Two Universities Join Forces to Develop an Educational Program for Women Exiting Prison

There are currently more than 1 million incarcerated women in the United States. And women are the fastest-growing segment of the prison population, increasing nearly 834 percent nationwide within the last 40 years. Yet, most prison education programs are focused on men.

A new initiative led by Hyunjin Seo, an associate professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Kansas – has the goal to help women exiting prison advance their technology skills in hopes of improving their eligibility for better job opportunities and their ability to support their children’s education. Dr. Seo holds a Ph.D. in mass communication from Syracuse University in New York.

The effort also includes researchers at the University of Missouri-Kansas City led by Baek-Young Choi, associate professor of computer science and electrical engineering. The UMKC team will participate in education sessions and curriculum development, build the online learning system and participate in experiential research to understand the challenges of women-in-transition with respect to acquiring technology skills. They will also analyze the effects of different education models – face-to-face, hybrid (a combination of on-site and online) and online only.

“Many women going into prison were underprivileged to begin with, and then in prison there’s a lack of access to the internet,” Dr. Choi said. “This leaves women vulnerable because when they are released, it’ll be difficult for them to find good jobs and have positive influences on their children as well.”

“We really want this program to be informed by research, so we do a lot of research to learn what the participants’ needs and interests are, and incorporate that into the STEM curriculum,” added Dr. Choi. “We also want to know what the most effective way of teaching STEM is for this population, so we’re testing multiple modes of education.”

Dr. Choi earned a Ph.D. in computer science and engineering from the University of Minnesota.

The education program for women exiting prison project is funded by a $1.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

Filed Under: Grants


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