New University academic programs seek to alleviate poverty, class inequality
As of January 2018, students minoring in Community Action and Social Change through the School of Social Work are now eligible for a Poverty Solutions, Action & Engagement certificate. The certificate is sponsored by Poverty Solutions — an initiative that seeks to develop new strategies to fight poverty — and would allow for a more focused study within the CASC minor with additional resources from Poverty Solutions.
Because Poverty Solutions is a multidisciplinary initiative on campus, it adds and strengthens programs already available on campus. Julia Weinert, the assistant director of Poverty Solutions, said the CASC minor coordinated well with the initiative because they had similar goals.
“We partnered with the CASC minor,” Weinert said. “They’re very much aligned with their mission and their work to identify ways to act on issues of social justice. So, we thought, ‘Let’s partner with them and find a track and build a track that focuses specifically on poverty but also from a solutions-based and actions-based mentality.’”
LSA junior Payton Watt is currently minoring in CASC and has decided to add the Poverty Solutions certificate because it allows her to engage directly with the community and focus on the issue of poverty.
“I don’t know really know much about some of the systemic issues and the daily lives of people that are facing poverty in low-income situations,” Watt said. “So, this certificate will allow for students to learn about the community both locally and globally.”
Students who choose to add on the certificate and complete the additional requirements will be able to engage with communities more directly through volunteering and research opportunities because of Poverty Solutions. Within the CASC minor, they can also focus on coursework that addresses that the issue of poverty.
As of now, the certificate likely won’t appear on a student’s transcript, but would allow students in the CASC minor to network with Poverty Solutions and list it on a resume.
While the new certificate will allow for deeper engagement with poverty and communities affected by it, the proposed minor will allow for an understanding of class through multiple lenses and contexts.
A group of students, including Public Policy junior Lauren Schandevel, has proposed the creation of a new minor, Class and Inequality Studies, that has a similar focus. The Undergraduate Committee is currently reviewing the proposition. Schandevel has been working on the minor for about two years and has designed a curriculum with courses from various departments.
“(Our focus is) the systematic way that social class exists at all ends of the spectrum from very low income to very high income and thinking of social class more as an identity as well,” Schandevel said.
Poverty Solutions and the Class and Inequality Studies minor met last semester to discuss the roles the two groups would take on. Both groups acknowledged they have different areas of focus. As Schandevel puts it, “they both bring something different to the table.”
“The minor is more theoretical and focused on class broadly, while this certificate is action-based and focuses specifically on poverty alleviation,” Weinert said.
The group of students and faculty members Schandevel works with have drawn up a “Report of the Independent Task Force on the Class and Inequality Studies Minor,” which highlights the main goals of the minor. The goals include teaching students the context of social class through policy and historical background, the prominent theories of social class philosophy, and the intersections of social class with other identities. With official approval, the minor could be in effect within a year.