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Bard Prison Initiative Students to Receive Intensive Introduction to the Sciences with Launch of Citizen Science Program this Summer

Innovative Program Required for First-Year Undergraduates at Bard College Will Be Part of Core Curriculum for the Bard Prison Initiative

Darren O'Sullivan
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. – Starting this summer, students in the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI)—which provides incarcerated men and women in five New York State prisons the opportunity to earn Bard College degrees while serving their sentences—are taking part in Citizen Science, the same rigorous three-week introduction to scientific thinking that all Bard first-year undergraduates are required to take. Led by professional scientists from top colleges, universities, and research institutions, the program’s goal is to provide an intensive introduction to the skills that an engaged citizenry should have in order to interpret and evaluate scientific information and grapple with the ever-increasing number of national and global issues of scientific relevance. BPI is the largest of program of its kind in the United States and has awarded 250 degrees and educated more than 500 students.

“A liberal arts student should be capable of applying reasoning skills from many disciplines, and the Citizen Science program provides students with a skill set different from those gained during other aspects of the first–year experience,” said Amy Savage, director of the Citizen Science program and visiting assistant professor of biology at Bard. “The addition of Citizen Science to the BPI curriculum will allow students to engage more fully with scientific information they encounter, be it in class or conversation.”

Offered during the summer that BPI students complete their first year of college, Citizen Science will be a degree requirement and will be taught by the same faculty who teach it on the Annandale campus. The nearly 80 students starting their first year of Bard on BPI campuses this fall will enroll in the second annual Citizen Science next summer.  Some students encountering the natural sciences for the first time through Citizen Science may later choose to enroll in classes in biology, chemistry, and physics, all of which are currently being offered on BPI campuses.  Others may continue on to the interdisciplinary field of public health, which is both a curricular emphasis for BPI and a field in which alumni have continued on to graduate school following their release from prison.  

“Citizen Science is an opportunity to look at a broad range of concepts and ideas in science and to understand how they influence our perceptions of the world,” said Robert Fullilove, senior adviser to BPI’s public health program and associate dean for Community and Minority Affairs at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. “These perceptions, in turn, guide our thoughts, our actions, our decisions, and our beliefs about what is and what is not possible in a world that is constantly evolving and changing.” Fullilove will be giving a lecture as part of BPI’s Citizen Science program in August.

Founded in 2010, Citizen Science is an innovative Bard College program that seeks to promote science literacy and introduce students to methods of evaluating scientific evidence. Through three weeks of intensive study, which on the main Bard campus occupies the January intersession, students develop a core understanding of both the conduct and the context of science inquiry. Teaching occurs in three distinct classroom modules: laboratory experimentation, computing and modeling, and problem-based learning. For the past three years, the program has focused on the critical theme of infectious disease and the impact that infectious disease outbreaks and subsequent management can have on global society. For more information on Citizen Science, please visit

Founded in 1999, the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI) enrolls incarcerated students in a college program of the same quality and rigor as Bard College’s main campus. The rate of post-release employment among participants is high and recidivism is stunningly low. BPI graduates consistently succeed academically, professionally, and personally after release from prison. As former President Bill Clinton observed in his book Giving, BPI “is a good investment in a safer, more productive society.”

Since its founding, BPI has expanded its reach nationally. BPI established The Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison in 2009 to support college-in-prison programs throughout the country. Wesleyan University in Connecticut, Grinnell College in Iowa, Goucher College in Maryland, and, most recently, Holy Cross College and the University of Notre Dame in Indiana have launched programs. Plans are under way to expand in at least two more states this year. By challenging incarcerated men and women with a liberal arts education, BPI and Consortium partners work to redefine the relationship between educational opportunity and criminal justice. For more information on BPI, please visit


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This event was last updated on 08-14-2013