Agreement Takes Program for the Incarcerated Nationwide

May 31, 2024 By McGregor McCance, McGregor McCance,

Sometimes a good thing can get even better by continuing to grow.

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business’ PREP, or Prison Reentry Education Program, is part of the nonprofit Resilience Education, founded at Darden, in which MBA students teach business courses to incarcerated people at three regional correctional facilities.

Earning credits through the UVA School of Continuing and Professional Studies, the service to the greater good is about to grow.

Resilience Education recently announced the launch of the Fair Chance Business Education Consortium, sponsored by Ascendium Education Group and in partnership the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia Business School’s Tamer Center for Social Enterprise and Georgetown University’s Pivot Program.

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This new initiative brings together universities, colleges and academic institutions to redefine the role of business in enhancing the economic opportunity for those affected by the justice system and their communities.

A celebratory group of PREP students, faculty and staff, and supporters recently gathered to honor graduates of the unique program that provides business education and support services to current and formerly incarcerated individuals.

In a warm ceremony in Saunders Hall, members of the class shared their stories of resilience and gratitude, crediting family members, student instructors and demanding-but-supportive administrators.

“I knew nothing about money. Now I respect money,” one of the honorees told those attending the celebration. “Now I know how to manage my money, know how to budget my money. If it doesn’t make sense, I don’t do it.”

“I really appreciate the Darden School because now I have a sense of understanding of the financial world,” he added.

Group photo of Darden School of Business students.

The Darden-founded Prison Reentry Education Program is part of the nonprofit Resilience Education in which MBA students teach business courses to incarcerated people at three regional correctional facilities. (Contributed photo)

Resilience Education has been collaborating with business schools for more than a decade to provide entrepreneurial education programs to individuals in correctional facilities.

The Fair Chance Business Education Consortium will facilitate the exchange of research, best practices and resources among participating institutions across the country.

“We’re really excited to announce the (consortium) made possible by a grant from Ascendium Education Group,” Tierney Fairchild, co-founder and executive director of Resilience Education, said.

Creating the consortium offers a more tangible and expanded effect on cycles of justice system involvement and incarceration.

“What is the collective impact that we can generate as a coalition of programs, as opposed to just individual programs, each doing our own thing in our own place?” asked Molly Lasagna, senior program officer at Ascendium.

Lasagna said sharing resources and thinking “more creatively and more ambitiously” could help incarcerated students and those involved in the justice system find a path for economic mobility. “That’s why I feel really excited about supporting this consortium,” she said.

What makes the consortium unique is a focus on enhancing business education, leveraging research to drive decision-making and cultivating inclusive leadership models. With the consortium, Resilience Education is laying the groundwork for innovation. New partnerships could open new opportunities to engage employers, change narratives and shift mindsets about what fair-chance hiring looks like in the future.

Group photo of two recent graduates fo the Resilence Education program with their faculty and staff.

Two recent graduates of the Resilience Education program display their certificates, joined by faculty, staff and supporters to celebrate their success. (Contributed photo)

“One major challenge for the work we do is scaling. We can try our best to make an impact at correctional facilities that happen to be close enough to drive, and that’s great,” said Damon Phillips, a professor at the Wharton School and faculty lead of the Resilience Education program, Wharton WORKS. “But universities aren’t set up to have programs that scale naturally. The way to do that is through a network, and that’s what this consortium represents for me – a community of like-minded folks.”

The Fair Chance Business Education Consortium will enable those committed to improving economic mobility for formerly incarcerated individuals to collaborate and develop new approaches within the sector.

“Helping improve society and create opportunity through education is a shared value and mission among higher education institutions,” said Darden professor Greg Fairchild, dean and CEO of UVA|Northern Virginia and co-founder of Resilience Education.

“Providing skills and knowledge about the fundamentals of the economy and financial management to those who will need this information to thrive gives us all something to be proud of, while also offering a unique experiential leadership opportunity.”

Media Contact

McGregor McCance

Darden School of Business Executive Editor