Saint Louis University

Conference Presenters

Presenter Overviews (Organized by Session)

Session I: Patience, Persistence and Programming: Starting and Sustaining a Prison Education Program

Jenifer Drew, an Associate Professor at Lasell College, maintains a joint appointment in Justice Studies and Social Science. She has been involved with prison education for more than a decade, first as a professor and, as of 2010, the administrator of the Boston University Prison Education Program. Drew recently completed a sabbatical during which time she explored perspective transformation as a function of prison postsecondary liberal arts education in prison.  She has presented at Sociological and Criminal Justice professional gatherings on the subject of prison education, as well as DOC professional development meetings, and organized panels of formerly incarcerated men and women to speak in classrooms and at conferences in Massachusetts.

Boston University has offered credit-bearing, degree-granting coursework in Massachusetts state prisons since 1972; until 1994, BU headed a consortium of MA schools who participated in prison postsecondary liberal arts education.  Since 1994, BU has donated the entire cost of the program: faculty and staff salaries, books, materials, and full scholarships for 120 students each semester. The program operates in two state prisons: the largest men's prison, and the only women's prison in Massachusetts.  During any given semester, we offer approximately 18 courses to 120 students, delivered by 15 professors, who come from BU and a number of other colleges and universities. The program is situated within the department of Applied Social Science, a graduate department within Boston University's Metropolitan College, BU's school for working adults.  Students earn a Bachelor of Liberal Studies (a broad degree, designed on campus to meet specific career goals and/or prepare students for graduate school).  

Tanya Erzen is a founder and acting director of the Freedom Education Project Puget Sound. She received her Ph.D. in American Studies from New York University.  In Fall 2013, she will be a Soros Justice Media Fellow through the Open Society Foundation to finish a book on religion in American prisons.  She is currently the Catherine Gould Chism Associate Professor of Religion at the University of Puget Sound and formerly an Associate Professor of religion at Ohio State University. She is the author of Straight to Jesus: Sexual and Christian Conversions in the Ex-Gay Movement (2006), Fanpire: The Religion of Twilight (2012) and co-editor of Zero Tolerance: Quality of Life and the New Police Brutality in New York City (2001).  Her writing has appeared in the Nation, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, Salon and various academic journals, and she is the recipient of fellowships from the Social Science Research Council, the American Association of University Women, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton.

The Freedom Education Project Puget Sound is a college program in the Washington Corrections Center for Women, the largest women's prison in Washington.  Since January 2012, the program has offered 15 college courses in Sociology, Literature, Comparative Religion, U.S. History, Psychology, American Politics, International Relations, Spanish and Critical Theory, College Preparatory Reading and Writing and a monthly lecture series.  An accredited Associate of Arts degree program at the prison, in partnership with Tacoma Community College, is scheduled to begin in September 2013.

Emily Guenther began volunteering in prison in 2004, when she was a student at Grinnell College. Since graduating in 2008, she has served as the first fulltime coordinator for the Liberal Arts in Prison Program. In this role, Guenther has developed and implemented the First Year of College Program, which offers a year of Grinnell College coursework to men at the Newton Correctional Facility.

The Liberal Arts in Prison Program at Grinnell College enrolls cohorts of incarcerated students in a demanding, rich college program equivalent to the first year at Grinnell College. The program hosts an expansive, multi-tiered student volunteer program that supplements and supports our accredited program. The Liberal Arts in Prison Program at Grinnell College fosters reciprocal learning and intellectual exchange that enriches lives both inside and outside the fences and affirms the transformative power of a liberal arts education. The program is a member of the Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison at Bard College.

Doran Larson is Professor of English at Hamilton College. He has led The Attica Writer's Workshop, inside Attica Correctional Facility, since 2006. He is the founder of the Attica-Genesee Teaching Project (2011).  He is now working to create a low-to-no-tuition model of post-secondary prison education involving a community college, several private colleges, and Mohawk Correctional Facility, in Central New York, and is working to build The American Prison Writing Archive-an open-access digital archive of essays by American prisoners, prison staff, and prison volunteers. Larson's essays on prison writing, prison teaching, and related issues have appeared in Salmagundi, College Literature, English Language Notes, Radical Teacher, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.  He is the editor of two forthcoming volumes: "The Beautiful Prison," a special issue of Studies in Law, Politics, and Society (UK), in which incarcerated writers, prison teachers, and prison critics imagine what the American prison would look like if transformed into a socially constructive institution; and Fourth City: Essays from the Prison in America, the largest collection ever amassed of non-fiction essays by Americans writing about their experience of incarceration (Michigan State UP, 2014). 

The Attica-Genesee Teaching Project (AGTP), is a traditional, full-tuition community-college-in-prison program; the AGTP now offers four courses enrolling fifteen men each. The AGTP offers a General Education Certificate at 36 credit hours. The Mohawk Consortium College-in-Prison Program (MCC), is an in-progress effort to create a low-to-no-tuition model of community and private college collaboration, offering three courses per semester enrolling twelve men per course. Each program leads toward the AS Degree in General Studies (history, literature, math, social sciences, and art).

Barbara Sherr Roswell is the Founding Director of the Goucher Prison Education Partnership (GPEP), and has been teaching at Goucher since 1983, where she has directed the Writing Program, Writing Center, and the First Year Colloquium.  From 1999-2008 she served as Editor of Reflections: A Journal of Public Rhetoric, Civic Writing, and Service Learning and is the co-author of Reading, Writing and Gender (Eye on Education), Writing and Community Engagement (Bedford), and, with Simone Weil Davis, Turning Teaching Inside Out: A Pedagogy of Transformation (forthcoming from Palgrave).  Roswell serves on the Executive Board of the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program and has collaborated with students and colleagues to lead ongoing writing workshops at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women since 2005 and the Baltimore County Detention Center since 2010.

The Goucher Prison Education Partnership (GPEP), directed by Amy Roza, was founded in January 2012, to give men and women incarcerated in Maryland the opportunity to pursue an excellent college education and to stimulate awareness and meaningful dialogue in and beyond the Goucher community about justice, incarceration, and educational access.   GPEP currently offers eight courses each semester to 30 men and 45 women incarcerated in two prisons in Maryland at no cost to the students.  The GPEP curriculum mirrors the Goucher campus curriculum and GPEP students earn Goucher credits; some courses co-enroll GPEP students and students from the main campus.  GPEP also provides tutoring, enrichment programs, and college preparatory (non-credit) classes in writing and math.  Courses are taught on site by Goucher College faculty as well as by outstanding professors from nearby universities.  Tutors from the main campus and the community participate as volunteers; the program is funded by grants and individual donations.  GPEP is a member of the Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison. 

Session II: Making The Ask: A Case Study in Funding a Prison Education Program

Bridget McDermott Flood graduated from St. Louis University with a Master of Arts in Urban Affairs. Her B.A. is from Saint Louis University in English and Political Science. She serves as the executive director of the Incarnate Word Foundation, a conversion foundation sponsored by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio. In addition to overseeing the Foundation's grant making budget, Flood also works collaboratively with other funders to address community issues, e.g. youth empowerment, foster care, and collective impact. Under her leadership, the Foundation has piloted micro-lending projects to empower women in low-income communities. Currently, the Foundation is targeting its resources toward projects in North St. Louis, an urban core area with a primarily African-American population. 

The Incarnate Word Foundation collaborates with organizations and other community stakeholders to achieve shared goals in: funding that improves the quality of life of the poor and marginalized; convening others together to discuss, educate, prompt action, and/or foster collaboration; collaborating with others to pool resources and to achieve a common goal; representing the poor and marginalized to the civic arena; and educating others to gain knowledge about issues and our target populations. 

Lisa Masters is a fundraiser with more than twenty years of experience in nonprofit marketing and ten of those in development and fundraising-specific positions.  She is a graduate of Southwest Baptist University where she studied marketing and business management.  Masters' work experience includes the United Way of Greater St. Louis, the St. Louis Arts & Education Council, and Saint Louis University and she has consulted organizations such as the Edwardsville Children's Museum, African Vision of Hope, and Studio STL. Additionally, she offers marketing and fundraising services to the schools her children attend on a volunteer basis.

Kenneth L. Parker is the Director of the Saint Louis University Prison Program and Associate Professor of Historical Theology. He has been a professor at SLU for twenty years and involved in higher education in prisons for six years.

The Saint Louis University Prison Program began six years ago as a pilot certificate in Theological Studies at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre, Missouri. It is now a program that includes an Associate of Arts degree for incarcerated men and prison staff, delivers a speakers series and workshops, and includes a burgeoning project assisting the Missouri Department of Corrections in delivering required core reentry courses for men preparing to leave prison.

Heather Rich is the Vice President for Development and Marketing at Provident, Inc. She spent four years working as the Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations at SLU, where she raised funds to support the SLU Prison Program.  Rich is currently serving as the Board Chair for the Saint Louis University Prison Program.

Provident, Inc., is a social service agency that serves over 39,000 individuals annually in the Greater St. Louis Region through counseling, crisis intervention/suicide prevention, and community programs. Provident staff work closely with probation and parole, and offer treatment programs for ex-offenders, with emphasis on addiction, sex offenses, and domestic violence. Provident is the second largest recipient of United Way funds in the region.

Session III: Creating the Prison Classroom: From Policy to Practice

Brenda Dann-Messier was nominated by President Obama as assistant secretary for vocational and adult education on July 14, 2009. On Oct. 5, 2009, she was confirmed by the U.S. Senate and began her official duties on Oct. 13, 2009. As the first assistant secretary who is also an adult educator, Dann-Messier leads the Department's efforts in adult education and career and technical education, as well as efforts supporting community colleges and correctional education. She runs the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE), which oversees the administration of seven grant programs in these areas, totaling approximately $1.7 billion annually. In her role as assistant secretary, she has led extensive strategic planning and policy initiatives to craft a blueprint for reform in the U.S. career and technical education system and codified new legislative priorities for the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act in order to transform service delivery and build viable career pathways for low-skilled youths and adults. Dann-Messier received her Ed.D. in educational leadership from Johnson and Wales University.

The Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) oversees the administration of seven grant programs in these areas, totaling approximately $1.7 billion annually. OVAE's vision is that all youths and adult students (1) are ready for, have access to, and complete college and career pathways; (2) have effective teachers and leaders; and (3) have equitable access to high quality learning opportunities on demand.

Rebecca Ginsburg is a faculty member at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the director of the Education Justice Project, the campus' prison education program. She received her Bachelors degree in English from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, her JD from the University of Michigan Law School, and a PhD in Architectural History from the University of California at Berkeley. It was while she was a graduate student at Berkeley that she first became involved in prison education, through the Prison University Project. At the University of Illinois, she is on the faculty of the Department of Educational Policy, Organization and Leadership and the Department of Landscape Architecture.

The Education Justice Project (EJP) is a unit of the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. EJP has been active since 2008 and currently serves about 120 men at the prison; 26 alumni; 200 family members and loved ones; and 70 instructors from the University of Illinois and the community. The heart of EJP exists at our Danville prison campus, a men's state prison in central Illinois, where a learning community of incarcerated students and instructors from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign come together multiple times each week to engage in a range of different programs. We offer for-credit classes; extracurricular reading groups; and science, math, business, and writing workshops. EJP also has theatre and mindfulness groups and an English as a Second Language program through which our students serve as peer ESL instructors to men in the general population. On the Illinois campus we host monthly forums on issues related to incarceration and criminal justice. Our outreach components include a weekly radio program, an alumni program for our released students, and outreach to family members and loved ones of EJP students, most of whom are from Chicago. We also have an active research group and make a priority to produce scholarship about our work at the prison.

Rob Scott is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the College of Education at the University of Illinois, and a Horticulture Instructor for the Danville Area Community College. He works with the Education Justice Project sustainable prison landscapes program, and his students maintain a one-acre biointensive garden in the prison at Danville, Illinois. As the instructor for the horticulture program, Scott teaches nine distinct courses for Danville Community College, host design competitions, and explore extra-curricular subjects related to sustainability at the Danville prison.

The Danville Area Community College provides an associates degree program as well as several vocational training courses in the Danville Prison. The community college offers an Associates of Arts and an Associates of General Studies, and vocational offerings include Construction/Building trades, Automotive Maintenance, and Drug Counseling certificate courses, as well as an art course offered in the prison art studio. Productive Prison Landscapes is a program of the Education Justice Project in conjunction with the prison garden managed by the Danville Community College horticulture program. The garden is one acre in size and is maintained using organic practices, including biointensive and permaculture techniques. The garden began its transition to a more sustainable design in 2012 but it already has over one hundred species of perennial in addition to annual vegetable beds maintained by the students.

Kyes Stevens is the founder and director of the Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project.

The Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project at Auburn University offers diverse educational programming in nine prisons in Alabama. The classes, which are based on college-level courses, are designed to engage students with intellectual and creative opportunities, with the hopes that access to these meaningful and sustained courses allows them to open doors and awarenesses within themselves.

Session IV: Collaboration Beyond Campus: Building Connections Between the Prison and University Campuses

Jody Lewen started volunteering with the College Program at San Quentin in 1999; the following year she became director of the program, and founded the Prison University Project in 2003 to support and expand that work. She received her Bachelor's degree from Wesleyan University in modern European history; her Master's degree from the Freie Universität, Berlin in comparative literature and philosophy, and her Ph.D. in rhetoric from the University of California, Berkeley. As an instructor at San Quentin, she has taught composition, literature, communications, and other courses. Her publications include "Punishing Evil: A Psychoanalytic Perspective on the Spectre of Inmates in the Public Imagination" (in Evil, Truth, and Reconciliation, Rodopi, 2004) and "'So eine Gemeinheit': On the Use of Irony in Hugo Bettauer's Die Stadt Ohne Juden" (in Austria and Austrians: Images in World Literature, Stauffenburg Verlag, 2003). She is the recipient of the Peter E. Haas Public Service Award ('07) and a finalist for the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award ('13).

The mission of the Prison University Project is to provide high quality higher education to people incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison, to create replicable model for such programs, and to stimulate public dialogue about higher education access and criminal justice. The College Program at San Quentin is an extension site of Patten University. The program has its origins in a small volunteer initiative established in 1996, when the withdrawal of Pell Grants forced most pre-existing prison college programs in the country to close. PUP has since grown to become among the largest on-site, degree-granting prison higher education program in the U.S., and the only one in California. Without state or federal funds, it provides both an intensive College Preparatory program and an Associate of Arts degree program to over 300 students each semester at San Quentin. The only prerequisite for participation in the College Program is a high-school diploma or GED; students pay no tuition or fees. An all-volunteer faculty teaches PUP's academically rigorous classes; most are professors or graduate students from UC Berkeley, Stanford, San Francisco State University, the University of San Francisco, and other local colleges and universities. In addition to offering the classes in the humanities, social sciences, math, and science required to complete the AA degree, the program also offers all the courses required for transfer eligibility to any University of California or California State University campus.

George Lombardi is a 35 year veteran of the Missouri Department of Corrections. Missouri Governor Jeremiah W. (Jay) Nixon nominated George A. Lombardi to the Director of the Department of Corrections on December 18, 2008. The nomination was confirmed on January 29, 2009. Lombardi previously served as the Director of the Division of Adult Institutions for 18 years, Assistant Director of that division for three years and a Warden for seven years. He was recognized at the December 2002 Commencement at the Central Missouri State University with a Distinguished Alumnus Award. In November 2011, he was presented the first Mel Carnahan Public Service Award from the University of Missouri Harry S. Truman School of Public Affairs. He received the 2012 Region VII Missouri State Champion Award (Head Start Association).

The Missouri Department of Corrections comprises of 20 adult correctional facilities, seven community supervision centers, two community release centers and 54 parole offices across the State of Missouri. This includes approximately 11,500 staff, 75,000 probation and parolees and 30,000 inmates.

Nalini Nadkarni is a forest ecologist and a science communicator. She taught at the Evergreen State College for 20 years, and in 2011, joined the University of Utah as a Professor of Biology and Director of the Center for Science and Mathematics Education. She received her B.S. degree from Brown University, and her PhD from University of Washington. Her awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellowship, the 2011 NSF Public Service Award, and the AAAS Award for Public Engagement in 2012. Her research concerns the ecological roles of canopy-dwelling biota in forest ecosystems. She has published over 90 scientific articles and four scholarly books. She is deeply interested in public engagement of science, has given two TED talks, and has been highlighted in magazines such as National Geographic, Glamour, and Playboy Magazine. She recently created the "Research Ambassador Program" to train scientists to engage the public in non-traditional venues, such as pre-schools, churches, and sports stadiums. In 2005, she co-founded the Sustainability in Prisons Project, which brings science and nature to incarcerated men and women, and is now being expanded to a national level. 

The Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) is a partnership founded by The Evergreen State College and the Washington Department of Corrections. Our mission is to bring science and nature into prisons. We conduct ecological research and conserve biodiversity by forging collaborations with scientists, inmates, prison staff, students, and community partners. Equally important, we help reduce the environmental, economic, and human costs of prison by inspiring and informing sustainable practices.  In Washington State, the SPP was formalized in 2008, and has since expanded to all 12 state prisons. Programming includes four areas: science education, conservation biology, sustainable operations, and community contributions. Partnerships have also reached across the country and internationally, with inquiries from more than 20 states and several countries. Recently, eight new teams completed SPP Action Plans, and join the SPP-Washington as the core of the new SPP Network. 

Sean Pica is the executive director of Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison, a not-for-profit organization that provides college education, life skills and re-entry support to incarcerated men and women to help them make a positive impact on their own lives, their families and communities. Prior to joining Hudson Link, Pica was the Director of Club Access, a psychosocial clubhouse for adults with mental health disabilities, and a tenant advocate for the James Weldon Housing Projects in East Harlem. He serves as a Senior Fellow with Mercy College's Center for Social and Criminal Justice, on the Service Providers Advisory Committee (SPAC), which collaborates on policy issues in the NYS Department of Corrections, on the Board of Career Gear re-entry services organization and as a facilitator for STRIVE Fatherhood Programs. Sean earned a Master of Professional Studies degree from the New York Theological Seminary, a Master of Social Work degree from Hunter College and is currently pursuing his MBA at Mercy College.

Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison was established as a 501(c)(3) organization in 1998, by a group of academics and volunteers who believed that education in prison transforms lives and has a direct effect on reducing poverty, incarceration and recidivism.  Hudson Link accomplishes this by sponsoring a college education, life skills and re-entry support to men and women incarcerated in the New York State Department of Corrections facilities. Hudson Link's programs include sponsoring college credit and college degree granting programs inside New York State correctional facilities, assisting with life skill and professional development, and helping with re-entry support after release. In partnership with Mercy, Nyack, SUNY Sullivan and Vassar Colleges, Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison sponsors educational programs inside Fishkill, Sing Sing, Sullivan and Taconic Correctional Facilities, including: college preparatory classes, college credit-bearing classes, Associate and Bachelor Degree Programs (Behavioral Science, Liberal Arts and Organizational Management), and life skills speaker series. Currently over 250 students enrolled in college classes. Since 2001, Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison has sponsored 240 college degrees and more than 90% of our released graduates are employed and working in the social services field helping their communities. Hudson Link's success is supported by one key statistic, NOT ONE of our graduates has been re-incarcerated for a new crime. 

Workshop: Theater Games for the Prison Classroom

Elizabeth Charlebois is an Associate Professor of English at St. Mary's College of Maryland, the pubic honors college of the State of Maryland.  For her most recent sabbatical project, she served as the Scholar in Residence for Prison Performing Arts in St. Louis, helping inmate actors prepare to perform productions of Shakespeare's plays. She worked with PPA's Artistic Director Agnes Wilcox on A Midsummer Night's Dream at WERDCC, the women's prison in Vandalia, MO; Richard III at NECC, the men's maximum security prison in Bowling Green, MO and Hamlet with juvenile inmates at the Hogan Street Regional Youth Center.  Her work with inmates on A Midsummer Night's Dream is featured in a chapter she contributed to Performing New Lives: Prison Theatre, edited by Jonathan Shailor (Jessica Kinsley Publishers, 2011). While Beth's area of scholarly expertise is English Renaissance literature and drama -- she earned her Ph.D. from Northwestern University in 2000, her particular passion is performance, either as a pedagogical strategy, an object of critical inquiry, or a means of personal transformation. She has written and lectured extensively on Shakespeare in performance at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater and the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C. 

Rachel Tibbetts is the Director of Education for Prison Performing Arts in St. Louis, MO. She has worked in arts education since 2000 as an Education Associate and Assistant Director of Education at the Delaware Theatre Company in Wilmington; and Arts Partners Program Administrator and Assistant Arts Education Director at Young Audiences of St. Louis and Director of Education at Prison Performing Arts. Tibbetts received her B.A. in Theatre in May 2006 from Oklahoma State University.  She graduated from the 2006-2007 Community Arts Training Institute at the St. Louis Regional Arts Commission, and is a member of the Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble, a St. Louis based professional theatre company. 

Prison Performing Arts is a 21-year-old, multi-discipline, literacy and performing arts program that serves incarcerated adults and children at St. Louis City Juvenile Detention Center, Hogan Street Regional Youth Center, Northeastern Correctional Center (NECC) in Bowling Green, MO, Women's Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center (WERDCC) in Vandalia, MO and Missouri Eastern Correctional Center (MECC) in Pacific, MO. Prison Performing Arts involves incarcerated youth and adults in the performing arts to inspire intellectual curiosity and personal development. We nurture the discipline, teamwork and communication skills necessary for successful re-entry into society. We encourage members of the larger community to connect personally with program participants, and we offer continuing programs for participants who have been released.

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