PTI joins the McGraw Center and names new leadership team

PTI Portraits by Sameer Khan

The Office of the Dean of the College is pleased to announce that the Prison Teaching Initiative (PTI) has become part of the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning, effective September 1, 2017. The move is intended to better support PTI’s many volunteer instructors, who teach college courses to incarcerated students. In conjunction with the organizational change, Jenny Greene has been named faculty director and Torey Wilson has been promoted to administrative director for the program.

“The McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning is very much looking forward to partnering with the Prison Teaching Initiative faculty and staff in their important work, and to learning more about their experiences teaching in our state’s penal system,” said Director and Associate Dean Rebecca Graves-Bayazitoglu. “This new collaboration allows us to build relationships with teachers and learners beyond the boundaries of our campus, relationships that broaden and deepen the work we do on campus.”

Professor Greene has taught astrophysics at Princeton since 2010. Her work with PTI began during her postdoctoral fellowship at Princeton in 2006 and has never ceased. Over the last eleven years, she has contributed countless hours of volunteer teaching on the Inside as well as assisted in developing new courses and recruiting volunteer teachers.

“Teaching incarcerated students is the most fulfilling thing I have done in my professional life,” said Greene. “I am honored to serve as the faculty director of PTI as we work to involve more members of the Princeton community in providing education to incarcerated students. It's more important than ever to bring educational opportunities to our nation’s most vulnerable populations.”

Since 2002, Wilson has served as a program associate and lecturer in the Program in Teacher Preparation and as associate director of the Princeton University Preparatory Program. He has spent a good portion of the last two years overseeing PTI’s administrative needs. When asked about his involvement with PTI, Wilson said, “For me it’s always been about, and continues to be about, ACCESS. Working with PTI in their prison education efforts is another opportunity to help an underserved group gain access to a college education. I see the Prison Teaching Initiative as a model example of what it means to be in the service of all humanity.”

Associate Director for Teaching Initiatives and Programs Sarah Schwarz says, “I’m delighted to have this chance to work more closely with the Prison Teaching Initiative. I’ve been lucky to consult with many PTI faculty over the years, and from these discussions I know what an incredibly meaningful and rewarding teaching opportunity this program represents. I look forward to collaborating with these new colleagues on connecting their work to McGraw’s mission of supporting teaching and learning.”

The Prison Teaching Initiative (PTI) aims to reduce incarceration rates in New Jersey by increasing access to post-secondary education in state prisons. Courses in math, natural sciences, humanities, and social sciences are taught by volunteer instructors, including university faculty, staff, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, alumni, and community members.

PTI was founded in 2005 by postdoctoral fellow Mark Krumholz ’98, Professor Gillian Knapp, and then postdoctoral fellow Jenny Greene – all members of the Department of Astrophysical Sciences. Since then, more than 500 inmates have received college credit in PTI courses. Many have completed degrees or gained entry to colleges and universities statewide, including Rutgers University, Thomas Edison State College, Essex County Community College, Raritan Valley Community College, Mercer County Community College.

PTI is a founding member of NJ-STEP (NJ-Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons), which coordinates higher education throughout the state. PTI currently teaches at the A.C. Wagner Youth Correctional Facility in Bordentown, Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in Clinton, Garden State Youth Correctional Facility in Yardville, East Jersey State Prison in Rahway, and Mountainview Youth Correctional Facility in Annandale. PTI volunteers also teach at the Federal Correctional Institution in Fort Dix.