Summer Opportunities: The Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty Internship SHECP internships provide work experiences that are impactful for both the students and the communities they serve.
“…I never imagined how infinitely rewarding it could be to fully immerse yourself in one organization and its cause.”
~Kristina Ayers ’25
As summer winds down and the campus welcomes students into the 2022-2023 academic year, our “Summer Opportunities” feature series explores the opportunities our incredible students experienced this summer. From students’ hometowns to locations abroad, W&L provides a wide scope of possibilities for work experience, community engagement, research and adventure during the summer months.
The first entry in this series is the internship program available through the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty (SHECP). For many students interested in focusing their summer experience on volunteering for a cause, SHECP internships offer work experiences that are impactful for both W&L students and the communities they serve.
“Combining community-based learning with coursework is a well-established, high-impact learning practice,” said the Shepherd Program’s associate director Fran Elrod, who advises students on summer internship opportunities. “Once students return to campus, we continue to probe questions that emerged from the experience and we aim to connect them with additional coursework, research projects and community-based learning experiences that move them forward on the continuum of learning.”
An eight-week summer internship is a required course to complete a minor in poverty and human capability studies within the Shepherd Program. The Shepherd Program provides funding to ensure this course is available to all eligible students. For Eric Bazile ’25, the internship was a chance to make a difference.
“My favorite part of this internship was that I was given the opportunity to help others,” said Bazile, who spent his summer in Austin, Texas interning for the Austin Greater Chamber of Commerce. “Even though I was an intern, I was able to help the chamber analyze crucial policies that could greatly impact the community.”
“What is so effective about the POV453 summer internship is that prior to diving into their respective internships, participating students grapple with tough coursework in the POV101: Interdisciplinary Introduction to Poverty and Inequality Studies class during Fall and Winter Terms,” Elrod said. “They then enter a community space full-time for eight weeks in the summer while engaging in written reflection and group discussion to make sense of the experience, all the while keeping ideas of human dignity at the center. This can create dissonance, which leads to learning and growth.”
Kristina Ayers ’25 was inspired to pursue a SHECP internship through her experience in the Bonner Program, a national program whose chapter is housed within the Shepherd Program at W&L. Bonner Program scholars are required to complete 1,800 hours of service and leadership training comprised of at least 280 hours during each academic year, as well as two summers of full-time service work. Ayers spent her summer working at a medical clinic for the homeless population in Washington, D.C. called So Others Might Eat, shadowing the physicians and an integrative behavioral health specialist.
“I sense that this experience is one I will carry with me for the rest of my life, not only in my future career, but as a human being,” Ayers said. “While doing work with the Bonner Program as a part-time volunteer during the school year has been one of the cornerstones of my W&L experience so far, I never imagined how infinitely rewarding it could be to fully immerse yourself in one organization and its cause.”
Elrod said that the impact of returning students to onsite experiences after two challenging years of virtual alternatives is immeasurable.
“While I am proud of how well organizational partners, students and the university pivoted to virtual internships during the COVID-19 pandemic, I am convinced, now more than ever, that the ‘magic’ happens with in-person experiences,” Elrod said. “We learn best and most deeply when all our senses are engaged. We get curious about the causes of the injustice and are more likely to move to action. This kind of experience is hard to replicate in a virtual internship.”
Learn more about the SHECP summer internship and other summer opportunities here.
If you know any W&L students who would be great profile subjects, tell us about them! Nominate them for a web profile.