About the Shepherd Program

The Shepherd Program integrates thought and action to prepare students from different majors, career paths, backgrounds, passions, and political perspectives to understand and address the complex causes and consequences of poverty and inequality in ways that respect the dignity of every person.

Students weave together poverty-related courses across campus (economics, education, law, philosophy, politics, sociology, and more) and related service and internship experiences across the county, the country, and the world. Those pursuing a minor in poverty studies also complete capstone research that connects their concerns about poverty and inequality with their future civic and professional lives.

The Shepherd Program is named in recognition of Nancy and Tom Shepherd '52. Tom Shepherd formerly served as president of GTE Sylvania Lighting Products, managing director of the Thomas H. Lee Company in Boston, and chairman of TSG Equity Partners. Tom was an emeritus member of the Washington and Lee Board of Trustees and in 2006 was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Law by Washington and Lee in recognition of his "commitment to social justice and dedication to public service." He received a Master of Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University. His family originates from Shepherdstown, WV. Nancy Shepherd is a retired Episcopal priest.

"The initial impetus for this program came as a result of a collaborative faculty-student effort. The program is unique in its linking of rigorous classroom study with carefully selected summer intern assignments. I am delighted to be associated with this signature program, and proud of the Washington and Lee University community's strong support and leadership," stated Tom. Tom served on the Shepherd Alumni Advisory Board from the program’s inception in 1997 until his death on March 19, 2016.

Academic Study

Students combine interdisciplinary and disciplined-based coursework on poverty with direct service in their areas of special interest (for example, business, education, health, law or community organizing) in order to supplement their major areas of study. Some students receive a minor in the study of poverty and human capability. For many, their coursework culminates in a capstone seminar and research project that connects their concerns about poverty to their future careers, such as papers on financial credit for vulnerable families or micro-lending in developing nations.

Co-Curricular Activities

The program promotes a structure for student leadership and volunteer service in the local Rockbridge community and summer internships across the nation as a part of Washington and Lee's effort to accentuate student honor, leadership and learning.

Students are able to receive direct service experience through a variety of activities:

  • Leading Edge service trips for entering students led by upper-level undergraduates
  • eight-week summer internships for law and undergraduate students
  • intense community engagement through a Bonner Program
  • a Campus Kitchen that retrieves unused food in order to join persons at multiple agencies for meals or snack time
  • a Nabors Service League that organizes student service in the local community and at other locations during University holidays
  • direct service and focused community-based research linked with courses
  • a post-graduate Elrod Fellowship Program for continuing education after graduation.

Long-Term Impact

Many of these activities enable student involvement in the Rockbridge area community and with alumni in their communities across the nation. Graduates of the Shepherd Program are sensitive to the serious problem of domestic and international poverty and informed about how their future conduct as professionals and engaged citizens will make a difference for impoverished communities and persons.

Faculty and Staff

Meet the Director, Staff and Faculty associated with the Shepherd Program.

Shepherd Advisory Board

The Shepherd Advisory Board meets on campus each year, and consults with Shepherd Program personnel throughout the year.