Being more intentional about promoting student success at UK – spectrum of wellness – reflections on equity issues in Kentucky

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Recently, Kelsey Carew, an advisor for the 1G Living Learning Community for the Office of First Generation Initiatives attended a training at the Office of Health Equity in the Kentucky Department for Public Health. The training was based on the book Bridges Out of Poverty: Strategies for Professionals and Communities (aha! Process Inc., 2012). The book provides key lessons about the cultural differences between individuals raised in poverty, middle class, and wealth and how those differences affect opportunities for success. Poverty is relative and occurs across race – and generational poverty (such as that found in too many Kentucky counties from which our students come) is different from situational poverty. The workshop was intended to break down stereotypes and prejudices as well as to give guidance on what relationships must be nurtured as well as given up in order to achieve a desired goal. Kelsey has written a summary (below) of what she learned in the workshop, and we invite you to think about how we might offer an opportunity to discuss her ideas and implement some of the workshop’s strategies across the student support units here at UK. Please reply below.]


The scenario could be spun a million ways; a homeless person approaches you while dining out, a student discloses to you they cannot afford to eat the rest of the week. This is just a snapshot of how poverty purveys itself in the public sector.

In the “Bridges out of Poverty” workshop we addressed the issues of poverty and inequality as well as discussed the importance of using a critical lens when addressing underrepresented groups. The aha! Process model uses a holistic approach to effectively deliver methods of understanding and combating behavior that is harmful to the situations those living in poverty are faced with every day. It is with the clarity and education that such a training brought, I felt compelled to share a few of my thoughts on how UGE could benefit from an alternative way of thinking about poverty.

As you move through your daily lives, are you challenged to discern between exhausting your few remaining dollars between your next meal or catching the bus? Are you subject to mental or emotional instability more often than not? These among others, are only a few examples of how one can measure another’s spectrum of wellness. As you consider the many factors that play into experiencing either situational or generational poverty, it is vital not to overlook the effect that being depleted in one or more of these categories has on the human spirit. For those in the cycle of poverty, depletion often transcends the spectrum and may affect a person’s physical, emotional, spiritual, financial and mental abilities simultaneously.

Consider looking at the dimensions of wellness using your hand. Start with:hand - spectrum of wellness

  • your pinky (financial wellness), moving to
  • your ring finger (mental wellness),
  • middle finger (emotional wellness),
  • index finger (spiritual wellness), and lastly
  • your thumb (physical wellness).

Using this model, one can create a mental image of the measures that can be used to help evaluate a person’s situation that may be different from your own. Next time you are challenged by a person’s disposition, try and remember this tool as a means to inhibit generalizations or assumptions that have the power to quickly influence your thoughts and behavior.

Another model that can be helpful to understanding poverty is the juxtaposition of ways of existing between the wealthy and the poor. The diagram below illustrates that those experiencing poverty, often live each day to see the next, valuing relationships above all. The middle class live to accomplish their goals, and value the idea of achievement. Lastly, the wealthy live to acquire or sustain more of what they already have, and value connectivity. lower class, middle class, upper class

These ideas are pivotal to exposing ways of relating and accommodating to the needs of those different from you. Bridging those out of poverty is not a modest endeavor; it is for those willing to take a step back and challenge the ideologies that have been indoctrinated into so many of our minds.

I hope together we can accept this challenge to help create a more understanding and perceptive community at UK.

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About Kelsey Carew

First Generation Student Advisor at the University of Kentucky.
This entry was posted in Academic Alerts, Diversity, First Generation, Retention, Student Success and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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