SDSU Professor Creates Communication Program with Local Women’s Prison
Professor Luke Winslow in the School of Communication established an innovative collaboration with Las Colinas Women’s Detention Facility, where graduate students in the school teach communication workshops to inmates during an eight-week program. Meeting a couple hours each week, the graduate student works with 15 inmates at a time on course concepts taught in Communication 103, Oral Communication.
“The workshops are intended to equip inmates with communication skills that attempt to help them succeed in different parts of their lives for when they get out,” Winslow said.
Specifically, the program is designed to help them to communicate more effectively in circumstances like public speaking, interactions with parole officers, job interviews and in interpersonal situations with children, friends and family.
“The participants have been really receptive,” Winslow said. “They get certificates in the end (of the eight-week program) showing they completed the program. It’s not official, but it really matters to them. Women often have to get back to their families once released, so they want to take advantage of any opportunity to better themselves beforehand.”
A PSFA Connection
Winslow cited his introduction to Las Colinas through School of Public Affairs professors Alan Mobley, Ph.D. and Megan Welsh, Ph.D. During a faculty meeting for the College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts (PSFA), the institutional home for both the Schools of Public Affairs and Communication, the three faculty members found a common interest in social justice. “Megan was the one who initially drove me to Las Colinas and Alan had the relationship with a supervisor,” Winslow said. “The institutional strength of PSFA and the deliberate way administration tries to create collaboration across different disciplines in the college was a huge benefit. I would have never found out about Las Colinas otherwise.”
Changing Mindsets for Grad Students
Chelsea Chapman, a graduate communication student, is one of the teachers for the program. “Dr. Winslow started to talk to us graduate students who already teach communication classes and asked if we would be interested in teaching inmates at a prison,” she said. “Word spread like wild fire and everyone became so enthusiastic about the project.” Chapman’s experience changed her perspective about prison, pushing her to see past common stereotypes of inmates. “The women at Las Colinas are enthusiastic, focused on self-improvement and are more self-reflective than I could hope to be,” Chapman said. “Each woman has plans for when they leave, but they use their time at Las Colinas wisely.” Chapman will graduate in May 2017 and is currently applying to doctoral programs for next year. She hopes to be a communication professor, following in the footsteps of Winslow. “I have to say that seeing a professor like Dr. Winslow start a program like this and promote social justice is inspirational,” she said. “The great thing about being a professor is that you have the ability to teach, research and use activism to influence a realm that can span from your community to society at large.”