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W. P. Carey School of Business, Televerde Foundation expand prison education program

Women who complete PATHS now earn college credit through ASU’s Universal Learner initiative


Group of women in prison posing with ASU sign after graduating from program

Women in the Televerde Foundation PATHS program kick off the start of the fall 2023 semester. Photo courtesy Julia LaRosa

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January 08, 2024

Since 2020, the Arizona State University W. P. Carey School of Business and Televerde Foundation have worked alongside community partners to offer a unique program for women as they transition out of prison.

The PATHS (Prepare, Achieve, and Transform for Healthy Success) program teaches skills in personal wellness, workplace readiness, employment strategies, mentoring, financial literacy and lifelong learning. Now, the program is expanding to give women who complete the PATHS coursework with a C or better the opportunity to turn their completed work into college credit through ASU’s Universal Learner program. The associated fees are currently covered by Televerde Foundation, with future iterations also being funded by the generosity of donors through the ASU Foundation.

"We are thrilled to expand our partnership with the ASU W. P. Carey School of Business, further empowering women through education," said Michelle Cirocco, executive director of Televerde Foundation. "Our PATHS program goes beyond just providing skills; it's about transforming lives. This expansion marks a significant step toward reducing recidivism and opening new opportunities for women from all walks of life to rewrite their narratives. It also underscores our belief in education as a crucial driver of personal growth and societal advancement. We are committed to helping these women become positive role models in their communities and building a brighter, more secure future for themselves and their families."

Julia LaRosa, clinical associate professor, and Kostas Voutsas, assistant teaching professor, both from the Department of Management and Entrepreneurship, are two members of the W. P. Carey community who teach in the program. They focus on workplace readiness skills through college-level business fundamentals, business communication and professional development courses.

“Turning time in prison into a college education experience is truly inspiring,” says Voutsas, who teaches the Effective Communication for Career Success course. “It is a practical course that empowers students to communicate as leaders, embrace diversity and inclusion, build positive relationships, and maximize efficiency and effectiveness in the workplace. It explores both verbal and nonverbal communication, cross-cultural communication, customer service, the writing process, writing mechanics, interviewing and resume techniques, as well as delivering presentations with confidence.”

Since the program’s inception in 2020, the results have been truly remarkable. Of the 161 students who have completed the program, the recidivism rate is zero compared with the expected 40% to 60% rate. According to the Televerde Foundation, graduates’ salaries are also 61% to 75% higher than their less prepared counterparts.

While the quantitative outcomes are extraordinary, the qualitative impacts are equally important. Mary Montemorra, a PATHS graduate, said, “Televerde Foundation and PATHS have given me the ability to fit into a community that once felt so far away. Remember, being sent to prison means the society you once were part of decided to remove you from its communities physically. PATHS gave that community back to me.”

One benefit of the Universal Learner program, supported by ASU's Learning Enterprise, is the connection it helps nontraditional students form with ASU. “At W. P. Carey, we are prioritizing access in the communities we serve,” says Raghu Santanam, senior associate dean for executive education, corporate partnerships and lifelong learning. “Connecting PATHS to ASU as a for-credit course legitimizes the hard work these women are undertaking and makes it easier for them to transition into college in the future.”

As of July 1, 2023, the FAFSA Simplification Act provisions make PELL grants available to all qualified incarcerated people to further pursue post-secondary education through approved Prison Education Programs (PEPs).

“A mere vision has blossomed into a sustainable program,” says LaRosa. PATHS is “dedicated to aiding incarcerated women in reshaping the course of their lives and those of their families. Witnessing the transformative impact of a college education unfolding within our community is truly remarkable and the high point of my career.”

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