Following a brief hospitalization, Carolyn Schrock-Shenk, retired professor of peace, justice and conflict studies (PJCS), passed away on Feb. 6. Schrock-Shenk played a defining role in the setup and functioning of Goshen College’s Inside-Out May Term class. Without Schrock-Shenk, there would not be an Inside-Out Exchange Program at GC.
Inside-Out, according to the Inside-Out Center, is a national program to bring college students from the “outside” and inmates, the “inside” students, together for a class. The program allows students to interact with inmates and puts everyone on an equal level. The original Inside-Out program is based out of Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Glenn Gilbert, director of facilities, helps to run the program. He explained that Schrock-Shenk spearheaded the class.
“Carolyn was the visionary and carried the passion for it,” said Gilbert. “We have had numerous talks of how to keep it going. It will be different without her.”
Gilbert is confident that the program will continue, but stated it is too early to say who will take up the torch.
When teaching Restorative Justice in 2012, Schrock-Shenk took her class to the Elkhart County Correctional Facility. After this, students asked if there was a way to connect more with the inmates and what was going on inside the jails.
Schrock-Shenk learned of the Inside-Out Exchange Program and she traveled to Temple University for training. Schrock-Shenk brought the program to Goshen and, as Gilbert said, “was the engine behind it.” Gilbert explained that the program was a hard sell at first.
Both the Elkhart County Correctional Facility and GC were hesitant to sign on the program. However, Schrock-Shenk persisted and now both institutions greatly value the program. The class began in May Term 2014 and has run every year since.
There are two branches of the class: a co-ed class called “Justice in our Lives” that examines the criminal justice system and restorative justice, and an all-female class called “Borders, Boundaries and Bridges” that develops creative responses to literal and metaphorical walls.
Spaces for the classes are limited and students are admitted through an application process. Interviews for this year’s class have been pushed back to after spring break due to Schrock-Shenk’s passing. They were originally scheduled for this week.
The jail staff screen the prisoners who they feel are good class candidates. Staff of the class also interview the prisoners before determining who gets in.
Roxy Gehring, a senior peace, justice and conflict studies and music double-major who has participated in the program, heard about the class from other students. Gehring said they all spoke positively about the program.
“I knew it was a unique opportunity to learn with a group of people that college students don’t often interact with, and so I decided to apply,” Gehring said. “This class was hands-down one of the best experiences I’ve had in college.”
Gehring stated that Schrock-Shenk’s enthusiasm was very obvious during the class. Despite covering serious topics, Gehring said there was plenty of laughter.
Gehring recommends taking the class, adding that when people ask her what her favorite class in college was, Inside-Out is at the top of her list.
“I’m sure the program will continue to be incredibly meaningful for inside and outside students both, but it’s hard to imagine it without Carolyn and all her energy and passion for it,” said Gehring.
Gilbert has spoken with Dean Ann Venderly, other administrators and faculty in the PJCS department and there is a clear commitment to keep the program running. Both GC and the Elkhart County Correctional Facility value the class as an experience for students and inmates alike.