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2017 Commencement Speeches

Watch our Student, Faculty, and Keynote addresses from the 2017 Graduation below!

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2017 Commencement Speeches

Tonya, the Class of 2017 Valedictorian, is a founding member of The Women’s Village and helped to create FEPPS. Ta continually works to better the culture at WCCW and strives to create a culture of academic pursuit. She is interested in working towards her Bachelor’s Degree.

“Change is that thing that can always revert back to its form or original state. The thing that transforms cannot. So, you think of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly or an acorn becoming an oak. And what’s amazing about transformation, that thing that brings beauty into the world, is that it has those latent or hidden qualities for transformation already inside of it. Nothing has to happen except for the right conditions for it to exist. So, education is that transformation. It can’t be undone. And because of the opportunity that FEPPS has afforded us, we are undergoing our own transformation. So, now I know that it isn’t prison that works but rather the people in prison that work. Our vision, our passion, individually and collectively, power transformation. Now thankfully we are in a place where the conditions exist where we can have transformation or the possibility of it. But the work is up to you.”

-Ta, Graduating Class of 2017 Valedictorian

Priti Joshi has taught with FEPPS since 2012, and currently runs the program’s monthly Lecture Series. She earned her B.A. in English and History from the University of Maryland, College Park and Ph.D. from Rutgers University, New Brunswick. She is a professor of English at the University of Puget Sound. Her primary area of research and teaching is nineteenth-century British literature and culture, with a secondary specialization in post-colonial literature and film. She teaches courses on the Brontës, Dickens, Jane Eyre and Revision, the Invention of Britishness, Indian Fiction, Bollywood Film, and gender studies. She has published on Anne Brontë, Frances Trollope, Edwin Chadwick, Charles Dickens and others in journals such as Studies in English Literature, Nineteenth Century Literature, and Victorian Literature and Culture. She is currently working on two projects: a 19th-c Indian newspaper edited by an obscure Australian, John Lang, and a volume of revisions of Jane Eyre. We are lucky to have had Priti give the Faculty Address at our 2017 commencement, which you can watch here!

Cheryl Wilkins is Senior Program Manager at Columbia University’s Center for Justice, where her work is consistent with overcoming the damage that mass incarceration has left on families and communities. At the School of Social Work she presents on topics such as reentry, and families and communities affected by mass incarceration. In the past Cheryl has worked as an academic counselor for the College Program inside Bedford Hills Correctional Facility and Associate Director for the College Initiative, a reentry program that assists with men/women pursuing higher education upon release. She also coordinates the Healing Community Network Program, which offers support groups inside prison and in the community. Cheryl has co-developed trainings on how to work with youth and families who are affected by mass incarceration for high school guidance counselors, public school principals, and practitioners. Her area of research has been “Changing Minds: the Impact that College Has on Women in a Maximum Security Prison and Women on the Road to Health”, a study that looks at the best way to provide an intervention to women who are at high risk to attract HIV/Aids. She has a graduate degree in Urban Affairs and sits on the board of College and Community Fellowship. She is the recipient of the Brian Fischer, Davis Putter scholarship, and the Citizens against Recidivism Award.

“But keep in mind that if there is something you can make change in, there are areas out there now that people who are formerly incarcerated are leading the charge and making change in social justice issues. There are people that have been in the White House. There are people who talk to the Governor. There are reentry councils. And all are formerly incarcerated. As the council says, ‘There should be nothing about us without us!'”

-Cheryl Wilkins, Columbia University

You can read more about Cheryl in this article.

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