The Columns

My W&L: Rebecca Dunn ’16

— by on August 31st, 2016

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.