managers often take it upon themselves to drive clients to appointments to ensure a timely arrival. That July Wednesday, after my case manager and I dropped off the client at his appointment, I found myself looking up at the “Refuge Coffee” banner. My case manager pulled into the parking lot and parked behind the red food truck. As we walked up to the truck, the creative branding initially impressed me. But listening to my case manager talk with the truck owner put meaning behind the shiny logo. Refuge Coffee not only trained and employed refugees in making caffeinated drinks, but was also dedicated to combatting the social isolation this disadvantaged group faces.

Despite closely-knit ethnic communities, there is little integration between different ethnicities. Somalian families are resettled with other Somalian families, while the Bhutanese families are resettled with each other. This technique is often helpful for newly arrived refugees, as they like to be surrounded by similar cultures and people, yet it creates ethnic isolation over time. Clarkston lacks a community center, so whether by choice or social structure, refugees often feel stuck within their small social circles. Refuge Coffee provides a meeting place that is not only accessible to most of these various ethnic communities, but also allows integration with native-born Americans. My case manager and I departed the establishment, a coffee in my hand for me and for the Ugandan man we were going to pick up. Through my Shepherd internship, my understanding of community has grown because of the problems I’ve observed in Clarkston, but also the community I was welcomed into while interning.

Hometown: Cincinnati, OH
Major: Sociology
Minors: Poverty and Human Capability Studies, Womens and Gender Studies

Company Name: New American Pathways
Location: Atlanta, GA
Industry: Community and Individual Services
Position: Shepherd-Connolly Intern

Changing Perspectives: Zoe Stein ’17 Changing Perspectives, Monster Slayers, Navajo Nation Reservation

“I believe investing in and supporting people individually pays off in ways that cannot be measured.”

This summer I served as a mentor for Monster Slayers, a summer program targeting social, emotional and leadership skills in Diné youth on the Navajo Nation reservation. The mission is for students to take the support and skills formed and use them to slay the monsters harming the community, such as poverty, substance abuse and domestic violence. About twenty students from Sanders Valley High School participated in the program, and one of the highlights was visiting Ghost Ranch, a retreat camp focusing on team building activities and stepping outside comfort zones.

Ian, a leader at Ghost Ranch, placed a circular piece of rope on the ground, about two feet in diameter. The twenty Monster Slayers were instructed to fit themselves inside the boundaries of the rope, including all feet and extremities. Many methods were attempted and a few tears from laughter were shed before the students decided that standing on each other’s shoulders was the best possibility. It took about four attempts of the piggyback method until everybody fit inside the circle. After many cheers for the success and sighs of relief to no longer be smelling each other’s body odors, Ian congratulated us and then placed the rope on the ground again, this time half the size.

“See if you can all fit into it now!”, he said jokingly.

Many students groaned, and Kai, a particularly outspoken one, exclaimed, “No way, that’s impossible!”

Then, to everyone’s surprise, one of the quieter jokesters of the group stepped up and said he had an idea for how to fit everyone inside the rope. Grabbing a few friends, Michael ordered them to stand on each other’s feet in alternating directions, holding each other’s arms so they could balance. The method seemed to work, and after only two attempts the entire group was able to fit into the small space.

Michael’s innovation and leadership is exactly what the Monster Slayers program aims to bring out in students. He could have easily stayed quiet about the idea because the majority of students expressed that it was impossible. Instead, he had the confidence in himself to speak up and try the idea, and it worked. Not only did he have the innovation to come up with the idea and the confidence to share it, but Michael had the leadership skills to guide the rest of the group in its successful execution.

I saw firsthand in Sanders how invaluable this innovation, confidence and leadership can be in the community. One monster harming the Sanders community is alcoholism. An overwhelming number of people suffer from alcoholism, and the local taverns and bars were making the problem worse by having alcohol readily available and being so concerned with making a profit that little action was taken about violence and other crimes taking place on the property. Many individuals in the community noticed the problem, but only a few individuals had the confidence and leadership skills to take action, and their action resulted in the three local bars and taverns being shut down by the state.

The youth in Sanders are aware of the monsters harming their community. They see it every day in their families and schools, and they have the capacity to slay those monsters. Even when structural obstacles stand in the way, the people are creative, motivated, and well-intentioned in finding ways to navigate these hurdles. It is heartbreaking to see the adversity the Diné community faces. The people were historically oppressed, killed, relocated and forced to assimilate. Today, the community faces extreme poverty, racism, mental health issues and a lack of support and resources from the government. This list only begins to scratch the surface, but even so, I saw a great potential in the students I worked with this summer to improve their community.

Michael taking initiative in the rope activity was only one of the many instances I saw of the group being great leaders and friends to each other. In the two months I spent in Sanders, many students suffered more abuse and loss than I have seen in my life. Yet they showed an astounding amount of resilience. Successfully leading your team to victory in capture the flag, playing the guitar in front of a crowd for the first time, or expressing your dream job in a talking circle might seem like feats that can bring small personal improvement at most. However, these skills put into a community context can bring about change. The community is made up of people, so I believe investing in and supporting people individually pays off in ways that cannot be measured.

Hometown: Covington, Virginia

Major: Philosophy

Extracurricular Involvement:

  • The Stone
  • College Access
  • Hillel
  • General’s Christian Fellowship
  • University Wind Ensemble

Why did you apply for this particular internship? I wanted to experience a different community and see their perspective on poverty and related issues

How did your work apply to your studies at W&L? Aside from poverty studies, I was able to apply my work to my philosophy and religious studies. I stayed at the Native American Baha’i Institute, so I learned about the Baha’i faith and philosophies as well as the Navajo faith and philosophies. It was insightful to learn how complex the spiritual dimension of poverty is.

What was the most unexpected aspect of your Shepherd Internship experience? The most unexpected aspect was learning that a lack of what I considered basic needs, such as electricity and running water, does not necessarily mean a family is impoverished, and in some cases, forcing these basic needs on people can harm them in other ways, such as undermining traditional values.

Post-Graduation Plans: Returning to my home community and teaching

Favorite Class: My spring term class about Nepal that ended up being held on campus with Prof. Silwal and Prof. Lubin. It was called Caste at the Intersection of Religion, Economy, and Law

Favorite W&L Event: the SAIL showcase, I love seeing how talented my peers are and coming together for a cause

Related //,

Staying Local: Teacher Education Partnerships with area schools benefit both W&L and K-12 students

“This valuable partnership allows us to open our doors and classrooms to prospective educators and pair them with the highly qualified, passionate and dedicated teachers on our staff.” — Scott Jefferies, superintendent of Lexington City Schools

It’s 7:30 a.m. at Harrington Waddell Elementary School in Lexington, Virginia, and Kim Hickman ’96 and Lucy Ortiz ’15 are sitting down to plan the day’s lessons.

For the 19 students in their fourth grade class, there will be reading, math and writing in the morning, with a break for lunch and recess, and science in the afternoon. They’ll get the students up and moving, incorporating hands-on, interactive activities. There will be individual, partner and small-group work.

“We both have equal contributions, and I have as much to learn from her as she does from me,” said Hickman, who has taught at the school for 10 years. “More and more, Lucy has been taking control of the classroom, and I’ve been stepping back to be more of her assistant teacher.”

Ortiz is student teaching in Hickman’s classroom after graduating from Washington and Lee this past spring, with a degree in economics and a minor in education policy. Originally from Ketchikan, Alaska, Ortiz decided to stay in Lexington to fulfill her student teaching requirement, and she will remain at Waddell Elementary to take a position as a long-term substitute, filling in when another teacher goes on maternity leave.

“Having the support of the W&L faculty as mentors during my student teaching was very appealing,” she said. “I also already had connections within the school systems and knew so many of the administrators and teachers from being in the schools so much during my practicums.”

The W&L Teacher Education Program offers minors in education and education policy and allows students to complete their student teaching requirement during their last semester or after graduation. In consortium with Southern Virginia University, W&L students can obtain licensure in elementary, middle or secondary education. The interest in education continues to grow; in 2015, 43 students, or over 9 percent of the senior class, enrolled in education courses.

Haley Sigler, the assistant director of the program, said 100 percent of the licensure candidates found jobs in the field in 2014, and more students are choosing to remain in the Lexington area when beginning their careers.

She said one huge factor is the opportunity to spend time in local schools while completing education coursework. In the 2014-15 academic year, the program boasted 77 placements in local schools, amounting to over 6,300 hours.

The practicum program was carefully developed to build positive reciprocal relationships with both the Lexington City and Rockbridge County school systems. Through the university’s Clinical Faculty Program, local teachers like Hickman were included in the program’s development, giving feedback on how to best prepare new teachers and structure student teaching placements.

“This valuable partnership allows us to open our doors and classrooms to prospective educators and pair them with the highly qualified, passionate and dedicated teachers on our staff,” said Scott Jefferies, superintendent of Lexington City Schools. “The result is a dynamic instructional environment where all who are involved are learning and growing.”

Phillip Thompson, assistant superintendent for Rockbridge County Schools, said the collaboration with W&L has been a win-win situation for everyone.

“It has been wonderful to have several W&L graduates come on board as new teachers in Rockbridge County,” he said. “The level of knowledge and professionalism we experience with these graduates is refreshing in an era when it is becoming increasingly difficult to find quality teacher candidates.”

Two of those new hires in Rockbridge County include 2015 graduates Chris Hu, class co-valedictorian, and Josy Hu, who received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award for, among other things, her outstanding service to others.

The recently married pair decided to stay in the Lexington area because they felt the close-knit community and connection to faculty would make the transition from college to working life easier. Chris Hu, a biochemistry major and education minor, teaches chemistry at Rockbridge County High School. Josy Hu, a Spanish major and poverty and education minor, teaches third grade at Central Elementary School.

In addition to five practicums as part of the Teacher Education Program, as a student Josy Hu taught Spanish classes at all of the Rockbridge County schools through the university’s Foreign Language Enrichment Program. She helped to create curricula during the summer and then taught 30-minute courses within the schools as a volunteer.

“My volunteer work within the schools made it so much easier to transition to working there,” Josy Hu said. “They knew me, and I had worked with the kids there before.”

Chris Hu said he and Josy are very happy they chose to stay in Lexington — they get to enjoy all of the outdoor recreation and campus activities that they did as students, but have also been able to bridge into the greater community and form new relationships.

“The staff at the schools and the people in the community have been really welcoming to us,” Chris Hu said. “They have extended a hand whenever we needed it and given us so many resources. As a first-year teacher, I can’t even imagine doing what I’m doing without that support.”

– by Jenny Pedraza