Inver Hills Partnership with Minnesota DOC

MCF - Fairibault
MCF - Fairibault

Inver Hills offers A.A. degree program to inmates at DOC facilities

Ann Deiman-Thornton served as dean of business and social sciences and then dean of liberal arts at Inver Hills Community College from 2013 till 2018. During her five and half years at Inver, Ann coordinated the college’s partnership with the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC). This partnership is designed to deliver college-level instruction to inmates at DOC facilities—instruction that leads to an Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree.

Ann Deiman-Thornton
Ann Deiman-Thornton
“I am very passionate about my work with the DOC,” Ann said. “In the last several years, we have conferred more than a dozen A.A. degrees each year—and that number is growing as more students become eligible for the programming we provide.”
Ann reported that Inver Hills faculty members teach courses at five Minnesota correctional facilities:

“At Shakopee, Oak Park Heights, Lino Lakes and Stillwater, we offer a part-time evening program where students take courses as part of our A.A degree program,” Ann said. “At MCF–Faribault, we offer the same part-time evening program along with a full-time day program where students in a cohort model earn their A.A. degree in five semesters.”

Inver students at MCF–Faribault publish article in Teaching and Learning Anthropology Journal

Katie Nelson, PhD, anthropology faculty and equity and inclusion coordinator at Inver Hills, related that two of her former MCF–Faribault students, Arthur Huffman and Juan Guaman, published a 2018 student showcase article in the Teaching and Learning Anthropology Journal.

The article is titled “Who Is Juan?”
Katie Nelson
Katie Nelson
“I have taught several anthropology courses at the DOC facility in Faribault,” Katie said. “The experience has been overwhelmingly positive and even transformative. The students stand out as some of the most motivated and engaged I’ve taught during my fifteen years in the teaching profession. Their rich life experiences contributed to deep and authentic learning—for both the students and myself.”
Katie added she was drawn to a career teaching at a community college by the opportunity to uphold social justice through higher education and transformative learning.
“One of the best expressions of this social justice opportunity is the Inver Hills partnership with the Minnesota Department of Corrections,” she said.

“Who Is Juan?”

by Arthur Huffman and Juan Guaman


I first saw Juan in 2014. I had arrived in St. Cloud as an inmate. St. Cloud is the reception and orientation prison for newly- received offenders in Minnesota. All new offenders are assigned to E-house, which is a narrow four-tiered cellblock of two-man cells. It is loud, smells terrible, and is tense because of the constant flow of new faces into an already unfamiliar environment. We never really spoke, but I immediately noticed that Juan seemed to be experiencing more than the normal, new prisoner culture shock, which can be seen on the faces of new arrivals. A good observer can tell who has been here before, who has likely been to prison somewhere else, and who is brand new to the experience of incarceration.
If I had to choose what I consider the worst aspect of prison life, it would not be the loss of liberty. The loss of freedom is not the worst part of prison life; the worst part is the company one is forced to keep. The experience of prison life is directly related to the people one must live around and their worldviews. Making a mistake, committing a crime out of perceived necessity related to addiction, or simply being one of the many poor or mentally impaired offenders trapped in the revolving door of the criminal justice system, are not the same kind of offender as those who are incarcerated as a direct result of malice and intentionality. The offenders who assume a character from a bad prison movie, and those who are just unfit for society, are the element that guarantees a level of suffering that incarceration alone could never achieve. Read more…

Faculty perspective

Zack Sullivan, EdD, political science faculty at Inver Hills, has taught college-level American government courses at MCF–Faribault and MCF–Shakopee for a number of years. Zack considers his students at those correctional facilities some of the most motivated he has encountered during his teaching career.

Zack Sullivan
Zack Sullivan
“Teaching in the corrections system is rewarding because the stakes are high for the students and the state,” Zack said. “When done right, we create a pathway to positive change. The vast majority of those incarcerated will be released sooner or later. Those that complete higher ed programs are more employable and less likely to reoffend. Sure, it is a great opportunity for them, but it is also a big win for Minnesota in terms of improved public safety and meeting the needs of employers. I am honored to be a small part of this effort.”

You can learn more about Zack Sullivan’s work with the DOC by reading his MinnPost January 2017 article:

“Higher education is a necessary component of Minnesota prison reform”

Here’s an excerpt:

Teaching in a prison requires that you stay on your toes. Obviously this is due to the no-nonsense security protocols and, somewhat surprisingly, because the inmates I worked with were incredibly engaged, prepared and motivated. They actually read as assigned! Student questions were detailed and thoughtful. Papers went through several handwritten drafts since access to a computer is sporadic or nonexistent. In general my DOC students were incredibly appreciative to have a seat in a college classroom and didn’t want to screw up the opportunity. Read more…

Learn more about the A.A. with Emphasis in Anthropology at Inver Hills by contacting:

Katie Nelson, PhD
Anthropology Faculty

Learn more about the A.A. with Emphasis in Political Science at Inver Hills by contacting:

Zack Sullivan, EdD
Political Science Faculty

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