Williams Poverty Initiative

Great Society Symposium

On November 1st, 2015, the Williams Poverty Initiative sponsored a Great Society Symposium, which brought together local anti-poverty practitioners and the campus community to discuss how to grow the legacy of the Great Society initiatives.  For more information, see the Great Society Symposium Program Booklet.

Since then the group has sponsored role-playing simulations for courses and volunteer programs and hosted community forums.

Poverty Initiative Mission Statement

Faculty, staff, and students at Williams College are committed to teaching about, studying, and addressing poverty and related issues. The mission of the Williams Poverty Initiative (WPI) is to coordinate, organize, and strengthen these efforts both inside and outside the classroom. We seek to encourage a broad set of students to study poverty so that they are more informed and more compassionate actors in their future professional and civic endeavors, whatever those may be. We also aim to highlight the diverse curricular and co-curricular offerings related to poverty and the many efforts made in the community to better understand and alleviate poverty, and to strengthen linkages between the classroom and experiential approaches to poverty. To this end, we provide information on curricular offerings related to poverty, help coordinate experiential learning on poverty issues, serve as a clearinghouse for related on-campus activities, and organize occasional events. The Williams Poverty Initiative is administered through the Center for Learning in Action.

Williams Poverty Initiative Advisory Board

Tara Watson, Economics, Coordinator
Cathy Johnson, Political Science
Gretchen Long, History
Lucie Schmidt, Economics
Lara Shore-Sheppard, Economics
Paula Consolini, Director, Center for Learning in Action

Governance Structure and Activities

The advisory board is made up of four to six faculty members (ideally representing three or more academic units), one or two students, and a staff member or two of the Center for Learning in Action. The current board chooses replacements as needed.

The board will meet approximately three times per year. In collaboration with the Center for Learning in Action, the board:

(1) maintains a website to serve as a clearinghouse for poverty-related curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular activities on campus,

(2) generates a list of courses to be tagged (with instructor permission) as “poverty-related” in the course catalog as well as list “supplemental” courses with some relevance,

(3) informally advises and supports students looking for opportunities to link the study of poverty with community action and vice-versa,

(4) organizes or co-sponsors at least one event per year focusing on poverty issues,

(5) sends out a periodic newsletter to interested members of the Williams community.

In addition, we encourage any interested member of the faculty or staff and any student organization to be an affiliate of the Williams Poverty Initiative. Affiliates serve as an additional resource for students seeking information about resources on campus for the study of poverty and are encouraged to participate in events.

Povery-Related Courses



Getting Involved in the Community

The following organizations provide wonderful service opportunities for students who are interested in delving into the Berkshire community. This list includes both on-campus groups and off-campus community organizations and initiatives.

Berkshire Community Action Council
Berkshire Food Project
Breakin’ Bread Kitchen
COTY Youth Center
Community Health Programs
Darfur Cookie Project
Elder Services of Berkshire County
Family Life Support Center
Friendship Center Food Pantry
Habitat for Humanity
Higher Ground Inc.
Lehman Community Engagement
Meals on Wheels
St. Joseph’s Catholic Church
St. Joseph’s Kitchen at South Church
St. Mark’s Rectory
St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church
The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army Gateway New Life Center
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program
Williams Homeless Outreach

Project Ideas

Two Dollar Challenge
Hats for the Homeless


Poverty Simulation

Financial Education for Low Income Families