Privilege and Poverty Highlight

Privilege and Poverty is one of the Center for Community Engagement’s signature programs. It is an academic cluster (not a course taken for a major or minor degree) focused on providing experiential-based learning that aims to examine poverty and economic inequality.  

Active and running for about seven years now, the Privilege and Poverty Academic Cluster, is a community that consists of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community partners who all share the same goal. Through the program, students are given the chance to study issues concerning inequality and see the impacts of poverty both in and out of the classroom. Within the courses students take, there is not only coherence and structure but also ample freedom to explore their own interests and to pursue deeper connections. In addition to the classes, a key component of the curriculum are the field experiences and internship opportunities students can also participate in.  

To learn just a sliver of the greater Privilege and Poverty program, P&P 2020 summer intern, Andrés Oyuga ‘23, shares his experience. Andrés worked alongside Professor Matt Lawrence on the Places of Privilege and Poverty project gathering resources and communicating with local organizations. Their work resulted in the creation of a site that explores livable vs poverty wage and economic inequality in Vermont. This work he has done “has been very hands-on, whether that be organizing folks or providing a service/function. This is crucial work, and non-profits/community-based organizations would not succeed without people committing to this work.”

When asked to reflect about his favorite part of Privilege and Poverty, Andrés responded P&P is a great space to tackle serious questions about the role that poverty plays and to see how the conversations “go beyond simply numbers and data about these problems, but aim to humanize and connect students to these very serious issues.”

For Andrés, he feels the program challenges and forces students to think about the issues in our community and doing so helps break the Middlebury bubble. It has shaped him “into a more involved and concerned individual.” Andrés is thankful for the “cluster’s dedication easing into discomfort, because at the end of the day, that is how we can begin to find solutions!”

Andrés’ work from the summer and his time with P&P is just a glimpse of the cluster’s learning opportunity!

Link to site, Places of Privilege and Poverty, created by Andrés and Professor Matthew Lawrence:

Andrés Oyaga ’23

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