On Saturday, June 8, Prison University Project board members gathered in downtown Oakland for our second annual board retreat.
The goals for the day were to energize and invigorate—to increase the board’s understanding of the organization’s vision and plans for seeking independent accreditation, to build community among our many important stakeholders, and to celebrate and discuss the impact of the College Program—all this in the service of strengthening the board’s ambassadorship of the Prison University Project.
Nate Levine of Building Blox Consulting facilitated a conversation about our strategies and plans in becoming an independent college, and Dr. Amy Lerman of UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy presented the context for the longitudinal study her team is conducting on the Prison University Project, including its intended impacts on the field of prison higher education.
We also welcomed six program alumni—Robert “Red” Frye, Curtis Penn, Leonard Neal, Eddie Herena, Jesse Vasquez, and Ricky Gaines—who represented the student perspective and shared how the Prison University Project has influenced their lives. Leonard and Red enrolled in some of the College Program’s very first courses nearly 20 years ago, and Eddie and Jesse, who paroled in the last few months, offered a more recent perspective on what current Prison University Project courses are like. Leonard’s wife Eleanor and Ricky’s wife Vickesha joined us as well, to share about the impact the College Program had on their families. With this remarkable range of experiences, the alumni discussion touched on years of Prison University Project’s history through first-hand accounts and acted as a kind of oral history for the organization.
The retreat culminated with Prison University Project’s key stakeholders—staff, board members (faculty and donors), and alumni—sharing a meal together at Miss Ollie’s in Oakland. Over food and drink, we continued conversations on impact, participated in a team-building activity, and celebrated the contributions of all members of the Prison University Project community.
The 2019 board retreat was funded by a capacity-building grant from the Kresge Foundation.