About the Program

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

About the program

The minor in Poverty, Justice, and Human Capabilities (PJHC) provides students with a multifaceted understanding of human well-being both in the US and internationally. The minor encourages its students to build lifelong commitments to supporting the well-being of all people and to become leaders in solving local and global problems.

This interdisciplinary minor emphasizes a “capabilities approach,” which considers what people are able to do and to be — for example, live to old age and engage in social, economic, and political activities — rather than focusing strictly on their access to basic necessities.

Although impediments to human well-being take many forms, barriers to the capabilities of women, girls, and ethnic and racial minorities persist across societies. These groups are therefore disproportionately represented among the poor and those unable to attain their full capabilities. The academic components of the program, including the content of core and required coursework, acknowledges gender inequality, systemic racism, and the legacy of colonialism and post-colonial disparities as powerful influences on human well-being, both in the US and around the world.

The PJHC minor combines high-caliber undergraduate courses with service-learning experiences that help people in disadvantaged communities in Houston, throughout the United States, and abroad. Students are placed with organizations where they work directly with clients and gain experiential knowledge that broadens their perspectives on human lives and capabilities. Through these academic and experiential learning opportunities, students explore deeper understandings of the structural factors underlying poverty, human well-being, and potential policy solutions. The program further aims to promote dialogue among all disciplines about strategies for addressing challenges to human well-being.

For questions or to begin the process of declaring the PJHC minor, please contact one of the PJHC Co-Directors of Undergraduate Studies, Dr. Moramay López-Alonso or Dr. Kerry Ward, or the PJHC Director, Dr. Diana Strassmann.