Most Centre College students know Paul L. Cantrell Professor of Religion and College Chaplain Rick Axtell; he is an active member of the campus community and teaches Poverty and Homelessness, a course which many students cite as life changing and inspirational in the ways it brings students face-to-face with serious social issues in America and abroad. Recent funding from the Associated Colleges of the South (ACS) Faculty Advancement grant program will allow Axtell to continue strengthening courses related to these subjects.
Essentially, Axtell, along with faculty from Millsaps College, Furman University, Hendrix College and Washington and Lee University, will work to develop a common gateway course on poverty as part of the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium of Poverty (SHECP), which Centre joined in 2013.
As part of the College’s participation in the consortium, it sent three students to work as interns for the Shepherd Internship Program (SIP) in the summer of 2013, and will be sending three more this summer. Students who participate in the program work for nonprofits and other organizations that fight poverty and other social justice issues related to poverty.
“Students who complete Shepherd internships are also required to take courses at their sponsoring institution in poverty studies,” Axtell explains. “Last year, at the closing conference of the Shepherd Consortium, faculty from member institutions discussed what they do in their introductory or ‘gateway’ courses in poverty studies.
“Faculty members determined that there were lots of good ideas in the room that needed to be shared,” he continues, “and that we could also work on sharing resources and developing collaborative approaches. We decided to seek grant funding for a workshop that would help us with these tasks.”
The ACS funding will allow for a faculty advancement workshop for faculty at ASC and/or SHECP schools in Jackson, Miss., in June 2014. At the workshop, participants can share best practices on teaching poverty, develop collaborative interdisciplinary teaching through greater use of technology and create a blended environment in which resources can be shared.
“I will learn from professors at other institutions about resources, methods and practices for teaching introductory courses in poverty studies,” Axtell says, “which will refine the course I’ve taught at Centre for years.”
And while participating in the workshop will be invaluable for Axtell, it also has significance for the entire College and beyond.
“We are now linked with 20 other Shepherd schools in refining our approach to teaching poverty studies and preparing leaders in a variety of fields who will be conscious of poverty issues and inclined to exercise their citizenship in making a difference,” Axtell explains. “The workshop extends the possibilities for the networking we envisioned when we joined the Shepherd Consortium.”
By Mariel Smith