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ASU, LifePilot help inmates set value-based life goals

January 19, 2007

Inmates at Maricopa County’s Lower Buckeye Jail can decrease the likelihood of a return stay after their release by completing an online, values-based, goal-centered program offered to them jointly by Arizona State University and LifePilot.  

The School of Global Management and Leadership at ASU’s West campus and LifePilot signed an agreement January 19 that formalizes their future two-year commitment to the program.

“You can do good work here – you can make a difference,” said Leanne Atwater, chair of the Department of Management in the School of Global Management and Leadership. She is a trained LifePilot Navigator – or instructor – who coordinates and teaches the program as a volunteer to inmates at the county jail.

During the past year, Atwater has presented workshops at the jail to more than 150 inmates, who voluntarily attend. Using materials and programming developed by LifePilot, Atwater introduces inmates to a structured process of identifying their personal values, developing life goals that align with those values, and setting short-term objectives that help them achieve their goals. 

After their release from jail, workshop graduates can access LifePilot’s online program with tools and step-by-step exercises to complete their life plans at their own pace. Upon completion of, ASU will grant them three continuing education credit hours. The School of Global Management and Leadership also provides supplies for the jail workshops, while LifePilot provides jail-workshop graduates free access to its LifeManual online program and training for Navigators.

The LifePilot self-development programs are an outgrowth of the Scottsdale-based Todd Thomas Foundation, which entrepreneur Peter H. Thomas founded to help others after his grown son committed suicide. Business executives, jet-set entrepreneurs and university students usually fill the registration lists for LifePilot workshops held throughout North America and internationally. Atwater’s jailhouse effort is the first of its kind for LifePilot.  

Atwater’s belief in the process and her no-nonsense delivery strikes a chord in many of her participants.

“It gave me reassurance that I have a second chance,” wrote one inmate on his recent workshop evaluation form. “I’m inspired to improve the lives of all around me and myself,” wrote another. “The most significant thing I learned was changing my thinking patterns,” wrote a third. 

Gary Waissi, dean of the School of Global Management and Leadership, applauds Atwater’s volunteer efforts as an example of a valued component in meeting a key ASU objective.

“Embeddedness in the community is a primary charter of ASU as a public university,” Waissi said. “Improving the quality of life here in the West Valley and leading others to higher levels of fulfillment in their contribution to societal good – as Leanne’s commitment aspires to do -- holds high priority in our responsible management of ASU’s public resources.”