BIPI aims to give back, train students to serve

Rosemary Townsend, talks about the Baylor Interdisciplinary Poverty Initiative on Monday, January 28, 2014 in Martin House.  Travis Taylor | Lariat Photo Editor
Rosemary Townsend, talks about the Baylor Interdisciplinary Poverty Initiative on Monday, January 28, 2014 in Martin House.
Travis Taylor | Lariat Photo Editor

By Rebecca Flannery

The deadline for students to apply to the Baylor Interdisciplinary Poverty Initiative summer internship and fellowship programs is Friday. Only five students will be selected on Feb. 7.

“I am very proud of the students that participate in the internships,” said Rosemary Townsend, the director of business affairs and community partnerships for the Initiative. “It’s been extremely popular. It’s a big part of what we do.”

BIPI, as it’s referred to, is administered through the Division of Student Life and is a main component behind all campuswide community service projects. The program also focuses on sending students out to serve communities around the nation through internships with reputable nonprofits. BIPI is a program that was started as a collaborative effort in the summer of 2007 for faculty, staff and community members to provide a way for students to better serve the environment around them. Projects such as Campus Kitchens, community gardens and Meals on Wheels all originate from BIPI and its dedication to involve students in service projects.

The five students chosen to participate in the internship this year will have an opportunity to serve either locally or internationally, through food banks, community gardens and other non-profits.

Some students previously in the BIPI program have been selected as Fulbright Scholar nominees, as well as one Truman Scholarship nominee. Another participant, Richmond senior, Jolene Damoiseaux, has been asked to speak at Yale University this spring about her research in Kenya that was financially supported through BIPI.

“They’re really quite extraordinary opportunities for students that are interested in doing in-depth disciplined service,” Townsend said.

Although not one of the five available positions being applied for this week, another internship available to students through the BIPI office is the Shepherd Poverty Alliance.

The Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty is an organization that exists to unite colleges and universities nationwide under the purpose of educating students on issues in and beyond their communities. This institution recognizes Baylor as a leader among the community in exposing students to co-curricular service projects throughout the school year.

What being a Shepherd Scholar means to the students is determined by the work they do in their internships. Baylor alum and Shepherd Scholar, Kylie Aspegren, was chosen to partake in the BIPI internship in the summer of 2012. She was placed at the Atlanta, food bank for eight weeks, serving in its community gardens.

“Baylor gave me lots of knowledge and information to know about nutrition and eating and also poverty,” Aspegren said. “But when I got the internship, it gave me context for all that knowledge.”

Baylor was invited to join 18 other universities in the SHECP program because of what BIPI is doing in the community of Baylor University as well as the surrounding communities.

Along with projects, BIPI ensures that education in poverty is also a main component of its program. BIPI also partners with several non-profits throughout Waco, lending time and resources that Baylor has stipend to where they’re needed most.

“It presents our students meaningful, challenging opportunities to be a part of service that impacts poverty, social justice, and human capability,” Townsend said. “But it’s also broader and deeper than that.”

Townsend oversees many of the projects done in the department. She, along with many other faculty appointed to the BIPI board, makes sure projects under BIPI run smoothly.

“We never send students out to do service if they don’t go well prepared and with a true understanding of the project they’re going to serve,” Townsend said. “We have a commitment to excellence in the process of serving.”

The goal of BIPI is to ultimately give back to the community through service. On a personal level, BIPI hopes to train students to graduate ready for the workforce with a desire in their heart to serve wherever they go.

“I am absolutely positive that after young men and women are educated at Baylor University that they are going to graduate well trained in their chosen profession,” Townsend said. “But it’s also my belief that they will graduate with a heart for service … I know they’ll be excellent teachers, doctors and lawyers, but I’d also like to think they’re going to be better community members and of service to whatever community they live in because of their experience at Baylor.”