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Delivering Hope And Second Chances

Oklahoma Christian University has entered year two of its Associate of Science degree at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center (MBCC) with enthusiastic responses from inmates, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC) and faculty in the program.

The program began in the fall semester of 2021 with a cohort of 16 students taking a speech class with Dr. Philip Patterson, Distinguished Professor of Communication. The program was expanded in the spring 2021 semester to include another cohort of 14 students in speech, with the initial group going into a composition class taught by Dr. Nathan Shank, Associate Professor of English. Plans are for the 60-hour associate degree to be completed in about three years, as the program continues to ramp up.

Officially called the HOPE (Helping Oklahoma through Prison Education) Institute, the partnership with Mabel Bassett Correctional Center began with OC's Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Jeff McCormack, after he saw first-hand the success of an "inside-out" program at Lipscomb University in Nashville, where Lipscomb students were allowed to study alongside prison students inside of the state facility

MBCC is the state's medium/maximum security prison for women located about 35 miles from OC's campus. The State of Oklahoma has one of the highest incarceration rates of women in the nation, and some 1,600 inmates live at MBCC, making it an ideal site to launch the HOPE Institute and help decrease recidivism. Looking ahead, OC hopes to work with the DOC to make it an "inside-out" program with OC students in each class.

Dr. Patterson called the experience of teaching in prison “absolutely the highlight” of his more than forty years in higher education– all of it at OC. When his MBCC students all volunteered to do a faith-based speech in the fall (a two-minute speech on one’s favorite scripture), he was moved to share the choice of scripture and the gist of the speeches with the campus and the board of trustees in a document entitled, “Scripture through the eyes of the Incarcerated.”

“When you hear their stories, you can’t help but be moved,” Dr. Patterson said. “You can’t assign them to tell their stories--you earn them--and you feel very privileged when you hear them.”

Dr. Shank also had strong feelings about his MBCC experience.

“I was left an emotional wreck when I read their first essays, because of the stories they told. To get to grade stories that can make you cry is the highest privilege of teaching.”

Both professors mentioned the eagerness of every student to answer every question as another pleasure of teaching the class.

Dr. Patterson and Dr. McCormack have traveled to Lexington, Oklahoma, looking at a prison for men to expand the HOPE Institute. Immediate plans include raising funds to hire a director of the prison programs at Oklahoma Christian.

"Of all the new programs at OC that I've suggested in my role as CAO, this one has the most universal buy-in of any of them--probably because it is so missional to what we do here," Dr. McCormack said.

This video was filmed and edited by our OC People. The students Brandon Allen and Charlie Luckett, and our Events Technical and Media Director, Blake Mayfield.

Click here to read more about the launch and vision of the HOPE Institute at OC.