TLES doctoral student awarded 2022 K Patrician Cross Future Leaders award

Dale M. Brown

Dec. 16, 2021

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—The Association of American Colleges and Universities has awarded Dale M. Brown, a doctoral student in Teaching Learning and Educational Studies (TLES) and Philosophy, the prestigious 2022 K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award for his work with justice involved persons in the Prison Education Outreach. Ward established the program along with faculty advisor Dr. Fritz Allhoff through Western Michigan University in 2018. The program provides content modeled after traditional college courses to incarcerated individuals at Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater, MI and has been on hold since the pandemic began. Brown is one of eight recipients selected out of nearly one-hundred nominees from around the world.

“It is an honor to be nominated for the K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award,” shared Brown. “It is my hope that my commitment to academic innovation with respect to equity, community engagement, and teaching and learning is not only apparent but clearly foundational to what I have done and what I will do in the future.”

The mission of the Prison Education Outreach program is to educate, challenge, and inspire program participants to achieve their academic, personal, and professional goals. The program provided courses on critical thinking, ethics, ethics and social theory, and education and human flourishing to 66 unique individuals from the fall of 2018 to the spring of 2020. Despite the fact that the courses are not credit bearing, the program often had over 100 individuals on the waiting list for a class.

The motivation to start the program is based on his family background and his own experience with the transformative power of higher education. Brown began researching the potential benefits of establishing a higher education outreach program for justice-involved individuals in the Summer of 2017. “Through this research, it became clear that the lack of opportunities for self-improvement generally—and the lack of access to quality higher education specifically—was (and is) part of the systemic disadvantages faced by this marginalized population.  Though not a total solution to the racially-discriminatory, class-reproducing, community-destroying practice of mass incarceration, college in prison remains, at the least, one of the most effective means of reducing the likelihood of a person returning to prison or jail upon release,” explained Brown. He wrote hundreds of emails and participated in numerous phone calls, video chats and in-person meetings with a variety of stakeholders to get the program off the ground.

“This has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life,” shared Brown. “The students’ willingness to engage with me, the material, and each other with curiosity and rigor is invigorating.”

Brown has used the time during the pandemic in which they were not allowed into the prison, to push for a more permanent program at WMU. “If everything falls in place, we could be back to teaching in the near future.  Though, to be sure, a hybrid approach may be the most appropriate when considering health and safety of those involved in the actual teaching and learning,” he said.

After graduation, Brown hopes to find a tenure-track position at an institution where we can also be the director of prison education program.