A student makes a presentation after her internship.

The Privilege & Poverty Academic Cluster (P&P) encourages students to explore issues surrounding economic inequality from a variety of intellectual perspectives and disciplines. 

Students follow a course of study that provides coherence and structure while allowing considerable freedom to pursue disciplinary or topical interests. Those who satisfy all of the requirements receive a certificate of completion for the Cluster.

P&P is intentionally designed to be a flexible program that caters to students’ particular interests while ensuring they get a proper balance of depth, breadth, and connection among the courses they choose.

Sign Up for P&P News and Information

What You Will Learn

The P&P curriculum is structured around four key learning outcomes:

  • Critically examine the material, social, and environmental contexts of economic inequality.
  • Contribute to and support a learning community.
  • Develop skills, through experiential learning, to work authentically in community to address the causes and consequences of poverty.
  • Cultivate a commitment to and capacity for lifelong ethical participation in society.

In order to complete the P&P program, you must complete the basic requirements and be able to demonstrate evidence of your progress toward competency in the four learning outcomes. Students should meet regularly with the academic director to discuss curricular choices.

Through your coursework and experiences, you will develop key competencies toward the learning outcomes that guide the program:


Learning Outcome Degrees of Competency
Benchmark Milestone Capstone
Students will critically examine the material, social, and environmental contexts of economic inequality Identify the limitations of traditional academic disciplines and settings to confront the complexities of economic inequality Recognize the role that privilege and power play in the production of poverty Intentionally integrate multiple theoretical and empirical perspectives to identify how economic inequality today is the product of past and present systems, structures and behaviors
Students will contribute to and support a learning community Acknowledge how participation in a learning community and cohort involves respecting the experiences of others Understand that because poverty is experienced in communities and not only by individuals, the
causes and consequences of poverty must be addressed in communities and not only by individuals
Build connections across classrooms while broadly encountering Middlebury’s campus as a site of intellectual development, personal growth, and civic action
Through experiential learning, students will develop skills to work authentically in community to address the causes and consequences of poverty Identify your positionality in relation to the organization you are working with and the community in which it works. Develop a nuanced awareness of how to enter into communities in a participatory manner. Apply your understanding of your positionality, through your understanding of authentic participation, to demonstrate collaborative, reciprocal engagement with communities.
Students will cultivate a commitment to and capacity for lifelong ethical participation in society Appreciate how addressing the causes and consequences of economic inequality is a lifelong responsibility Articulate how deep engagement with issues related to privilege and poverty may strengthen, challenge, and transform personal values and professional goals Develop and apply the self-awareness required to meaningfully engage pathways of social change as members of local, national, or international communities

Course Work

In order to be identified as having completed the cluster, students should complete the following sequence:

Foundations Course Designed to situate the knowledge of economic inequality in a specific academic discipline, thematic area, or geographic region. Note: Foundations and Electives courses should represent at least three different academic departments.
Three Electives Choose from any College course dealing with the causes and/or consequences of privilege and poverty. Note: No more than two of the Foundations and Elective courses should come from the same academic department.
Experiential Learning Gateway Course INTD 0226 Gateway to Community Connected Experiential Learning - P&P Note: This course is a half-credit spring term course required as preparation for experiential learning
Experiential Learning Opportunity Choose from local or national internship offerings. Note: While most students fulfill the experiential learning requirement through a summer P&P internship, other experiences may qualify
Experiential Learning Capstone Course  INTD 0204 Experiential Learning Capstone - P&P  Note: This course is a half-credit post-experience reflection course that helps students integrate their experiences into their academic work

Foundations courses deepen the study of economic inequality through the lens of a particular academic discipline.

There are a wide range of electives across the disciplines, and they count toward completion of the P&P Cluster even if they are also meeting major or minor requirements.

Explore our current course offerings to see what fits your interests and goals.

Field Experience

A critical component of the P&P curriculum is the opportunity to experience the dynamics of economic inequality through working collaboratively with communities impacted by poverty. 

“Before this internship, I would’ve looked at it as, ‘oh, which one does the most to help these people get to a point where privileged people are?’ And I think I’ve started reshaping the narrative around poverty and economic inequality to less be about the standards that we set as privileged people, but more about people in poverty, having their own take, being allowed to make their own choices.” -Ellie, 2023

Students can participate in the National Privilege & Poverty Internship through the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty, or locally through the Addison County Privilege & Poverty Internship. These experiences offer experiential learning through student cohorts that support and reinforce student learning goals. However, you can pursue your own experience or other opportunities as approved by the directors.

“Working at Hope definitely changed what I want to do in a few years…. or who I want to be after I graduate. I’m a global security major, and I thought I wanted to work at the UN… and maybe one day I will. But I realized this summer, driving this truck around picking up produce, talking to farmers, walking people through the food pantry, that I want to firsthand help people. I don’t want to be writing policy, making amendments, and hoping that it’ll change people’s lives. I actually want to be on the ground working with them. I realized that to have change in this world is to have to work with your local communities, not to leave them.” - Leslie, 2023

Preference in the internship program is given to applicants who have completed relevant prior coursework. 

Integrating Coursework and Experiential Learning

The Experiential Learning gateway and capstone 1/2 credit courses wrap around the experiential learning opportunity to ground the experience in the wider context of the student’s academic inquiry.  Additionally, the Cluster is structured so that students can design their program around their specific interests. The framework of the program sets the stage for you to bring the full spectrum of your learning to bear across your academic work. 

You will assess your progress toward the learning outcomes using evidence of your learning gathered from all of your activities - coursework, experiential learning, co-curricular experiences and other types of engagement as you choose. P&P faculty and staff can support you in understanding your learning progress, and the Experiential Learning Capstone in particular is an excellent venue for this summative exploration. 

Self-designed. Self-directed. Learning Your Way. 

There are many ways to tailor the P&P curriculum to your interests. Below are just some of the examples of how you can connect courses to issues that matter to you and explore those issues further through a funded internship.

Interest Areas Sample Courses Sample Internships
Environmental and Food Justice FOOD 0281 Food, Power, Justice
HIST 0209 History of U.S. Food Politics
ENVS 1044 Food, Farms, Future: Vermont
Health ECON 0200 Health Economics and Policy
INTD 0257 Global Health
INTD 0211 Public Health of Disasters
Open Door Clinic
Immigration SOCI 0274 Global Flows: Causes, Dynamics, and Consequences of International Migration
AMST 0175 Immigrant America
LNGT 0102 Intro to Sociolinguistics
New American Pathways
Education EDST 0115 Education in the USA
SOCI 0351 Education and Social Policy
EDST 0215 Culturally Responsible Pedagogy
The Teen Center
Housing and Communities ENVS 0210 Social Class and the Environment
SOCI 0235 The City and Its People
GEOG 0216 Rural Geography
Charter House/John Graham Shelter
Criminal Justice SOCI 0478 Sociology of Punishment
PSCI 0260 The Political Economy of Drug Trafficking
AMST 0313 Vermont Incarcerated
DC Public Defender
Race and Gender PSYC 0321 The Psychology of Inequality
SOCI 0356 The Continuing Significance of Race in the U.S.
GSFS 0329 Politics of Reproduction
WomenSafe Advocacy


To discuss your classroom-based curricular interests and academic course options, contact Academic Director Matt Lawrence at lawrence@middlebury.edu.  

For more information about our experiential learning opportunities, and to explore how you might pursue your interest in community-connected, field-based learning, contact Assistant Director Jason Duquette-Hoffman at jduquettehoffman@middlebury.edu.

Ready to get started?

Sign Up for P&P News and Information