Campus Exercise Creates New Understanding of Poverty

Poverty simulation workshop involves Ashford University faculty, staff and students

Students, staff, and faculty of Ashford University came to understand poverty from a brand new perspective following a poverty simulation workshop held on Ashford’s campus last Thursday afternoon.

The simulation, hosted by Ashford University’s Office of Service and Leadership and facilitated by Amanda Hohmann of Dubuque’s Operation: New View Community Action Agency, is a widely used educational tool to help individuals better understand the complexities of poverty.

As participants of the simulation, each player experienced a month of poverty compressed into the real time of the event. After being clustered into various family units – two parents and two children, an older man living alone, a single mother with children, or a couple with a blended family caring for an elderly family member – each family was tasked with paying bills, maintaining jobs, buying groceries and caring for their children, etc., while struggling with limited means and additional stressors. Ashford faculty and staff volunteers played the roles of community members, including mortgage collector, town banker, quick cash operator and social service employees.

“They have to figure out how to navigate through the system and it’s not easy,” said Hohmann. “Even with resources out there, one is not always aware of what is available or how to access it.”

Many of the 60 participating students observed experiencing feelings of stress and many felt overwhelmed by the obstacles facing their families.

“Getting groceries, applying for assistance, trying to make ends meet while juggling family responsibilities, it was extremely difficult,” said a participant. “I can understand where someone might feel like they are on a treadmill, never really getting anywhere.”

“I didn’t know what I was getting into. Even though we did everything in our power, there were so many hurdles to overcome and our income was insufficient. It really opened my eyes to how challenging it is for so many on a day-to-day basis,” another student added.

“The discussions after the simulation are what inspired me. Everyone who participated in the simulation – whether a participant or volunteer – learned something valuable,” said Kristen Drake, Ashford University service learning administrator. “The experience and resulting discussion changed attitudes and reminded all of us that, without a doubt, we can always be more aware of our neighbors’ needs. You never know where life is going to take you. We are fortunate to have gained this new perspective.”

About Ashford University

Ashford University is defining the modern college experience by combining the heritage of a traditional campus with the flexibility and effectiveness of online learning. The University provides a vibrant learning community where high-quality programs and leading-edge technology create a dynamic, immersive and stimulating learning experience. The University offers practical and progressive associate's, bachelor's and master's degree programs online, as well as bachelor’s degree programs at its Clinton, Iowa, campus. Ashford University – where heritage meets innovation. For more information, please visit or call Shari Winet Rodriguez, vice president of Public Relations, at 858.513.9240 x2513.