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Jody Lewen    

Founder & Executive Director of the Prison University Project

Jody Lewen is the executive director of the Prison University Project, which operates the College Program at San Quentin. The Program provides a general education Associate of Arts degree and intensive college preparatory courses to approximately 350 people incarcerated at San Quentin. The Prison University Project also provides training and technical assistance to colleges offering higher education programs in prisons throughout California and across the United States.

Ms. Lewen’s involvement with the College Program at San Quentin dates back to 1999, when she started as a volunteer instructor. Today she serves as a thought leader in the field of prison education, advocating for the values of high academic quality and inclusivity, as well as serving as a resource and advisor to policymakers, practitioners, academics, and corrections administrators at San Quentin State Prison and within the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Ms. Lewen received her Bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University in modern European history; her Master’s degree from the Freie Universität, Berlin in comparative literature and philosophy; and her Ph.D. in rhetoric from the University of California, Berkeley.

Her publications include “Punishing Evil: A Psychoanalytic Perspective on the Spectre of Inmates in the Public Imagination” (in Evil, Truth, and Reconciliation, Rodopi, 2004) and “’So eine Gemeinheit’: On the Use of Irony in Hugo Bettauer’s Die Stadt Ohne Juden” (in Austria and Austrians: Images in World Literature. Stauffenburg Verlag, 2003).

Ms. Lewen was the 2006 recipient of the Peter E. Haas Public Service Award from the University of California, Berkeley, and a 2015 recipient of the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award. In 2016, the Prison University Project received the National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama.

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