Prison Project to Publication: How dissertations can open doors
Many people are already writing off 2020 as a year to forget, though it has also been a year of opportunity, misguided as it may seem, it's been time to slow down our daily distractions, reflect about the condition of our existence, experience grief as a collective for our losses, and if we were afforded the small luxury perhaps also find the time to progress. For many, there will be agreement that 2020 was anything far from a 'good' year, yet it brandishes our badge of survival; one that we will continue to feel the consequences of, and simultaneously draw for our courage in spite of, for many unforeseeable years into the future.
Indeed 2020 has been a challenging year for everyone, especially so for third-year university students on the verge of completing their undergraduate degrees. The strains to successfully pass all courses in order to graduate, having grades finalised for degree classifications coupled with the anxious questions of 'what next?'. We can safely attribute that future plans are burdensome without the additional complexity of hiring freezes, global health pandemics, and some speculative social uncertainty of our (new) normal understanding of the world. That being said, many students I have worked with have demonstrated great resilience, ambition and courage to undertake quite difficult tasks without knowing whether they will succeed or fail, but they do it anyway, and this story is one of the examples of such perseverance and passion.
Halinen's theoretical dissertation awarded 92%
When I first met Minni Halinen, she presented an ambitious idea for her dissertation project, which was inspired by work-experience she had gained at Wandsworth Prison, all undertaken as part of her undergraduate Education Studies BA programme at Roehampton University. Her initial topic was along the lines of prison education (music programming) as a form of building self-esteem for its participants, where the intention was to interview prisoners about the confidence they gained through participating in radio programming.
Immediately, this strikes as an interesting topic, but it speaks more to the creativity of the student who can envisage how their personal experiences create opportunities and provide unique access to investigate a credible social issue for their dissertation. Though it was not an easy journey; around mid-research due to some unexpected red-tape, Minni had to transform her empirical thesis into a theoretical one. Braving this challenge, she persevered and produced a quality theoretical dissertation titled: 'Learning from Behind the Bars: The Role of Boosting Self-Esteem in Prison Education', which received 92% and topped the year group as an exceptionally well-written, structured, scholarly and insightful piece of research.
Interdisciplinary UK-US collaboration for publication
Based on some questions raised as a result of Minni's dissertation, we are now collaboratively working on a new piece of research along with Roehampton's Visiting US-UK Fulbright Scholar, Dr Liliana Belkin. Collectively, we are endeavouring to conduct a comparative study of prison educational programmes for social reformation in secondary schools versus prisons between England and America. Our project focuses on the perceptions of educators in terms of how they evaluate what makes a successful (or not) educational programme for males. We intend to understand if self-esteem is a sustainable goal in social reformational education. Our current working title: Beyond Self-Esteem in Prison & School: Comparing how British and American educational programmes in prison and secondary school reform naughty boys and wicked men.
Interested in participating?
If you are an educator/ curriculum facilitator who has experience working in schools or correctional programmes with challenging males, and would like to participate in this project please get in touch via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.