About the Minor in Poverty, Justice, and Human Capabilities

“The real wealth of a nation is its people. And the purpose of development is to create an enabling environment for people to enjoy long, healthy, and creative lives. This simple but powerful truth is too often forgotten in the pursuit of material and financial wealth.”

Amartya Sen

The minor in Poverty, Justice, and Human Capabilities requires high-caliber courses taught by faculty across the university and substantial service learning experience. Students intern at agencies serving disadvantaged communities in the United States and other countries. They work directly with clients and gain experiential knowledge that broadens their perspective on human lives and capabilities. Through these academic and experiential learning opportunities, students explore a deeper understanding of the structural factors underlying poverty and human well-being and potential policy solutions. The program further aims to promote dialogue among all disciplines about how to address issues of poverty alleviation and human well-being with a sophisticated understanding of the challenges and sound strategies for moving forward.

Although impediments to human well-being take many forms, barriers to the capabilities of women and girls persist across societies; women and girls are therefore disproportionately represented among the poor and those unable to attain their full capabilities.  Acknowledging gender inequality as a powerful influence on disparities in human well-being, the academic component of the program, including the content of core and required courses, recognizes gender as a central analytic category.

The program is housed in the Center for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality (CSWGS), which includes over forty affiliated faculty, and is directed by Diana Strassmann, Carolyn and Fred McManis Distinguished Professor of the Practice and Editor of Feminist Economics.

“My service learning internship reminded me of how varied people’s experiences are even within the United States and how much of an impact volunteer work can have on someone’s life. Mundane tasks like arranging furniture in an incoming family’s apartment or helping someone fill out a job application took on greater importance as I realized that these were the building blocks of the refugees’ new lives in the U.S. However, the refugees helped me much more than I could help them – they reminded me that despite differences of culture, upbringing, and language, people can find connections with each other and build lasting bonds.
Nadhika Ramachandran, Susan McAshan Intern at International Institute of New England in Lowell, Massachusetts (Summer 2013)