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Heterodox Academy

Member Spotlight: Viewpoint Diversity in the Prison Educational Context

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April 29, 2021

We were joined on April 29th at 4pm ET for this session that addressed intellectual diversity in the prison educational context and some of the unique challenges and opportunities that it presents — pedagogically, intellectually, and politically. It also provided a brief introduction to Mount Tamalpais College (formerly known as the Prison University Project), an independent liberal arts college located inside San Quentin State Prison in California. There was also time for audience Q&A.

The session was led by HxA member Jody Lewen, president and founder of Mount Tamalpais College. She was joined by David Cowan, director of operations at Mount Tamalpais College and founder of Bonafide, a reentry organization.

About the speakers:

Jody Lewen is the founder and President of Mount Tamalpais College. Jody’s involvement dates back to 1999, when she started working as a volunteer. Over the years, she has served as a thought leader in the field of prison education, advocating for the values of high academic quality and inclusivity, as well as serving as a resource to policymakers, practitioners, academics, and the administrations at San Quentin State Prison and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. She was the 2006 recipient of the Peter E. Haas Public Service Award from the University of California, Berkeley, and a 2015 recipient of the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award in recognition of her work to support higher education for incarcerated people in California. In 2016, the organization received the National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama. David Cowan began working for Mount Tamalpais College in May 2009 as the program clerk and is a graduate of the AA program. As the director of operations, David is responsible for ensuring that Mount Tamalpais College is prepared for annual audits and key systems management. David is a co-founder and former director of reintegration of the Alliance for Change. He serves as director of Bonafide on a volunteer basis and serves on the board of the California Reentry Program.
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