On August 24, Yale President Peter Salovey welcomed incoming graduate students to Yale with an address (on Zoom) that highlighted the Yale Prison Education Initiative and the work of our Director, YC/GSAS alumna Zelda Roland. It was an incredible moment of institutional acknowledgement for our program. You can read a transcript below, or watch the full video at this link.
Peter Salovey, Yale Graduate School of Arts & Sciences Matriculation Address, August 24, 2020:
“…What unassuming course could change your views, or set you on a new path in the coming years? And what could it mean to the world? Of course, moments of unanticipated self-discovery can happen anywhere in your time at Yale, and it may take a confluence of activities to spark something extraordinary.
I am thinking of Zelda Roland, who earned her BA and PhD degrees in Art History from Yale. She launched the Yale Prison Education Initiative in 2016. The idea for this program came from two different experiences at Yale. When she was a graduate student, she noticed that many Yale professors were contributing their time and energy to teaching in prisons. She decided to participate in the Wesleyan Center for Prison Education at Cheshire Correctional Institution. Through her interactions with incarcerated individuals, she realized that they have so much potential, but have been deprived of educational opportunities.
One summer, a few years later, she was teaching students on campus during Yale Summer Session when an idea came to her: Why not hold off-site Yale Summer Session courses at Connecticut correctional facilities? From there, she obtained support from the Yale College Dean’s Office; Dwight Hall, a nonprofit organization founded by Yale undergraduates; and other offices. And that is how the Yale Prison Education Initiative came to be.
Because of Zelda Roland’s persistence, hard work, and ability to recognize a unique way to contribute to society, for the first time, incarcerated students can earn Yale College credit for their coursework. Students can apply these credits later toward a degree-granting program at many colleges or universities. This initiative helps incarcerated individuals find opportunities after their release from prison and inspires our graduate students and members of the faculty.
During your studies here, you will encounter countless possibilities in your research, teaching, and service activities. Perhaps you, like Zelda Roland, will find unique ways to mitigate the inequalities in our society, or discover other ways to improve our world….”