TACOMA, Wash. — The University of Puget Sound is pleased to announce that Tanya Erzen, associate professor of religion, spirituality, and society and director of crime, law, and justice studies, has been awarded a grant of $598,500 from Ascendium Education Group. This funding will support the university's Technical Assistance for Teaching and Learning Initiative, aimed at enhancing education within college classrooms in prison.

Tanya Erzen, associate professor of religion, spirituality, & society and director of crime, law and justice studies and gender & queer studies faces the camera in a purple blouse.

The grant enables Puget Sound to design and develop resources and training programs to improve teaching and learning in carceral settings. As part of the initial project, Professor Erzen and her team will focus on identifying and codifying effective practices for preparing faculty to teach in prisons.

"This planning grant is a crucial step in building the capacity of the Higher Education in Prison (HEP) field to share and implement effective teaching and learning practices," Erzen said. "We aim to impact how HEP programs, universities, accreditation agencies, and state Departments of Corrections understand teaching and learning and to promote ongoing pedagogical support."

Funded by Ascendium, the 18-month project will lay the groundwork for a national technical assistance program for teaching and learning in HEP. Puget Sound will collaborate with key organizations such as the National Council for Higher Education in Prison (NCHEP), the Association for Higher Education in Prison (AHEP), and the JFF Ready for Pell initiative to shape the implementation of technical assistance. 

Collaboration with organizations like these will strengthen the Freedom Education Project Puget Sound (FEPPS) program's access to resources and best practices, further enhancing its academic excellence. FEPPS provides a rigorous accredited college program and creates pathways to educational opportunities after women are released from prison. 

Puget Sound hopes that by sharing its findings on promising teaching and learning practices, HEP programs will be able to secure additional resources from universities and correctional departments to support incarcerated students better. The ultimate goal is for diverse HEP programs to adopt these pedagogical strategies and teacher training practices, leading to student success and quality education.