Faculty Name:
Erin Castro

Educational Leadership & Policy

Faculty College:


Project Description:

**This project is a part of the Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR), which provides undergraduate students with an intensive 10-week research experience under the mentorship of a University of Utah faculty member. SPUR 2021 begins on May 26 and ends on August 5. If you are interested in this project, please review all program information on the SPUR site. If you wish to apply to this project, you must apply using the SPUR 2021 application.**

The University of Utah Prison Education Project (UPEP) is a multidisciplinary effort assisting incarcerated students and non-incarcerated volunteers to live lives of impact, both in prison and post-incarceration, by fostering academic excellence, leadership, and civic engagement. UPEP began engaging the campus and local communities in 2016 and providing onsite, face-to-face college courses at the Utah State Prison in Draper in 2017. Committed to social transformation, UPEP advances educational equity through onsite higher education, empirical research, and advocacy. The Research Collaborative on Higher Education in Prison launched in Summer 2017 as part of UPEP. The Research Collaborative is interested in two central issues regarding higher education in prison: quality (what is being provided?) and equity (who has access?). These two questions drive the work of the Collaborative and we currently have three externally funded research projects all aimed at expanding the provision of quality higher education for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people. Specifically, the project seeks to provide baseline research regarding postsecondary education in U.S. prison through outreach, internet documentation, and survey research, as well as to qualitatively examine how college-in-prison stakeholders provide and support programming using a purposeful sample of multiple institutions of higher education in the U.S.

Opportunity Type:

This is a paid research position

Student Role:

The student will join our research team as a full-time partner for the summer, primarily focusing on a sub-analysis of the qualitative research project. The student role may include any of the following: 1) Reading interview transcripts, identifying preliminary themes, and drafting interview memos; 2) Conducting comprehensive literature reviews; 3) Working with others to draft preliminary analysis of qualitative and/or quantitative data; 4) Reaching out to college-in-prison programs across the nation via email and phone to confirm and collect information; 5) Cleaning and organizing survey data to prepare for analysis; 5) Participating in ongoing data analyses and interpretation with the research team. The qualitative project seeks to better understand how college-in-prison stakeholders understand and experience their work. Stakeholders include prison staff, university staff, and non-profit staff. Interview protocol are designed to illicit a range of experiences, including persistent challenges to providing quality higher education in prison. Understanding the challenges that program and prison personnel face in providing quality higher education can help inform more effective and equitable future efforts to ensure students are receiving consistent quality programming. Remote Contingency Plan: Last summer we worked remotely with our wonderful undergraduate researcher. We continued to hold our weekly meetings via Zoom and will do so until we are all safely able to meet in person. We will support our undergraduate researcher with additional Zoom check-ins and regular weekly communication and feedback through the course of the summer. We will ask that the undergraduate intern do a presentation on their final project with our team, in addition to any SPUR requirements.

Student Benefits:

The undergraduate researcher will be introduced to the dynamics of higher education in prison, including local engagement and national programs. Key theoretical issues will be discussed, including ethics in research and the politics of higher education in prison. Students can expect to learn how to read qualitative data, conduct preliminary coding, group analysis, and drafting of interpretive results. One of the benefits of this position is to work with a team of people who are committed to equity, racial justice, and social change. We approach higher education in prison through an abolitionist lens; one that seeks to lessen human suffering and violence through the specific responsibilities and opportunities of higher education.

Project Duration:

35-40 hours per week on research and program-related activities, begins May 26, 2021, and ends August 5, 2021

Minimum Requirements:

Admission to the program is competitive. Applicants must meet all of the following criteria: 1) be a matriculated, degree-seeking undergraduate student in the Fall 2021 semester (beginning or continuing college career in Fall 2021 and not graduating before December 2021; concurrent enrollment while in high school does not meet this eligibility requirement). Applicants do not need to be a University of Utah student. 2) eligible to work in the United States: If you are a University of Utah Dreamer (with or without DACA), you are eligible to participate. If you are a Dreamer from a different institution: If you have DACA, you are eligible to participate. If you do not have DACA, you are able to participate and gain research experience, but might not be able to be compensated. For more information, please contact Megan Shannahan at megan.shannahan@utah.edu or 801-581-2478. If you are an international student or scholar, you must either a) be a degree-seeking undergraduate student at an American institution of higher education and verify with your institution’s international center that your visa allows you to participate in this program, OR b) possess documentation that establishes your eligibility to work in the United States (if you hold US citizenship, it is likely you have these documents). 3) able to commit to approximately 35-40 hours per week of employment at the University of Utah for the entire duration of the program (May 26-August 5, 2021). 4) at least 18 years old by May 24, 2021 (required if you wish to use on-campus housing; preferred if you will not be using on-campus housing). Please note that no previous college coursework or previous research experience is required.