Cera Smith (PhD, African American Studies & English Language and Literature)

Describe your project: 

As a GPE Fellow, I worked for the Yale Prison Education Initiative (YPEI) by building out their associate degree program in General Studies, in partnership with the University of New Haven (UNH).  I determined accreditation for distance learning, reviewed degree requirements and course equivalencies between Yale and UNH, proposed an advising model for the program, developed a degree progression mock-up document, calculated program capacity and prison needs, modeled classroom space usage, and built a degree requirement tracker mock-up for use with Salesforce.

What are the main skills that you acquired?

My participation in the fellowship provided me with an understanding of degree construction, from both a conceptual and logistical standpoint.  I learned proposal writing and practiced Excel (Google Sheets).  I learned how to translate conceptual needs into concrete outcomes.  I practiced informational interviewing, learned how to seek professional feedback on proposals, and developed research skills relevant to higher education administration (e.g. accreditation mechanisms).  Lastly, I gained the ability to collaborate with and address the needs of multiple institutions and organizations.

What were the biggest challenges and learning opportunities of the fellowship?

Throughout the semester, my biggest challenge was figuring out how my ethical commitments to prison abolition aligned with the work I was doing for YPEI.  The biggest opportunities offered by the experience were the professional interactions I had with a broad range of people, from other college-in-prison and university administrators, to software technicians, to undergraduate volunteers.  The challenges and the opportunities helped me gain an understanding of how my political commitments influence my project goals and professional interactions.