After a gap of 25 years, the University Without Walls (UWW) Program was brought back to Stateville Correctional Center in 2017. NEIU’s Nontraditional Degree Programs’ office partnered with Chicago’s Prison+Neighborhood Arts/Education Project (PNAP) early in 2017, which resulted in eight men from Stateville enrolling in the fall semester: Joseph Dole, Raul Dorado, Phillip Hartsfield, Darrell Fair, Antonio Kendrick, Marshall Stewart, Devon Terrell, and Eric Watkins. These students had all been taking non-credited college-level classes through PNAP and had extensive amounts of independent study, political work, writing, and previous college coursework to their credit.
Professors Erica Meiners (College of Education) and Timothy Barnett (College of Arts and Sciences), who also serve on PNAP’s leadership team, have coordinated the partnership between NEIU’s Nontraditional Degree Programs (NDP) Office, PNAP, and Stateville Prison, but the undertaking has been a collaborative venture, featuring strong support from NEIU faculty serving as advisors, administrative staff in the NDP office, graduate assistants, undergraduate interns, and NDP Director Kim Sanborn.
Seven of these students (Joseph Dole, Raul Dorado, Darrell Fair, Antonio Kendrick, Marshall Stewart, Devon Terrell, and Eric Watkins) graduated in an historic graduation held at the prison in May 2019. Special guests at the event included Angela Davis (Professor Emerita, University of California, Berkeley); Illinois Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton; NEIU President Gloria J. Gibson; and Chicago’s own Chance the Rapper. The eighth student, Phillip Hartsfield, was transferred from Stateville (first to Pinckneyville and then to Hill Correctional Center), which resulted in his graduation being delayed until December 2020. We are proud that all eight of the original cohort obtained their degrees.
The UWW Program at Stateville welcomed a second cohort of students in January 2020 (Michael Bell, Reginald BoClair, Kijel Grant, Darnell Lane, Juan Luna, and Daniel Perkins), and these men are completing NEIU independent studies, PNAP classes, and academic/community projects of their own to fulfill the requirements of the University Without Walls degree. COVID-19 has slowed their progress, but we estimate a graduation date in the spring or fall semester of 2022.
To learn more about PNAP, consult the PNAP website and contact Erica Meiners at (773) 442-5515 or Tim Barnett at (773) 442-5822 or 5810 if you have questions about NEIU’s UWW Program at Stateville.