OVAE CONNECTION - Issue 140 - March 7, 2013

OVAE Connection

                                                                          March 7, 2013 - Issue 140

OVAE Welcomes Caitlin Richardson

                                              Making a Contribution to Human Rights Through Education

Caitlin Richardson

Photograph by Bill Moser, U.S. Department of Education

The newest addition to OVAE’s correctional education team (a part of the Division of Adult Education and Literacy) is Caitlin Richardson, who is interning for the spring 2013 semester. She will work on efforts to develop correctional education frameworks and to encourage their integration into the American prison systems throughout the country. More precisely, she will help identify new means of reducing recidivism through support systems that involve the pertinent members of the corrections community and emphasize the importance of education. 

Richardson recently completed a thesis on the integration of theatre—the works of William Shakespeare, in particular—within prison systems to provide both an outlet for expression and a safe space for critical thinking and reflection for incarcerated individuals. She found that many programs that focus on art, especially theatre and playwriting, are successful in developing basic life skills, promoting reintegration within the community, and reconciling with one’s criminal actions. As a result, such programs significantly decrease the recidivism rate, positively alter the community’s view of ex-offenders, and provide attention to and awareness of the needs of offenders, which are often overlooked in our society. With such success, these programs have the potential for transforming the ideals of justice and our justice system at the same time. 

Richardson, originally from Manhattan, is a senior at Pace University in New York, where she is pursuing a degree in acting with a triple minor in women’s and gender studies, peace and justice studies, and art history. As an alternative to studying abroad, Richardson decided to “study domestic” in the Washington Semester Program at American University’s Peace and Conflict Resolution Program of Study. While investigating conflict and post-conflict cases, such as Syria, Cyprus, and Israel/Palestine, she is developing a new peace-building effort that combines education, theatre, human rights, and reconciliation. She hopes to put the results into practice this summer in Bosnia. 

As a firm believer in the Declaration of Human Rights, Richardson asserts that education is a human right to which everyone is entitled. She is thrilled, she says, to be part of the “wonderful and progressive group of individuals here at OVAE,” and looks forward to “gaining a new perspective on education.” Richardson believes that her time in OVAE will help equip her with both the tools and knowledge for making a contribution to the fields of education and human rights.

The Significant Contributions to Society of Community Colleges

The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) recently released a research brief, Community College Contributions, that highlights the multifunctional nature of the community college mission and the contributions the colleges make to society. For example, the AACC notes that “ … America’s community colleges are the brokers of opportunity for a stronger middle class and more prosperous nation.” The brief cites research conducted by A. Carnevale, N. Smith, and J. Strohl to show that by 2018 over 63 percent of new jobs will require some postsecondary education and training. This makes them integral to ensuring American workers have the knowledge and skills needed to thrive in an increasingly competitive labor market. The brief goes on to state that “the latest national estimate of the return on investment to state and local governments from investing in community colleges in 2007 was 16.1 percent.” 

Three important roles community colleges play in their states and local communities are:

As a launching pad. It is well known that community colleges are the entry point into higher education for a significant percentage of Americans. Community colleges enroll roughly 43 percent of undergraduates each year and serve high percentages of low-income, first-generation, and minority students. They provide valuable education and training options at the sub-baccalaureate level. And as the frequent starting point for further educational progression, their transfer roles are critically important.

As a (re)launching pad. Community colleges provide flexible education and training opportunities for individuals to meet their ongoing education and work goals. Displaced workers who need retraining to find new employment often turn to community colleges. They and others also gain knowledge and skills from community colleges to progress in their current jobs.

As a local commitment. Community colleges each have a mission to serve their local communities. They often form partnerships with local businesses and industries to provide customized training. Further, the workforce needs of their local economies influence and inform the development of certificate and degree programs. Community colleges, therefore, play a key role in local economic development and economic transformation.

Finally, based on these points, AACC expresses concern about funding levels for community colleges. Even though these colleges represent the single largest sector of the U.S. higher education system in terms of total students served—43 percent—historically they have received approximately 20 percent of state appropriations for higher education. The brief closes by urging state policy makers to stabilize, if not increase, funding for community colleges so as to maintain and strengthen the many economic benefits they provide to society.