Conference on prison education helps guide Grand Valley's degree program

December 12, 2023 (Volume 47, Number 8)
Article by Brian Vernellis

Jacquelynn Doyon-Martin in black shirt and chunky necklace, glasses

Jacquelynn Doyon-Martin, professor in criminology, criminal justice and legal studies

A cohort of Grand Valley faculty members and administrative staff traveled in November to Atlanta, Georgia, for the National Conference on Higher Education in Prison, conferring with colleagues from around the country on the development of prison educational programs.

The networking opportunity gave the group additional insight as Grand Valley prepares to unveil its own bachelor’s degree program for prisoners at the Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in Ionia next fall, said Jacquelynn Doyon-Martin, professor in criminology, criminal justice and legal studies.

“We attended the conference to network, learn more about financial aid and how the programs are administered," Doyon-Martin said. "We also learned about accreditation because any program on what essentially will be a satellite campus has to be accredited.

“We learned how internships, or similar learning experiences, are offered to students who are incarcerated.” 

Joining Doyon-Martin at the conference were: 

  • Francesca Golden, associate vice president of Financial Aid, Compliance
  • Sean Lancaster, assistant vice president for Academic Affairs
  • Michelle Rhodes, associate vice president for Financial Aid
  • Quincy Williams, undergraduate program director and internship coordinator for the School of Public, Nonprofit, Health, Hospitality and Tourism Management
  • Aaron Yore-Oosterhout, research manager for the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy

“It was an opportunity for all of us to learn how prison programs are happening elsewhere, to better prepare ourselves to offer the most robust education as possible,” Doyon-Martin said.

Doyon-Martin and Yore-Oosterhout began researching this degree program in 2020. Upon completion of the five-year program, graduates will earn a bachelor’s degree in public and nonprofit administration. 

“We did a lot of research on different degree programs that would be the most beneficial and the degree fields where these folks could be employable,” Doyon-Martin said. “Public and nonprofit administration was one field where there's a lot more openness to hiring formerly incarcerated folks. The research indicated that a lot of former prisoners open up nonprofits.”

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This article was last edited on December 11, 2023 at 3:46 p.m.

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