Lindner Business Honors students learn about poverty’s complexities, realities
ECON 1001 class participates in a simulation created by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul
First-year Lindner Business Honors students in ECON 1001 recently participated in a "poverty simulation," an immersive experience designed to foster awareness and educate the participants about the harsh realities experienced by someone living in poverty.
The Cincinnati Poverty Simulation was created by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul's Ozanam Center for Service Learning. The simulation was overseen by Associate Professor of Economics Michael Jones, PhD, with Lindner Director of International Programs Lee Armstrong and Jennifer Barlow, director, external relations, Center for Professional Selling, present in support roles.
“The goal of the simulation is to demonstrate the complexities of the experience of poverty, and to develop compassion and non-judgment from the participants,” said Mo Kelly, service learning program manager, Society of St. Vincent de Paul. “Oftentimes, from middle class or higher, it is easy to say, ‘They wouldn’t be in poverty if they just did XYZ.’ But going through this simulation shows that it isn’t as simple as finding a job or paying off your bills. Poverty is a web of unstable resources and unpredictable circumstances.”
Each participant received a persona based on a real situation of an impoverished person in Cincinnati, with names and details changed to protect anonymity. They had one hour — the equivalent of one month — to assess the resources in the space to accomplish their responsibilities by the end of the "month." Volunteers acted as agencies, such as child care, a bank, a pharmacy, a college or university, a grocery store, and a probation or parole office.
The goal of the simulation is to demonstrate the complexities of the experience of poverty, and to develop compassion and non-judgment from the participants.
Mo Kelly, service learning program manager, Society of St. Vincent de Paul
According to Jones, students discovered how strategies to address poverty may lead to unintended consequences for the individuals being helped.
“The need to travel to many places to access help caused them to miss medical appointments, school and even work,” he said. “The students learned the complexity of poverty and discussed ways to help those in need.”
Sydney Rohrs, a finance major, noted the exercise taught the group about the overlooked difficulties caused by living in poverty.
“For example, getting a job is not that simple. We had to travel there and had other barriers, such as a prison record, that further prevented us,” Rohrs said.
Paige Pennington, an accounting major, had a similar experience with her assigned persona.
“The poverty simulation illuminated the difficulties that the financially challenged face on a daily basis. For example, my character was kicked out of Cincinnati State due to a missed class, which resulted from transportation difficulties,” Pennington said. “Throughout this activity, I learned about the various organizations available to assist those living in poverty, and St. Vincent de Paul concluded the simulation with a powerful presentation reflecting on our experience.”
At minimum, Lindner's next generation of problem solvers received a small dose of the frequent hardships and obstacles generated by living in poverty.
Featured image: First-year Lindner Business Honors students in ECON 1001 partake in a “poverty simulation.” Photo provided.
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