WCU's Poverty Project

WCU's Poverty Project allowed the WCU community to develop a better understanding of the root causes and consequences of poverty. It also taught students what they can actually do about poverty's different manifestations through a year's worth of engaged teaching, learning, service, and creative and scholarly opportunities centered on poverty, both in local communities and global society, as well as their interconnection.

It was a chance for all of us – students, faculty, staff, and community partners – to think together about an enormously complex problem in an interdisciplinary way, and also to place it in the more specific context of our own individual lives and vocations (or majors). We like to say that Western is a place for those who want to make a difference in their world, and this theme provided an opportunity to do just that: to clarify what our values actually are with respect to poverty and associated issues, and to practice the kind of responsible civic engagement that is consistent with those values.

Outcomes of the Poverty Project were to:

  • Develop a more comprehensive intellectual and emotional (empathetic) understanding of the causes and consequences of poverty-related issues, both global and local, as well as what they can do about them, from the consideration perspectives informed by their own disciplines and those of others via traditional classroom teaching and learning, participation in student clubs and organizations with poverty-focused activities, and service with community partners.
  • Work collaboratively across disciplines and in local and global communities with faculty, staff, and community partners (including through advocacy) with individuals from a variety of philosophical, religious, socio-economic, and other backgrounds; some may choose to integrate projects they engage in, into their electronic briefcases for future presentation.
  • Clarify the place of poverty and associated issues with respect to their own values through participation in and reflection on a variety of activities, both inside and outside the classroom.
  • Contribute to potential solutions to poverty-related issues in theoretical and practical terms through participation in scholarly and creative activities (via discipline and course-specific approaches, as well as focused undergraduate and graduate research), service-learning, and student organization events.
  • Take action through participation in real-world, poverty-focused projects and initiatives – including advocacy and civic engagement projects – with relevance to the content and skills of their own majors and vocational goals, as well as the lives of informed and responsible citizens.

As part of the WCU Poverty Project, several students in the Philosophy and Religion department's course, 'Religion, Suffering and the Moral Imagination,' participated in the annual conference of one of the world's most respected humanitarian organizations, CARE. Students advocated for programs designed to increase education, reduce and prevent disease, and help improve access to food and clean water supplies, which are targeted to help the poorest of the poor worldwide, and particularly women and children, who suffer disproportionately from poverty.

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