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University of Utah Prison Education Project Admits First Cohort

The Utah Prison Education Project (UPEP) at the University of Utah is admitting its first cohort of fifteen degree-seeking students incarcerated at the Utah State Correctional Facility.

Dr. Hollis RobbinsDr. Hollis RobbinsUPEP’s inaugural cohort represents “a bold expression of University of Utah President Taylor Randall’s commitment to unsurpassed social impact in our state and region,” said Dr. Erin Castro, the associate dean and associate professor who co-founded the initiative with 12 undergraduate honors students in 2016.

The program — created in partnership with Utah’s College of Humanities, and other campus units — is expected to offer a national model for bringing higher education research and leadership to incarcerated students, particularly those from the women’s-designated unit pursuing a Bachelor of University Studies degree and a certificate in professional and technical writing.

“The same skills in critical thinking, effective communication, conflict resolution, and love of learning that research has shown prepares on-campus Humanities students for successful lives and careers are sure to be uniquely valuable for UPEP learners who are preparing for futures after their incarceration ends,” said Dr. Hollis Robbins, dean of Utah’s College of Humanities.

The University of Utah Reading Clinic, housed in the College of Education, will provide opportunities for the cohort to “serve as tutors and mentors for other incarcerated students hoping to pursue higher education at Davis Technical College or Salt Lake Community College, according to Dr. Frankie Laanan, dean of Utah’s College of Education.

“It is never a given that academic research will translate directly and impactfully to the transformation of our local communities,” said Laanan. “But Dr. Erin Castro’s dedication to UPEP over the last eight years is a shining example of scholarship with real societal impact.”

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