Inside-Out program, Vancouver Island University

Finishing the semester strong

Author: Jenn McGarrigle

Inside-Out students celebrate virtually together

Non-traditional learning environments are nothing new for students in VIU’s Inside-Out course, which brings incarcerated people and university students together to study as peers.

Inside-Out Graduation via ZoomSo when the COVID-19 pandemic forced VIU to switch its courses to an alternate delivery and assessment format last month and VIU students could no longer go to the Nanaimo Correctional Centre for classes, both the “inside” and the “outside” students made the switch to Zoom classes, and even held a graduation event via Zoom. Special guests at the event included Tyrone Werts, one of the original “inside” students from the first Inside-Out class at Graterford Prison in Philadelphia; Harold Johnson, author of Peace and Good Order: The Case for Indigenous Justice in Canada, which the class read and discussed this semester; VIU President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Deb Saucier; Teri DuTemple, the Warden at Nanaimo Correctional Centre; and Lori Pompa, the Founder and Executive Director of the Inside-Out Center at Temple University in Philadelphia, where the program originated from. 

Recently, the Center has been “visiting” classes and closing ceremonies throughout the network via Zoom. However, this was the first and only class in which both inside and outside students took part, says Pompa, adding that it was an almost “surreal experience, sharing this special moment in real time — with Inside-Out students clear across the continent!”

While the final class usually includes food and refreshments for all students, to maintain the celebratory atmosphere this year, the “outside” students were encouraged to enjoy their favourite snacks on the Zoom call and NCC permitted Criminology Professor Joanne Falvai to have personal pizzas delivered to the “inside” students. Program completion certificates were printed and dropped in the mail for each of the students, including a delivery to the prison. Falvai is grateful for all the extra work the correctional staff took on to facilitate the completion of the class; staff scanned and emailed the “inside” students’ final essays to instructors, which will be graded and sent back via the staff to be printed and distributed to the students.

“They really went above and beyond to ensure these students finished strong and earned their university credits,” she added.

Inside-Out has been offered at VIU since 2016 after Falvai heard about it at a conference and realized the transformative benefits of the course, and thanks to generous funding from the Vancouver Foundation, VIU will offer three Inside-Out classes in 2020-21. One will be a popular Criminology course entitled Exploring Issues of Crime and Justice Behind the Walls; one will be a new collaboration between Criminology and Theatre focused on participatory drama that will engage interactive theatre, creativity and concepts of justice; and the third will be an interdisciplinary Criminology and Sociology course called Exploring Social Problems: Connecting Personal Lives and Public Issues.The strong partnership between VIU and NCC has ensured the ongoing success of the Inside-Out program, even during this time of great change. In fact, says Falvai, “the situation we are in right now might even create new opportunities for learning that we hadn’t considered before.”

To learn more, visit the Inside-Out homepage.

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