Dear Friends of the Emerson Prison Initiative:

We are excited to share EPI was recently featured in the Boston Globe in a piece written by Emerson College President Lee Pelton. If you missed it, read it here !

It has been a very productive and rewarding year for EPI! As our first cohort of students started their second year of classes, we introduced new courses and have brought many new educators inside MCI Concord. We also worked on future initiatives, designing a pathway to a full Bachelor of Arts degree to be awarded from Emerson College, launching collaborations with Brandeis University and Clark University faculty, and contributing to the foundational design of the Massachusetts Prison Education Consortium. Below is a brief update on some of our accomplishments in 2018-2019 .

Courses and Curricular Development

This fall we offered two important new courses at MCI Concord. Keri Thompson, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Communication Studies, taught CC100  Oral Communication , a foundation course, which all Emerson students take in their first year. The course aims to establish critical communication and presentation skills that lay the groundwork for the rest of the student’s education and success. EPI students reported feeling much more confident speaking in public by the end of the course. Josh Polster, Associate Professor in the Department of Performing Arts at Emerson, taught TH215 U.S. Theatre and Performance , a course that provides a new entry point to communication through creative analysis and reflection. Several EPI students reported that though they never imagined liking theater, now they were so hooked they wanted to write their own plays!

This spring, LI212  Black Revolutionary Thought  will be introduced to the EPI curriculum by Kimberly McLarin, Associate Professor in the Department of Writing, Literature, and Publishing. McLarin is the author of the critically-acclaimed novels  Taming It Down , Meeting of the Waters , and  Jump at the Sun , and of the memoir  Divorce Dog: Men, Motherhood and Midlife . Students will also take VM101  History of Visual Media Arts II , with Miranda Banks, Associate Professor of Visual Media Arts, and author of  The Writers: A History of American Screenwriters and their Guild .

Beyond these thought-provoking individual course options, EPI Director Mneesha Gellman and EPI’s Faculty Advisory Committee continue to work with the School of the Arts at Emerson, and with the Institute for Liberal Arts & Interdisciplinary Studies, to craft a broad and challenging curriculum that will culminate in a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Student Involvement

Emerson students on the Boston campus continued to support EPI through a variety of important contributions. MA in Theater Education student Annie Lineberry volunteered as a Teaching Assistant for Josh Polster’s class in Fall 2018. MA in Public Relations student Frida Sternbach-Rostoker sorted and catalogued a collection of donated books and journals that will be delivered to the prison library in spring 2019. Undergraduate student volunteers included Jakob Menendez, who completed research on the MA parole system for EPI, and Catarina Aragon, who performed article research and assembled research packets for students in Josh Polster’s class as they moved towards writing their larger assignments.

Thanks to everyone for their commitment to the program!

President Pelton and Provost Whelan Visit MCI Concord

In one of the highlights of the EPI year, President Lee Pelton and Provost Michaele Whelan visited MCI Concord in October 2018. President Pelton noted, “I was deeply moved by the visit to MCI Concord. The students were highly motivated. They were very grateful for the learning and intellectual development opportunity provided by the Emerson Prison Initiative faculty. They had substantive ideas about how the program might be improved to meet their learning goals. It is clear that EPI is adding significant and lasting value to the MCI Concord students.”

Echoing President Pelton’s sentiments, the Provost described how she was moved by the students’ reflections on their experience in the EPI program. She noted that they “discussed their courses with true passion and commitment” and “spoke about discovering themselves as learners.” Many “mentioned newfound confidence in being able to present arguments and tackle difficult work. They are curious, engaged, and willing to give a hundred percent to their classes--much like our students on our other campuses. Finally, they spoke with hope and optimism about how their Emerson courses could equip them with new skills and critical thinking for their return to the world outside.”

These reflections underscore the lasting impact of this important program. It has been an eventful and productive year. We look forward to an equally productive 2019 and thank you for your interest and support.

EPI's End-of Year Celebration

In late November, we celebrated 2018’s accomplishments with a reception co-sponsored by Emerson’s Engagement Lab and the Institute for Liberal Arts & Interdisciplinary Studies. Mneesha Gellman shared the program’s recent achievements and news with attendees, while Dean Amy Ansell and Josh Polster spoke about their rewarding experiences teaching at MCI Concord.

Save the Date: Spring Events


Benefit Concert for Partakers College Behind Bars Mentoring Program

On March 9th, the Longwood Symphony Orchestra will hold a benefit concert for Partakers, a supporter of the Emerson Prison Initiative.

Open Classroom at Emerson College

On March 19th, Mneesha will join EPI Faculty Advisory Committee members and fellow Emerson faculty Cara Moyer-Duncan and Yasser Munif to host a discussion on Education and Mass Incarceration. Students and faculty from across the campus will be invited to attend. We look forward to an engaging and informative conversation.


Over the first two years of operations, EPI has been supported by contributions from Emerson College, the Bard Prison Initiative, the Gardiner Howland Shaw Foundation, and individual donors like you. These contributions have allowed us to expand our course offerings, as well as to supply textbooks and class materials to EPI students. We continue to seek funding to increase our class offerings, and also to support the next cohort of students.

Please explore our website for further updates on the program
and for information on events at Emerson’s Boston campus.