Laura Ciolkowski, senior lecturer of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies, is the recipient of the 2021 Distinguished Community Engagement Award for Teaching. This award, conferred annually by the Provost’s Office, recognizes outstanding contributions to community-engaged scholarship and teaching.
The awards committee recognized Ciolkowski for her work in the area of prison education and teaching and her ongoing commitment to building a prison education program at UMass Amherst.
Ciolkowski says, “I bring to my work a feminist commitment to thinking about higher education in prison as a human right to which all of us are entitled, including incarcerated people who continue to live and learn inside a system of punishment that disproportionately impacts poor people and people of color.”
Ciolkowski has been working with colleagues in the Colleges of Humanities and Fine Arts, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Natural Sciences and Education to develop a prison education initiative at UMass Amherst that will “open up broader policy dialogues about equity and access to public higher education; create opportunities for classroom dialogue and critical engagement with students, both inside and outside of prison and jail; and clear pathways for formerly incarcerated students to continue their education.”