Auburn University’s prison arts project awarded largest grant to date to fund STEM classes

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The Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project at Auburn University has received a $120,000 grant – its largest award to date – to support STEM education in Alabama's prisons.

Kyes Stevens, project director, said having funding to expand educational programming focused on STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math, is essential for both student and program development.

"As the Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project has grown, STEM programming has become an increasingly vital part of programming, furthering opportunities for students to develop critical inquiry and problem-solving skills," said Stevens. "This grant will help us develop science courses that incorporate lab experiences, as well as further substantiate our math courses."

The grant is part of Laughing Gull Foundation's Higher Education in Prison program, which seeks to provide those incarcerated in the South greater access to credit-bearing college courses. Based in Durham, North Carolina, the Laughing Gull Foundation works to address issues of social equality and environmental justice through grant-making, as well as donor organizing and impact investing.

"We believe that higher education provides a vital path to economic opportunity and self-sufficiency for incarcerated students who are preparing to return to their communities," said Toya Wall, program officer for the Higher Education in Prison program. "We also believe that a program like the Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project has inherent value as a vehicle for self-actualization and development for all incarcerated students, including those who will never be released from prison."

Founded in 2003 by Stevens, an Auburn alumna, the Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project, under a partnership with the Alabama Department of Corrections, offers semester-long courses in arts, humanities, science, technology, engineering and math in 10 correctional facilities across the state.

This is the first time the project has been able to secure funding primarily for STEM. The grant will also support project personnel.

The Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project is housed in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies in the College of Human Sciences at Auburn University.

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.