The University of MichiganNews Services
The University Record Online
Updated 12:00 PM February 2, 2004



news briefs


UM employment

police beat
regents round-up
research reporter


Advertise with Record

contact us
meet the staff
contact us
U-M-D faculty offer course to inmates

Several U-M-Dearborn faculty members are taking community outreach to new lengths through a non-credit Women's Studies course, Understanding Women, offered to inmates at the Robert Scott Correctional Facility for women in Plymouth.

Sociology Professor Lora Lempert conceived of the project as an outgrowth of work she has done as an American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) co-sponsor of the National Lifers of America (NLA) at Scott.

"The state has pulled any non-vocational educational access away from prison inmates, so one of the ways that I can contribute is by bringing in some intellectual stimulation," Lempert says. "I asked friends and colleagues to help by preparing a presentation on research or teaching for the NLA monthly meeting.

"The colleague provides two or three articles or stories for the women to read in advance, then on the second Saturday of the month, the colleague delivers a lecture, presentation or other interaction."

Faculty members who have participated in the monthly meetings so far include sociology professors Lars Bjorn and Larry Radine; humanities Professors Gloria House, Carolyn Kraus, Rashmi Luthra, Sheryl Pearson and Deborah Smith-Pollard; and behavioral sciences researcher Ines Varela-Silva. As a follow-up experience during the recent holidays, Bjorn brought in a live jazz combo and Smith-Pollard brought in a gospel choir.

"Stimulated by the monthly presentations and in collaboration with AFSC, several of us are volunteering our time to provide a year-long 'course' to 35 women incarcerated at Scott," Lempert says.

Along with other faculty members and volunteers from AFSC, Lempert designed the team-taught course called Understanding Women, delivered on the first Thursday of every month from June 2003 to June 2004.

"This is pretty innovative, and the only such offering in Michigan," Lempert says. "As much as it enriches the women at Scott, speaking for myself, it has taught me a lot about how to consider the needs of students and how to provide them the best education we can, despite the obstacles that they need to overcome and despite the barriers that sometimes stand between us and them."

As a consequence of the Scott experience, another faculty member also is working with inmates in a local setting. Kraus is teaching a course in memoirs to women incarcerated at Camp Brighton. Last term she delivered a writing seminar at the monthly NLA meeting at Scott. The experience isn't entirely new for Kraus; she once taught a class at San Quentin in California.

More Stories