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Published April 30, 2018
The University of Wyoming faculty member who led the establishment of the Wyoming Pathways from Prison (WPfP) project has been honored with UW’s inaugural Marvin Millgate Engaged Faculty Award.
Susan Dewey, associate professor in the School of Culture, Gender and Social Justice, is a founding member of the project that provides high-quality college courses to incarcerated women and men at no cost through UW volunteers. It’s a collaborative effort with the Wyoming Department of Corrections and Eastern Wyoming College.
“This work exemplifies the values of the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies in the newly created School of Culture, Gender and Social Justice to merge our scholarship and teaching to directly impact the community,” says Cathy Connolly, professor of gender and women’s studies, who nominated Dewey for the award. “Working with our UW students, staff and faculty as well as the state Department of Corrections to provide currently and formerly incarcerated individuals educational opportunities is exactly this type of work. It took a tremendous amount of effort to pull off, and Susan’s commitment and tenacity, as well as heart and soul, made it happen.”
WPfP emerged from an action research project that took place from December 2014 to August 2015, when Dewey, Connolly, former faculty member Bonnie Zare and UW student Rhett Epler conducted in-depth interviews with 71 women currently and formerly incarcerated in Wyoming. Results indicated great potential for success in providing increased educational opportunities for incarcerated women. To date, WPfP has provided over 300 college credits at no cost to more than 200 incarcerated men and women, and mentored dozens of UW students through internships, supervised teaching and professional preparation for social work, law, teaching, criminal justice and many other fields.
After teaching the first college credit course at the Wyoming Women’s Center in Lusk -- a class on memoir writing -- incarcerated women, UW students and UW faculty worked collaboratively to publish “Telling My Story: Voices from the Wyoming Women’s Prison” in peer-reviewed, open-access format to facilitate widespread sharing of the women’s work.
In 2017, WPfP won the Correctional Education Association’s national award for innovation -- the Austin MacCormick Award -- to honor its innovative approach to providing no-cost education to prisoners. The state Department of Corrections also recently nominated WPfP for the National Criminal Justice Association’s Outstanding Criminal Justice Program Award.
“I am tremendously proud to be recognized along with my WPfP colleagues Betty Abbott, Katy Brock and Alec Muthig for WPfP’s community engagement efforts in providing incarcerated people with a pathway from prison through education,” Dewey says. “All funds received as part of this award will go directly to supporting higher education initiatives in prison.”
The Marvin Millgate Community Engagement Awards were established by President Laurie Nichols and Provost Kate Miller, in cooperation with UW’s Engagement Task Force, to recognize collaborative teaching and research that extend beyond the UW campus. The selected honorees each receive $1,000, which may be used to fund additional engagement work by the recipients.
The Engaged Faculty Award is presented to a faculty member whose demonstrated scholarship significantly advances the sharing of knowledge between academic disciplines and the public.
The Marvin Millgate Engaged Staff Award went to Alec Muthig, information technology trainer who also was instrumental in WPfP; the Student Engagement Award went to Dilnoza Khasilova, a Ph.D. student in the College of Education; and the Excellence in Community Partnership Award was won by the Wyoming Conservation Exchange, a partnership among UW Extension faculty members and the Environmental Defense Fund, Sublette County Conservation District, the Wyoming Chapter of the Nature Conservancy and the Wyoming Stock Growers Association.
“I am excited that UW has launched its efforts in engagement and outreach by acknowledging the outstanding work of three of our own,” says Jean Garrison, who chairs the Engagement Task Force. “The faculty, staff and student recipients as well as the community partnership award for the first Marvin Millgate Community Engagement Awards are exemplary representatives for the important and innovative work being done across the state of Wyoming by UW and our partners.”