On Wednesday, June 23, inmates at the Arthur Kill Correctional Facility on Staten Island donned graduate’s robes and marched past family members, guards and administrators. While most of the students received GEDs, 18 of the day’s celebrants were honored with special commendations from The New School for having completed a year of study in Eugene Lang College’s program to bring college-level courses to Arthur Kill.
Lang’s presence at the prison began in 2007 with 15 students and a single course offering, The Globalization of the Economy. Since then, enrollment has doubled and fields of study have expanded to include philosophy, psychology, religion, and literature. Because these courses are as rigorous as those at Eugene Lang College, prospective students are required to apply for special student status with The New School, and they receive full, transferrable credit for each course completed.
The program continues to develop. Spring 2010 was the first semester that full-time faculty from Lang led classes at Arthur Kill. Associate Professor Ann Snitow taught Express Yourself, a course that examined self-expression in film, and from the Theater Department, Zishan Ugurlu led students in a solo performance course. In response to student interest, Lang’s Science and Math departments are exploring ways to bring their areas of study to the prison.
Ella Turenne, former director of Special Projects, Eugene Lang College, who helped establish and lead the program, takes inspiration from the commitment and passion she’s witnessed in the students at Arthur Kill. They savor every moment that they have in that classroom,, Turenne said. And that’s a lesson for all of us to learn.,