Criminal justice alumna builds on experiences of Quinnipiac prison-exchange program to help transform lives

June 30, 2021

Alumna stands with teacher with certification

Ashley Appleby '17 believes in second chances and opportunities for all of her students, both inside and outside of the traditional and non-traditional classroom.

Before learning how to navigate both her graduate and undergraduate careers, Appleby was a first-generation college student who came to Quinnipiac unsure of her major and which path to take. After a criminal justice course piqued her interest, Steve McGuinn, her adviser and a criminal justice professor, motivated her to major in it and consider pursuing a graduate degree upon graduation.

“I’d never be where I am today without Steve,” said Appleby. “He was always available to help.”

On McGuinn’s additional advice, Appleby participated in the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program with Quinnipiac in 2016. Once a week, she and several classmates traveled to Garner Correctional Institution in Newtown, Connecticut, where they learned alongside — and from — eight of the facility’s incarcerated individuals. 

“Being able to discuss and actually see the real-world implications of theories, policies and principles of what we learned in the classroom was invaluable and one of the most transformative experiences of my undergraduate career,” Appleby said.

The experience not only inspired her to pursue a PhD in criminal justice, but to continue working with incarcerated individuals both inside and outside the traditional and non-traditional classrooms. Today, she is both a student, alumna and a certified instructor for the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program. Additionally, she is certified to teach for New Jersey’s NJ-STEP Program, which provides post-secondary education for incarcerated students throughout the state facilities in New Jersey, and allows students to continue their degrees upon release on the Rutgers University campus.

“Education was a negative experience for many of my incarerated students and classmates throughout elementary and middle school,” Appleby said. “Transforming their educational experiences into positive ones through participation in these programs is such a powerful and valuable experience.”

After she completes her doctorate, Appleby plans to teach in a university while translating her work and experiences into research.

Until then, she brings the same sense of passion and drive from her experience at Quinnipiac to her classrooms at Rutgers University, where she teaches undergraduates in the School of Criminal Justice.

When her students ask her the same questions she asked McGuinn during her time as an undergraduate, she encourages them in the same ways.

“I encourage them to follow their passions, and pursue a degree in whatever they find interesting,” she said. “And so long as they make the best of their experience and take whatever they’re learning with them throughout their career, they will find success in whatever they do."

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