What does one do after being part of an Inside-Out course? Consider this the first blog of many from an Oregon State University Outside student alumnus who has been working here at OSU on the development of student support programs for people with histories of incarceration. Life doesn’t look exactly the same when you’ve gotten the chance, for ten weeks, to see through the eyes of those behind bars. Sometimes it seems hard to integrate the same kind of amazing work that was done inside the prison. However, that is precisely what we can do on the 'outside' to move towards a better environment where the 'inside' students will eventually return. This means doing work with people on the outside who may be less prepared than us, outside alumni, who have been able to build relationships with some of society’s prisoners.
For me, as a graduate student at Oregon State University, this meant directing my time and efforts towards improving the academic transition and success for people with a history of incarceration who enroll at OSU.
Our program is called Beyond the Bars and I am working 20 hours a week (and getting paid!) to research program ideas and support systems that OSU can implement to best welcome and support students from this population.
One of my first initiatives has been to evaluate the campus climate by getting a sense for the experience and how prepared/willing the OSU employees are to work with students who have criminal backgrounds. Preliminarily, I will say there is overwhelming support. There is also some major resistance. I got an email from someone who said “God, stop the madness!”
The resistance is actually good—this means that the work needs to be done. And that is my motivation. I’ll check back in with more soon!
[Editor's note: if you'd like to contact Chris to hear more about his project Beyond the Bars, leave your contact info in the "Comment" space of this entry.]
Graduate Student, Applied Ethics
Oregon State University