Poverty Program Inaugurated at VMI
LEXINGTON, Va., Sept. 26, 2011 – VMI alumnus Cabell Brand ’44 and faculty, staff, and students from Washington and Lee University visited post today to help inaugurate VMI as one of the founding members of the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty.
Around 200 cadets attended the program, in Marshall Hall’s Gillis Theater, which also included presentations by members of VMI’s Shepherd Poverty Program Steering Committee.
Chairman of the committee is Col. Jim Turner, professor of biology, who noted that the program will prepare cadets for a lifetime of professional and civic efforts to diminish poverty.
But, Brand said, preparation is only half of the equation if a person wants to have an impact.
“The program offers the opportunity to stand in somebody else’s shoes,” said Brand, who founded Total Action against Poverty in Roanoke, Va., and runs the Cabell Brand Center in Salem, Va., which addresses environmental, poverty, and peace issues. “The other half is to do something about it.”
Noting that the cadets in the audience had selected VMI in order to do something “significant” with their lives for their country, he observed, “Your generation has the opportunity of reshaping America. Don’t ever forget that.”
Brand is author of If Not Me, Then Who?, a book whose title conveys a sense of responsibility expressed by several of the speakers. “With privilege,” said Brig. Gen. Wane Schneiter, dean of the faculty, “comes obligation.”
The Shepherd Program for the Interdisciplinary Study of Poverty and Human Capability, which began at W&L with a grant in 1997, has two components, coursework and co-curricular programs.
Dr. Duncan Richter, professor of philosophy, will team-teach VMI’s first Shepherd course with economics professor Col. Atin Basu in the spring. He explained that the new course, Poverty and Capabilities, will define poverty and explore the meaning of being poor, strategies to diminish poverty, and the moral obligation to do so.
Dr. Harlan Beckley, director of W&L’s program, introduced a panel of W&L Shepherd Program staff and students, who discussed co-curricular opportunities available to cadets. Among those opportunities is the Shepherd Alliance, which offers more than 100 eight-week summer internships; Campus Kitchen, which converts donations of leftover food into balanced meals to fight hunger and promote nutrition in the local community; the Nabors Service League; and community-based research.
Lt. Col. Dave Chase, VMI associate director of career services, said VMI would be working with W&L on the selection process for VMI’s first Shepherd summer internships, with the application process to begin in January. An informational meeting on the internship program will take place Oct. 12 at 7:45 p.m. in the Nichols Engineering Building auditorium.
Cadets Matthew Waalkes ’13, Carrie Wortham ’12, and Kippur Taylor ’12 also took part in the program. Wortham noted that the VMI program will launch a new website spring semester.